Insights Daily Current Affairs, 05 August 2016
India to run short of high-tech minerals
- India will be woefully short of critical minerals necessary for developing clean-energy applications, infrastructure for its solar mission and for manufacturing high-technology products in the future.
- The country will be heavily dependent on China in the coming years to source these materials for its manufacturing sector, says a report commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology
- The study, conducted by the think-tank Council on Energy Environment and Water, identifies 12 minerals out of 49 that were evaluated as ‘most critical’ for India’s manufacturing sector by 2030.
- These are beryllium, chromium, germanium, limestone, niobium, graphite, rare earths, rhenium, strontium, tantalum and zirconium.
- Other minerals like limestone and graphite, while currently abundantly available in India, are deemed ‘critical’ because extractable resources could be scarce in the future.
- For others, the report says, India is 100 per cent import-dependent for seven out of 12 identified critical minerals and does not have any declared resources for them, except light rare-earths (found along with monazite sands) and beryllium.
- Rare earths are a group of 17 minerals necessary for making everything from nuclear reactors to flat-screen televisions, and, China currently controls 94 per cent of their global supply.
Firming up trade
- India, therefore, will need to firm up diplomatic trade channels and long-term supply contracts
- Almost a quarter of India’s GDP now comes from manufacturing, though this is currently dominated by low-value industries.
- The pricey minerals are used in industries and sectors such as aerospace, automobiles, cameras, defence, entertainment systems, laptops, medical imaging, nuclear energy, and smartphones
- China is currently a leading global supplier for six out of the 12 mineral resources identified as critical for India by 2030.
- Though India is endowed with vast mineral resources — it is among the top five nations with reserves of rare-earth minerals — its potential is untapped
- For instance, minerals and metals such as bismuth, cadmium, gallium, germanium, indium, molybdenum, rhenium, selenium and tin are generally recovered as a by-product during processing of primary ores (lead, zinc, copper, molybdenum and aluminum).
- “India has high production for these primary metals, yet no sign of by-product recovery [except tin] is evident so far. This is a lost opportunity, and demands suitable R&D interventions and policy support,
- The CEEW study comes on the heels of the National Mineral Exploration Policy, 2016 (NMEP).
Paper-2: Salient features of constitution
Tax is not a barrier to free trade, says SC
A day after Parliament passed the Goods and Services Tax Bill for a uniform comprehensive tax regime to promote hassle-free trade, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday said tax should not act as a barrier to free trade, commerce and intercourse.
“It is this freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse which allows a trader to move from place to place within the country without obstruction. A trader moves constantly and so long as his fundamental right is protected under Article 19, there is no question of a fiscal restriction being an obstruction,” Chief Justice Thakur
- Entry tax is imposed by the State governments on the movement of goods from one State to another.
- The Bench is hearing petitions from private manufacturers and companies against the varied entry tax levied by different States.
- The debate was on the contours of Article 301 of the Constitution dealing with freedom, trade and commerce.
- Article 301: Freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse Subject to the other provisions of this Part, trade, commerce and intercourse throughout the territory of India shall be free
- The Bench is hearing on the validity of separate entry taxes on goods mandated by the statutes of various State governments, which did not heed the Centre’s plea to wait for the passage of the GST Bill in Parliament.
Paper-3: Disaster management; Awareness in S&T
ScatSat- 1 to help in predicting cyclones
India is set to acquire the capability for more accurate prediction and tracking of cyclones, with the launch of the ScatSat-1 satellite in September, ISRO chairman A.S.Kiran Kumar said on Thursday
- The indigenously developed weather forecasting satellite will be equipped with on board instruments to monitor sea surface winds and help predict the genesis of cyclones
- The primary payload of ScatSat-1 is a scatterometer to keep a watch on the speed and direction of ocean winds that indicate the formation and strengthening of cyclones.
- The satellite will have the capacity to monitor temperature and humidity and transmit 48 images per day.
- The best thing about this 301 kg satellite is that it is being built at 60% of the actual cost, and in one-third of the estimated time.
- About 40% of satellite is made by recycling the leftover equipment from previous satellite missions.
- It is a polar orbiting satellite that will take two days to cover the globe. The data will be used by NASA, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well.
- Scheduled to launched by the PSLV- C35, the satellite is expected to replace Oceansat-2 which is out of service after completing its life span.
What is scatterometer?
- A scatterometer in the satellite will help predict formation of cyclones in the seas. Such predictions help in timely evacuation and minimise human casualties.
- A scatterometer is a microwave radar sensor. It measures the scattering effect produced while scanning the surface of the Earth from an aircraft or a satellite.
