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UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS – 5 January 2024

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

  1. Iron Ore and Steel Sector in India

 

Content for Mains Enrichment:

  1. Coexistence between Warli Tribes and Leopards

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP) 

  1. SMART 2.0
  2. CO2 levels in planet atmosphere
  3. Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell
  4. Direct-to-mobile (D2M) technology services
  5. Room Temperature Superconductivity
  6. Bio-credits
  7. Green Cover Index
  8. Cyber kidnapping

 

Mapping:

  1. Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fibre Connection (KLI-SOFC) project

 


 

Iron Ore and Steel Sector in India

GS Paper 1

 Syllabus: Economic Geography

 

Source: CCI, ET

 

Context: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) conducted a study on iron ore pricing and exports, highlighting concerns about varied pricing and recommending discouraging iron ore exports in the country.

 

What did CCI say?

AspectDetails
Concerns Raised by CCIThe recent increase in iron ore exports (low value compared to finished products like steel)
Allocation of captive mines to certain players creates entry barriers for others and is against competition
Differential pricing of iron ore for different end-users raises competition concerns.
Key Recommendations by CCICCI discourages iron ore exports due to its non-renewable nature and importance to various industries.
Prioritize export of higher value-added products like finished steel to promote self-reliant India.
Upgrade iron ore quality using cutting-edge technologies to enhance grade.

 

What is Iron Ore?

Iron ore refers to rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be extracted economically. It typically contains iron oxides, and the primary types include hematite, magnetite, and taconite.

 

Status:

India is self-sufficient in iron ore production. It contributes 7% to global production. India ranks as the 4th largest producer globally. India is the 2nd largest producer of steel in the world after China

 

Distribution of Iron Ore:

  • India is endowed with abundant resources of iron ore, with the largest reserve of iron ore in Asia.
  • The iron ore mines occur in close proximity to the coal fields in the northeastern plateau region which adds to their advantage.
  • States:
    • About 95% of total the reserves of iron ore are located in the States of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Goa, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • Mines:
    • In Odisha, iron ore occurs in a series of hill ranges in Sundergarh, Mayurbhanj and Jhar. The important mines here include Badampahar (Mayurbhaj), Kiruburu (Kendujhar) and Bonai (Sundergarh).
    • Jharkhand has some of the oldest iron ore mines and most of the iron and steel plants are located around them.
      • Important mines include Noamundi and Gua in Poorbi and Pashchimi Singhbhum districts, further extending to Durg, Dantewara and Bailadila.
    • Other regions:
      • Karnataka – Sandur-Hospet area of Ballari district, Baba Budan hills and Kudremukh in Chikkamagaluru district and parts of Shivamogga, Chitradurg and Tumakuru districts.
      • Chandrapur, Bhandara and Ratnagiri districts of Maharashtra; Karimnagar and Warangal districts of Telangana; Kurnool, Cuddapah and Anantapur districts of Andhra Pradesh; Salem and Nilgiris districts of Tamil Nadu
      • Goa has also emerged as an important producer of iron ore.

 

Significance of iron ore:

  • International trade:
    • The two main types of iron ore found in India are haematite and magnetite. It has great demand in the international market due to its superior quality.
  • Industrial use and applications:
    • Iron ore is the source of primary iron for the world’s iron and steel industries.
    • It is therefore essential for the production of steel, which in turn is essential to maintain a strong industrial base. Almost all (98%) iron ore is used in steelmaking.
  • Larger significance:
    • Most part of the economy in the above regions, especially the four states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh revolves around these raw materials (iron and manganese).

 

Steel sector in India:

The state of the steel sector in India is key to its economy, accounting for 2% of the GDP in FY 21-22. The major steel-producing states include Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and West Bengal, with Odisha leading in production.

 

Challenges Faced by the Steel Sector:

ChallengesDetails
Barriers to Setting up Modern Steel Plants:Significant investment is required for modern plants; Reliance on debt financing and high domestic financing costs impact competitiveness
Cyclical Demand and Monsoon Challenges:Demand is influenced by factors like monsoons; Low-demand periods lead to financial strain and plant closures.
Low Per Capita ConsumptionLow per capita steel consumption compared to other developed countries.
Low Investment in R&DDependence on international research increases costs, and outdated technologies hamper competitiveness
Environmental Concerns:The steel industry is a major carbon dioxide producer, and many of the plants don’t adhere to green and EIA guidelines
Impact of EU’s CBAM:EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) from January 1, 2026.
Adverse impact on India’s exports of metals like iron, steel, and aluminium products to the EU due to additional environmental scrutiny.

