Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 16th August 2021

Watch the free daily Current affairs video explanation

1. NTPC seeks global EoI for hydrogen-natural gas pilot 

  • UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III- Indian geography, environment and ecology
  • Sub Theme: renewable energy  | UPSC

State-run NTPC Ltd. has invited a global ‘expression of interest’ to set up a pilot project on hydrogen blending with natural gas in city gas distribution.

The blending of hydrogen with CNG provides a blended gas termed as HCNG (Hydrogen-enriched Compressed Natural Gas) and it combines the advantages of both hydrogen and methane.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has allowed the use of H-CNG (18% mix of hydrogen) in CNG engines.

Benefits of Blending

  • Greening natural gas: Adding hydrogen to natural gas can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the hydrogen is produced from low-carbon energy sources such as biomass, solar, wind, nuclear, or fossil resources with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
  • Hydrogen blending may prove to be a viable means of increasing the output of renewable energy facilities, such as wind farms, by providing a hydrogen storage and delivery pathway across a broad range of geographic locations.
  • Blending may also prove to be a viable means of delivering hydrogen produced in remote locations and extracting the hydrogen downstream near end-use applications, such as FCEVs or stationary fuel cells.
  • Hydrogen is an excellent additive to improve the combustion of hydrocarbon fuel due to its low ignition energy, high reactivity, diffusivity and burning velocity. Better performance due to higher Octane rating of H2.
  • Since hydrogen infrastructure and refuelling stations are not meeting the demand, the widespread introduction of hydrogen vehicles is not possible in the near future. One of the solutions for this hurdle is to blend hydrogen with methane
  • The cost to construct a large-scale, dedicated hydrogen pipeline system is very high, and completion could take decades.
  • No or minor modifications would be needed for end-use systems, including appliances such as household boilers or stoves and industrial or power generation.
  • It is being treated as the first step towards future hydrogen economy.

Conceivably, a credit trading system could apply to natural gas with a specified blend content of renewable hydrogen, paralleling the renewable energy credit system used in the electricity sector.

Inexpensive switch

In its report to the Supreme Court, the EPCA has estimated that to fuel Delhi’s 5,500 buses, about 400 tonnes H-CNG would be needed per day. Setting up four fuel-dispensing facilities would cost Rs 330 crore, which can be funded from the Environment Compensation Charge (ECC) fund made up of cess on commercial vehicles entering Delhi, it said. For consumers who pay Rs 42 per kg for CNG, the cost of H-CNG would not be more than Rs 43 per kg.

Because hydrogen has a broader range of conditions under which it will ignite, a main concern is the potential for increased probability of ignition and resulting damage compared to the risk posed by natural gas without a hydrogen blend component.

Leakage Hydrogen is more mobile than methane in many polymer materials. Permeation rates for hydrogen are about 4 to 5 times faster than for methane in typical polymer pipes. Volume leakage rate for hydrogen is about a factor of 3 higher than that for natural gas.

Concerns:

  • The physical blending of CNG and hydrogen involves a series of energy-intensive steps that would make H-CNG more expensive than CNG
  • While recommending the use of H-CNG as an alternative fuel, the NITI Aayog-CII Action Plan for Clean Fuel notes that physical blending of CNG and hydrogen involves a series of energy-intensive steps that would make H-CNG more expensive than CNG
  • IOCL’s research & development wing has developed a technology that does away with the need for physical blending. Its ‘Compact Reforming Process’ directly produces a hydrogen-CNG mixture from natural gas, using a single step. The cost of production is significantly lower than physical blending, the EPCA report says.
  • The cars and autos would not be able to use H-CNG with the prevailing technology because hydrogen is “highly volatile” and there is a possibility of rise in combustion temperature and risk.
  • Adaptation of end-use systems is required at higher hydrogen blend levels.
  • Need change in the structural aspects of the engine and creation of new infrastructure for preparing HCNG.
  • Determining the most optimized H2/ NG (Natural Gas) ratio.

UPSC Previous Year Prelims Question

In the context of proposals to the use of hydrogen-enriched CNG (H-CNG) as fuel for buses in public transport, consider the following statements:

  1. The main advantage of the use of H-CNG is the elimination of carbon monoxide emissions.
  2. H-CNG as fuel reduces carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon emissions..
  3. Hydrogen up to one-fifth by volume can be blended with CNG as fuel for buses.
  4. H-CNG makes the fuel less expensive than CNG.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 4 only
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4

 

2. Bihar Deputy CM says State can hold caste-based census 

  • UPSC Syllabus:  Mains – GS II: Indian polity and governance
  • Theme:  Federal issues| UPSC

Context: Various state governments have been repeated making demands for a caste-based census in the country.

State Government’s Stand Centre’s Stand
  • In 2015, the Karnataka government conducted a “socio-economic and education” survey which enumerated population percentages of different castes in the State.
  • The Bihar government, on lines of Karnataka, is now demanding, a caste based survey in the state.
  • Government of India, however, has decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs in Census.

What kind of caste data is published in the Census?