- It will measure the direction and speed of winds over the seas and oceans.
- SCATSat-1 is an OceanSat-2 follow-up mission, actually a gap-filler mission between OceanSat-2 and -3, under development at ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) with the objective to continue the global ocean wind vector data acquisition started by the OSCAT (OceanSat-2 Scanning Scatterometer).
- The satellite has been designed to withstand multiple system failures, unlike the last one.
- The information of global ocean surface winds is an important ingredient for weather forecasts. In particular, a need for global coverage of scatterometer data became evident, when NASA’s SeaWinds scatterometer on the QuikSCAT spacecraft ceased nominal operations in November 2009.
- Currently India is dependent on NASA’s ISS-RapidScat for prediction of cyclone forecasting and weather prediction
Paper-2: Centre-state relations
Blow to AAP as HC says L-G is Delhi’s administrative head
- The Delhi High Court on Thursday held that the Lieutenant Governor was its “administrative head” and that it “continues to be a Union Territory.”
- The High Court also set aside the AAP government’s contention that the L-G was supposed to act “only on the aid and advice of the Ministers” even as it declared “illegal”
- the commission of inquiry ordered by the AAP government into the CNG Fitness scam in the transport department
- also the Commission of Inquiry to go into the alleged irregularities in the functioning of the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
- A Bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath interpreted Article 239 A, 239AA of the Constitution and the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Transaction of Business Rules to rule that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory.
- “On a reading of Article 239 and Article 239AA of the Constitution together with the provisions of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 and the Transaction of Business of the Government of NCT of Delhi Rules, 1993, it becomes manifest that Delhi continues to be a Union Territory even after the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991 inserting Article 239AA making special provisions with respect to Delhi,” said the Bench.
- The court also quashed several notifications issued by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after returning to power in February 2015, terming them “illegal” as they were issued “without concurrence of the L-G.”
- The Delhi Government’s senior standing counsel Rahul Mehra said they would file a Special Leave Petition against the judgment in the Supreme Court.
Paper-3: Developments in S&T
Doppler radar to boost weather forecasting
In a bid to improve weather forecasting services, Indian Space Research Organisation has commissioned a Doppler weather radar at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvanthapuram.
The C- band Polarimetric Doppler weather radar (C-DWR)
- It is the first of its kind in South India.
- The data generated by the DWR would be shared with the India Meteorological Department to supplement its prediction.
- It would be made available to researchers and other user agencies also.
- The only other C- DWR in the country is at Chirapunji.
- Two more units are coming up at Bhuj in Gujarat and Gopalpur in Odisha.
- The DWR is expected to aid rainfall estimation and detect thunderstorm, cyclones and other severe weather events within a radius of 400 km.
- It has instruments to measure rainfall intensity, wind shear and velocity and locate a storm centre and the direction of a tornado or gust front.
- Equipped with a parabolic dish antenna and a foam sandwich spherical radome, the radar is designed to improve precision in long range weather forecasting and surveillance using the Doppler effect.
- It works by bouncing a microwave signal off a target and analysing how the object’s motion has altered the frequency of the return signal.
Paper – 3: Awareness in Space
It’s another giant leap, says Moon Express co-founder
An Indian American entrepreneur has begun a countdown for launching a moon lander next year after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it has approved his company’s venture.
Naveen Jain, the founder of Moon Express, termed the U.S. government’s approval for the MX1-E moon lander “another giant leap for humanity.”
- The company was co-founded in 2010 by space visionary, Dr Bob Richards, Naveen Jain and serial entrepreneur and artificial intelligence and space technology guru Dr Barney Pell.
- The MX-1 will ride to the moon orbit on a space vehicle from Rocket Lab USA.
- One of that company’s backers is Khosla Ventures created by Vinod Khosla, the venture capitalist who is an Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi graduate and who co-founded Sun Microsystems.
- Moon Express CEO Bob Richards cited the discovery of water on the moon as an incentive for lunar ventures.
- The discovery was accomplished by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft with ISRO’s Moon Impact Probe (MIP) and NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3).
- The recent discovery of water on the moon is an economic game changer for humanity’s future. Water is the oil of the solar system and the moon has become a gas station in the sky.
- Moon Express is the first private company to get government approval for a moon venture.
- The FAA described the MX-1E as a spacecraft that can orbit to the moon, make a soft landing on the lunar surface, and move on it by making “hops”.
Moon Express needed the FAA approval because the Outer Space Treaty requires private ventures to be authorised by a government that has signed the treaty.