 

Government Initiatives for the Steel Sector in India:

InitiativeDescription
Inclusion of Specialty Steel in the PLI SchemeThe government allocated Rs 6322 crore for a 5-year period to promote speciality steel manufacturing, attract investments, and foster technological advancements.
Green Steel MakingMinistry of Steel constituted 13 Task Forces to discuss and recommend decarbonization strategies, and the sector is part of the National Green Mission for green hydrogen production.
Purvodaya initiativeFacilitates the establishment of greenfield steel clusters in the Eastern states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.
Steel Scrap Recycling PolicyNotified in 2019, facilitating the establishment of metal scrapping centres for scientific processing and recycling of ferrous scrap, including end-of-life vehicles.
National Steel Policy 2017Formulated to encourage long-term growth for the Indian steel industry by 2030-31, aligning with infrastructure development, the ‘Make-in-India’ initiative, and other government schemes.
Steel and Steel Products (Quality Control) OrderIntroduced to ban sub-standard/defective steel products, ensuring availability of quality steel conforming to relevant BIS standards.
Safety in the Iron & Steel SectorFormulated 25 common minimum Safety Guidelines in consultation with stakeholders, and academia, and in compliance with global standards and the ILO Code of Practice.
National Metallurgist AwardA prestigious award recognizing outstanding contributions of metallurgists in the iron and steel sector, presented by the Ministry of Steel.

 

Conclusion:

Engaging with policymakers and international bodies is crucial to advocate for fair CBAM policies. Collaborative efforts with other industries and countries can address unique challenges in the Indian steel sector.

 

Insta links:

Steel Sector in India

 

Mains Links

Q1. Account for the present location of iron and steel industries away from the source of raw material, by giving examples. (UPSC 2020)

 Q2. Account for the change in the spatial pattern of the Iron and Steel industry in the world. (UPSC 2014)

 

Prelims Links

Which of the following are some important pollutants released by the steel industry in India? (UPSC 2014)

  1. Oxides of sulphur
  2. Oxides of nitrogen
  3. Carbon monoxide
  4. Carbon dioxide

 

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 3 and 4 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

 

Ans: D

Coexistence between Warli Tribes and Leopards

Content for Mains Enrichment:

 

 

Source: DTE

 Context: The article discusses the peaceful coexistence between Maharashtra’s Warli tribe and leopards near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).

Unlike common fear, Warlis worship leopards as Waghoba, considering them part of their environment. Despite Mumbai having a high leopard density, the Warlis share space with leopards, taking precautions like keeping children indoors after 6 pm. Encounters are common, and the Warlis revere leopards, with shrines dedicated to Waghoba.

 

Other tribes co-existing with animals are:

TribeAnimal Coexistence Examples
Bishnois (Rajasthan)Bishnois revere blackbucks, protecting them from harm.
Jarawas (Andaman Islands)Jarawas live in harmony with diverse wildlife on the Andaman Islands. They maintain sustainable hunting practices and have minimal impact on the environment.
Van Gujjars (Uttarakhand)Nomadic Van Gujjars coexist with elephants in the Himalayan forests. They follow traditional practices, respecting wildlife habitats and minimizing conflicts.
Mishing Tribe (Assam)Mishing people in Assam coexist with the Gangetic River dolphin. They consider the dolphin sacred and have rituals that promote its conservation.
Kani Tribe (Kerala)Kani tribe in the Western Ghats coexists with elephants and other wildlife.

 

About Warli Tribe:

The Warli tribe, one of Maharashtra’s largest, resides on the outskirts of Mumbai in the North Sahyadri region. Renowned for their Warli wall paintings dating back to the 10th century AD, the art depicts daily life and surroundings. Utilizing natural materials and colours, the tribe employs bamboo brushes in their distinctive paintings.

SMART 2.0

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 Context: The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) and the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine (NCISM) have jointly launched the ‘SMART 2.0’ (Scope for Mainstreaming Ayurveda Research among Teaching professionals) program.