  • First Census in 1871, included questions about caste. This data was then used to divide and conquer India Until 1931, Every Census had data on caste.
  • However, in 1941, caste-based data was collected but not published. M W M Yeats, the then Census Commissioner, said a note: “There would have been no all India caste table… The time is past for this enormous and costly table as part of the central undertaking…” This was during World War II.
  • The Union of India after Independence, decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste wise population other than SCs and STs. Thus, every Census in independent India from 1951 to 2011 has published data on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, India’s largest caste bloc – the other backward classes – have not figured in the exercise.
  • In the absence of such a census, there is no proper estimate for the population of OBCs, various groups within the OBCs, and others.
  • In 1979, Mandal commission (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission) suggested expansion of affirmative action to include other backward classes. These OBCs, as per 1931 census, amounted to 52% of the Indian population.
  • In 1990, India’s second non-Congress government implemented the Mandal report, introducing a new category called the Other Backwards Classes. A 27 per cent reservation was given to the OBCs. But demands for greater reservation gained currency.
  • Thus appeared demand for introduction of this new OBC category in the decennial census to count them. In 2010, the UPA government, decided to go for a full-fledged Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC). However, only the details of the economic conditions of the people in rural and urban households were released. The caste data has not been released till now.
  • This time, the demand is that castes be enumerated as part of Census 2021 itself.

Why is such demand being raised?

  • The last caste based census was in 1931. It would help in understanding the changes in society and exclude or include well of or deprived caste
  • Without accurate data of thousands of jatis (castes) and upjatis (subcastes), it is difficult to infer the accuracy of the caste based political decisions
  • Caste data will help to identify various backward and downtrodden classes. It will give authentic information regarding the socio economic condition and education status of various castes. This data will strengthen the democratic system and will help to uplift a particular caste and in future there will hopefully be a casteless society
  • Data on caste can be used to rationalise reservation policies
  • Rising rural wages, particularly construction wages and social security schemes have now placed the Dalits and OBCs in a better position
  • National Sample Survey (NSS) data shows that poverty persists among forward caste
  • India Human Development Survey shows that 56% of Dalit children ages 8-11 cannot read but neither can 32% of forward caste and 47% of OBC children.
  • India government is running massive policy programs based on caste. Yet refuses to collect data on them. This paradox means the government is working blind.
  • It is considered necessary to ensure equal representation for backward classes. As a result, National Commission for Backward Classes has urged the government to collect data on the population of OBCs “as part of Census of India 2021 exercise.

Caste census will bring objectivity to reservations debate. Even the present 50% cap on reservations is arbitrary.

  • To better tackle new reservations demands. The past few years have seen intense agitations around demands by caste groups asking for reservations. This includes the demands by Marathas in Maharashtra, Patidars in Gujarat, Gurjars in Rajasthan, Kapus in Andhra and the Jats in Haryana.

Why is it being opposed?

  • Further strengthen the institution of caste in India
  • Promote caste based politics
  • First Census in 1871, included questions about caste.  This data was then used to divide and conquer India. It first privileged Brahmins as interpreters of Indian culture and then targeted them as the root of caste-based oppression and inequality. This classification was also a source of anti-Brahmin movements of 20th century. It generated a conception of community as a homogeneous and classifiable community and thereby influenced the processes of political representation. Post-Independence Censuses have shied away from including questions about caste.

3. India’s fate is tied to the rest of the world I Page 06

  • UPSC Syllabus: Mains GS III: International relations
  • Sub Theme:  Evolving international relations | UPSC

Context: author has called that India’s future is closely tied to the world order based on the past seven decades events. Author has listed down those events where India depended on the external assistance.

Author has argued that: 

  • Since independence India has been reliant on foreign powers for defence, food security, national security, immigrations, partnership on International platform. For instance: India initially received the bulk of development and military assistance from the West; it was only from the mid-1950s onwards that the Soviet Union extended support.
  • Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation and the Bangladesh war altered India’s relations with both superpowers.
  • Post liberalisation phase witnessed some important developments under the prime ministership of P.V. Narasimha Rao: the advent of the Look East Policy and relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; the establishment of diplomatic ties with Israel; the signing of a border peace and tranquillity agreement with China; initial military contacts with the U.S., and preparations for nuclear tests.
  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee government conducting a series of tests in 1998, negotiating a return to normal relations with most major powers within two years, and concluding an important set of agreements with China in 2003.

However, recent events at local and global levels have provided a new platform for India to take a front seat.

  • India has shown its strong reservations on Belt and Road initiative of China and also stood by the rule-based order on Border clashes. India has been vocal on International platforms such as UNFCCC, UNSC, WTO about its interests.
  • Rising importance of Indo-Pacific has also given an opportunity to India to take an early lead. It is visible through the culmination of QUAD grouping.
  • Strategic relations and defence partnerships with big powers along with De-Hyphenation policy and policy of non-reciprocity from small and neighbouring nations have given India a leaders perspective.
  • Even on trade front rising number of Free Trade Agreement with friendly nations and large economies have given India a chance to expand its economic footprint globally.
  • Lastly, socio-political and economic stability at domestic level has provided the establishments to frame long-term policies which are beneficial for Indian age.
  • India’s objectives have been broadly consistent: development, regional security, a balance of power, and the shaping of international consensus to be more amenable to Indian interests.

Way-forward:

Given the rising concerns on COVID-19 and its aftermath, India cannot stay afloat on its own beneficial policies. Looking towards strategic relations beyond long drawn friendly nations is required. At the same time, India must also remind itself that finding a unique position in current geopolitics turmoil is not permissible. India could wait and watch on current developments and frame policies according to that.

0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *