News & Events
in this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The livemint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition
1. Hydrogen for a low-carbon future
The government’s initiatives to mainstream hydrogen as a green fuel are most welcome. This year’s budget speech promised the launch of a national Hydrogen Energy Mission in 2021-22. Now, Power Minister R K Singh has stated that auctions for hydrogen produced from green sources would be held shortly, and, further, fertiliser units, oil refineries and steel plants would have mandatory purchase obligations for green hydrogen. Green hydrogen, of course, is the type, in whose generation, energy from renewable sources has been used. Grey hydrogen is produced using hydrocarbons and when this is combined with carbon capture and storage, the colour code of the hydrogen changes to blue.
Since October, oil major IOC has been using its patented compact reforming process to blend hydrogen with compressed natural gas (CNG), bypassing energy-intensive electrolysis and high-pressure blending costs. This fuel is already being used today on Delhi roads to reduce carbon emissions from buses run on CNG. Hydrogen is, in fact, billed as the ultimate green mobility option, as hydrogen fuel cells are far more compact, efficient and cost-effective than, say, lithium-ion batteries, and without the massive import-intensity of the latter. Every possible potential source of cost-effective hydrogen must be explored, from biomass and fossil fuels to emergent technologies, such as the one recently announced by IIT-Delhi for low-cost hydrolysis.
IOC is also reportedly developing proprietary technology to generate biomethane from municipal waste and biomass, which already has a methane density of about 85%. Note that 95% biomethane is deemed CNG, and suitable as transport fuel, preferably with H-CNG blended in dense urban areas. And, in the foreseeable future, hydrogen fuel cells are an extremely promising automobile option. Electric vehicles, particularly heavy vehicles, can well run on fuel cells. Further, cost-effective green hydrogen would considerably reduce carbon emissions in energy-intensive industries like oil and steel. This is a global trend, as well.
2.Finance Commission’s adroit balancing act
The 15th Finance Commission has used the 2011 population data, instead of the 1971 data used by all Commissions since the Sixth, to devolve taxes across states, without ruffling the feathers of the southern states that had feared that they would be penalised for limiting their population growth. The disadvantage has been partly mitigated by the move to assign a weight of 15% to population (against 25% by the 14th Finance Commission) and grant performance incentives to states for the progress made in moving towards the replacement rate of population growth.
States that have achieved a lower total fertility rate (TFR) — the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime — score higher on demographic performance, and vice versa. TFR reduction, accorded a weight of 12.5%, leads to better outcomes in health (especially maternal and child health), nutrition and education. Population is a pointer to the spending needs of a state. The 14th Finance Commission acknowledged that the use of dated population data is unfair, but said that it was bound by the terms of reference. It reckoned that the criterion ensured equal per-capita transfers to all states, not taking into account cost disabilities across states because of differences in the geographic spread of population. The 15th Commission’s view that the latest population numbers best serve fiscal equalisation is valid.
Devolutions from the divisible pool are 41%, against 42% in the 14th Commission’s award. The inter-se share of states shows a decline: Andhra Pradesh and Telangana 6.149% (6.937%), Karnataka 3.647% (4.328%), Kerala 1.925% (2.341%) and Tamil Nadu 4.079% (4.969%). But the Commission has also recommended post-devolution revenue deficit grants for these states, deftly obviating criticism.
3. Attack on minister: Red alert on political violence in Bengal
The bomb attack on Bengal junior labour minister Jakir Hossain at Murshidabad’s Nimtita railway station is an ominous sign that political violence isn’t just picking up but has also reached a new level ahead of Bengal assembly polls. The state government has now formed a multi-agency SIT to probe the incident, even as chief minister Mamata Banerjee held Railways responsible and alleged a conspiracy comparable to the assassination of then Punjab CM Beant Singh in 1995.
Bengal has a history of political violence which tellingly peaks around election time. This speaks to the abject failure of law and order institutions under successive governments. But the core reason why they have failed is that irrespective of who’s in government or opposition the use of muscle power has come to be seen as a standard political instrument. Socially a curious paradox exists between Bengal’s so-called bhadralok culture that most state leaders espouse and the hooliganism that underpins their political ambitions.
But it doesn’t have to be like this no matter how intense politics is in Bengal. For example in the long hyper-polarised politics of Tamil Nadu, Bengal-style political violence is absent. Meanwhile, the argument that Bengal is different is self-serving. After all by allowing political violence to continue the state’s political parties limit institutional functioning and keep intact their unofficial channels of patronage. In the larger scheme this prevents Bengal’s economic development and corrodes social well-being. Most fearfully, the bomb attack on Hossain reminds how wildly the fire of political violence has raged in this state as well as others in the past. Nobody would want a return to that. So rein it in before it is too late. Thus, both political sides should sincerely pledge to shun violence and allow law enforcers to do their job. That would be real poriborton.
4. Men who talk too much: Why a woman takes over the Tokyo Olympics plan
After weeks of a firestorm over sexism, Seiko Hashimoto has replaced former Japanese PM Yoshiro Mori as president of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee. Hashimoto, as a former athlete and minister who focussed on gender equality, is seen as a vindication for those who criticised Mori for saying that women hold up meetings, ‘annoyingly’ competing with each other by talking too much.
He retracted his remarks, mainly to end the fuss rather than trying to understand the injury. “Withdrawing my remarks was the fastest way,” he said, given how the event was merely months away. As most prominent leaders backed him, a stubbornly male-dominated power structure was on stark display. His remarks betray the casual contempt with which generations of patriarchs have preferred women to remain subservient and barely audible. Japan is among the lowest in the world in terms of female political participation, and the last among developed countries. Women make up less than 12% in corporate management, and a small fraction of undergraduates in top universities. Gender stereotypes are extreme and constricting: Achievement is cast as a barrier to getting married.
But now, the backlash is real. Recently, Japanese women protested their low-status roles by rejecting high heels in the #KuToo movement. A generational divide is evident in the outcry over Mori’s remark, with stubborn old people commonly being cast as ‘rougai’ on social media. Clearly someone has been talking for way too long and taking up too much time, and it’s not a woman.
5.The rise of freak weather events
The Texas event and other freak climate events across the world — India too has witnessed such incidents in recent years — are a reminder for governments that they must re-evaluate their nation’s utility infrastructure for climate resilience, and invest heavily to upgrade them so that they can quickly adapt and function during freak and extreme weather events
A huge winter storm is sweeping across the southern United States (US), with Texas being the worst-hit. Millions of people in the state have been struggling to cope with the lack of power and frigid conditions. The extreme weather is expected to continue until the weekend, and deaths attributed to the storm have been recorded in four other states, besides Texas. Many other parts of the world — The Netherlands, Russia, Syria, Greece — also saw unusually cold weather this week, but nowhere is it as bad as in Texas. Difficult weather conditions across the US have had serious implications for the pandemic: Some shipments of vaccines have been delayed and some clinics have had to cancel vaccine appointments.
While scientists are trying to establish the link between this particular episode of freak weather in the southern US and the climate crisis, there is a growing body of research that has established the connection between the climate crisis and a phenomenon called the polar vortex. Scientific research suggests warming in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on the planet, may be weakening the jet stream that confines the cold air in the northern hemisphere. A weakened jet stream allows freezing air to move to lower latitudes. As experts have pointed out, what is happening in Texas can’t be just seen as a natural event, and is in part due to the climate crisis.
The Texas event and other freak climate events across the world — India too has witnessed such incidents in recent years — are a reminder for governments that they must re-evaluate their nation’s utility infrastructure for climate resilience, and invest heavily to upgrade them so that they can quickly adapt and function during freak and extreme weather events. For example, the main electric grid in Texas was built with the state’s most common weather extremes in mind — soaring summer temperatures that cause millions of Texans to turn up their air conditioners all at once — but now it has to be recalibrated to tackle such cold events too. All over the world, operators have to be ready for intense heat waves, floods, water shortages and other calamities, all of which could create unknown risks for electricity set-ups. This transition won’t be easy, because most planners face an unprecedented challenge. The extreme weather events of the 21st century will look nothing like those that happened before — and years of past preparation will not provide any workable template.