  • This initiative aims to foster collaborative clinical studies in priority areas of Ayurveda with academic institutions and hospitals across India.

The goal of ‘SMART 2.0’ is to generate tangible evidence demonstrating the efficacy and safety of Ayurvedic interventions through interdisciplinary research methods, translating the findings into public healthcare.

 

The previous version, ‘SMART 1.0,’ covered around 10 diseases with active participation from teaching professionals.

CO2 levels in planet atmosphere

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: TH

 

Context: New research suggests that lower levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a planet’s atmosphere compared to its neighbours could indicate the presence of liquid water on that planet.

  • The drop in CO2 levels relative to neighbouring planets may suggest the absorption of the gas by an ocean or isolation by biomass on a planetary scale.
  • The study, introduces a new “habitability signature,” offering a practical method for detecting habitability in planets.

  

Significance:

  • The researchers propose that examining CO2 levels and habitability could provide insights into Earth’s environmental tipping points and carbon levels that could render a planet uninhabitable.
  • The habitability signature may also serve as a biosignature, as living organisms capture CO2, with the emission of oxygen as a tell-tale sign.

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully tested a 100 W class Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell based Power System (FCPS) on its orbital platform, POEM3.

  • The experiment aimed to assess the operation of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel cells in space and gather data for designing systems for future missions.
  • Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity directly and are efficient, emission-free, and ideal for space missions.

 

The test was part of the POEM-3 experiment executed during the PSLV-C58 X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) mission.

 

Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, also known as proton exchange membrane fuel cells, are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy into electrical energy. They use a proton-conducting polymer membrane as the electrolyte and typically use hydrogen as the fuel.

 

Direct-to-mobile (D2M) technology services

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TOI

 Context: Indian telecom operators have urged the government to auction spectrum for Direct-to-mobile (D2M) technology services.

 

What is D2M Technology?

D2M (Direct-to-mobile) technology is a new-age communication approach that combines broadband and broadcast. D2M allows mobile phones to capture territorial digital TV signals, enabling the direct streaming of multimedia content, including live TV matches, without the need for internet connectivity. It is similar to that of an FM radio, where a receiver within the device can tap into different radio frequencies.

 

Benefits:

It proves beneficial for delivering emergency alerts, disaster management audio content, and citizen-centric information directly to mobile devices, reducing reliance on internet data consumption.

Difference between Broadband and Broadcast?

Broadband involves high-speed internet access, transmitting data in both directions. Broadcast is a one-way transmission of content, such as TV or radio signals, to a wide audience. Broadband is interactive, while broadcast is typically unidirectional.

Room Temperature Superconductivity

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: A recent study by scientists in China and Japan has reported signs of superconductivity in a material called LK-99, which had been controversially claimed to be a room-temperature and pressure (RTP) superconductor.

 

The researchers observed the Meissner effect in copper-substituted lead apatite, indicating superconductivity. The Meissner effect is crucial in identifying materials that conduct electricity without resistance.

Previously, in August (2023), Reddmatter (a new superconductor material) was developed.

 

What is the Meissner effect?

It is a phenomenon observed in superconductors, where these materials expel magnetic fields from their interior when cooled below a critical temperature. This expulsion occurs as the material transitions to a superconducting state, displaying the ability to conduct electric currents without any resistance.

Bio-credits

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: DTE

 Context: There is growing momentum behind the concept of biodiversity credits or bio-credits, proposed as a financial mechanism to support the targets outlined in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) adopted in 2022.

 

What is Bio-Credits?

Bio-credits are financial instruments proposed to support the targets outlined in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Similar to carbon credits, bio-credits aim to generate funds for biodiversity protection and restoration by selling credits, with proceeds directed toward conservation projects.

 

Organizations Involved:

The Biodiversity Credit Alliance was launched (in COP15 of CBD, 2022) to promote bio credits. Other initiatives, such as the Ocean Conservation Commitments, have emerged to encourage the use of Bio-credits.

 

About KMGBF:

EventDetails
Conference Name15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 2022 adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)
Goals of GBFRestore 30% of degraded ecosystems globally (on land and sea) by 2030
Conserve and manage 30% of areas (terrestrial, inland water, coastal, and marine) by 2030
Prevent the extinction of known species
Reduce various environmental risks and footprints
Targets of GBF23 targets for achievement by 2030, including the 30×30 Deal, reduction of pesticide and nutrient risks, pollution control, sustainable consumption, climate change mitigation, invasive species control, and wildlife trade management
Need for Bio-CreditThe KMGBF targets private investment through innovative schemes like bio credits, with an estimated annual need of at least $200 billion for biodiversity protection.

 

Examples of Bio-Credits:

Bio-Credit ExamplesDetails
Ocean Conservation Commitments (OCCs)Launched in September 2023 by the Government of Niue and the non-profit Tofia Niue. Offers OCCs based on the size of Niue’s Marine Protected Area, available for purchase to fund conservation projects.
Wallacea TrustA biodiversity and climate research organization based in the UK. Has financial commitments for 5 million biodiversity credits, with 60% of the issuance price directed to local stakeholders.
Besparingsskog (Sweden)A forest cooperative in Sweden. Swedbank has invested an undisclosed amount to protect 13 hectares of forested area over 20 years, using bio credits.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)Purchased bio credits from rePLANET to protect Cusuco National Park in Honduras.
ValueNatureA company facilitating the development of biodiversity credits. Plans to bring biodiversity credits to the market in 2024, aiming to generate funds for biodiversity protection.

Green Cover Index

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: PIB

 Context: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), a part of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

  • The collaboration aims to develop and report a “Green Cover Index” for India’s extensive National Highways network.
  • The Green Highways Policy, initiated in 2015, prioritizes greening highway corridors, and currently, monitoring relies on field visits.
  • This innovative approach promises a reliable, time-saving, and cost-effective solution, allowing for a macro-level assessment of greenness along highways.

The project’s primary goal is to capture the Green Cover Index region-wise for National Highways in the first assessment cycle, followed by annual cycles focusing on estimating growth patterns.

Cyber kidnapping

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: Recently a Chinese student in Utah was cyber kidnapped.

  • Cyber kidnapping” refers to a crime where perpetrators convince victims to hide, then contact their loved ones for ransom.
  • The victim may send pictures that suggest they are held captive, creating a false impression of danger.
  • The perpetrators, not physically present, monitor the victim online through video-call platforms.

Experts warn that with the rise of Artificial Intelligence, scammers can use technology to enhance deception.

Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fibre Connection (KLI-SOFC) project

Mapping:

 

Source: PIB

 Context: PM recently inaugurated the Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fibre Connection (KLI-SOFC) project during his visit to Kavaratti, Lakshadweep.

AboutDetails
What is KLI-SOFC?The Kochi-Lakshadweep Islands Submarine Optical Fibre Connection (KLI-SOFC) project, funded by the Universal Services Obligation Fund (Digital Bharat Nidhi) under the Department of Telecommunication, involves extending submarine cable connectivity from the mainland (Kochi) to eleven Lakshadweep Islands.
LocationKavaratti, Lakshadweep.
Implementing AgencyBharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is the Project Executing Agency.
Project OverviewKLI-SOFC project is a dedicated submarine optic fibre cable connecting Kochi to Lakshadweep Islands. Aimed at ensuring 100 times faster internet for the people of Lakshadweep.
BenefitsFaster and more reliable internet services. Facilitation of telemedicine, e-governance, educational initiatives, digital banking, and digital literacy. Aligns with ‘Digital India’ and ‘National Broadband Mission’ objectives, Strengthening services in Lakshadweep through FTTH (Fiber-to-the-Home) and 5G/4G mobile networks.
Other projectsThe PM also dedicated a Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination (LTTD) plant for the conversion of seawater into potable water at Kadmat Island, Lakshadweep.
What is LTTD?LTTD is a process under which warm surface seawater is flash evaporated at low pressure and the vapour is condensed with cold deep seawater.
The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, designs, develops, and commissions LTTD plants in coastal locations.

 

About Lakshadweep:

It is a union territory of India, comprising 36 islands situated between the Arabian Sea and the Laccadive Sea. The name means “one lakh islands” in Malayalam and Sanskrit, though there are no more than a hundred islands. The total area is around 32 km2, forming the smallest union territory. Kavaratti is the capital, and the region falls under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court. The Union Territory was established in 1956 upon British departure. The majority follow Islam, particularly the Shafi school. The language spoken is Jeseri, with Dhivehi in Minicoy. The culture is similar to Mappilas in Kerala.

 

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