Topic 1 : Mekedatu project
Context: Karnataka and Tamil Nadu clashed over Mekedatu project
What is the Mekedatu project?
- The Mekedatu dam project is located in Ramanagaram district about 100 km south of Bengaluru (Karnataka), close to where the Cauvery enters Tamil Nadu.
- Mekedatu is a multipurpose balancing reservoir project focussing on the generation of electricity and supply of drinking water in the region.
- In 1996, the project was first planned by the Karnataka Power Corporation to meet the water and electricity needs of the people in Bengaluru and the surrounding districts.
- The dam aims to supply drinking water to Bengaluru and replenish the regional groundwater table.
- The Mekedatu dam will be larger than the Krishnaraja Sagar project on the Cauvery.
Opposition to the project
- Tamil Nadu witnessed widespread protests against the dam in 2015, with a statewide bandh.
- The state Assembly passed unanimous resolutions against the project in December 2018 and January 2022.
- In August 2021, Tamil Nadu approached the Supreme Court against the project.
- Tamil Nadu’s key arguments are that Karnataka is attempting to modify the flow of the river by constructing two reservoirs on it.
- The action violates the final award of the CRWT, and would impound the flow in the intermediate catchment below the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs, and Billigundulu, along the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The Supreme Court Verdict
- Tamil Nadu approached the centre for setting up a tribunal to decide the allocation of water between the states.
- In 1990, the tribunal was set up and in 2007 allocated the water to Karnataka (270 tmcft), Kerala (30 tmcf) t0, Puducherry 97 tmcft) and Tamil Nadu (419 tmcft) and allocation would stand reduced in rain-scarcity years.
- TN and Karnataka were not satisfied with this allocation and violent protests erupted which brought the Supreme Court into the Picture.
- In the 2018 judgment, the court redistributed the share of water between both states.
- Now, TN granted 404.25 tmcft and Karnataka’s share went up to 284.75 tmcft while share for Kerala and Puducherry remained the same.
- Environmental activists have argued that due to submerging of land by the dam, the Cauvery Wildlife Wildlife Sanctuary area, which is a key elephant corridor will be severely affected.
- Apart from being home to many endangered wildlife species, the sanctuary also acts as a buffer area for wildlife animals.
- It will lead to more man-animal conflict.
Topic 2 : Agni-1 ballistic missile
Context: A successful training launch of a Medium-Range Ballistic Missile, Agni-1 was carried out by the Strategic Forces Command from APJ Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha recently.
Agni-1 ballistic missile
- The word “Agni” means fire.
- The medium-range Agni-1 ballistic missile has a strike range of over 700 kilometres and weighs around 12,000 kilograms.
- It is also capable of carrying a payload of up to 1,000 kg.
- It is a two-stage Agni technology demonstrator, with a solid-fuel first stage
What is a ballistic missile?
- A ballistic missile uses projectile motion to deliver warheads on a target.
- These weapons are powered only during relatively brief periods—most of the flight is unpowered.
- Short-range ballistic missiles stay within the Earth’s atmosphere, while intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are launched on a sub-orbital flight.
The Agni Missile system:
- The Agni missile is a family of medium to intercontinental range ballistic missiles.
- Agni missiles are long range, nuclear weapons capable, surface to surface ballistic missiles.
- The first missile of the series, Agni-I was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (lGMDP) and tested in 1989.
- The family comprises the following:
|Agni-P||MRBM||1,000-2,000 km||Under development|
|Agni-VI||ICBM||11,000–12,000 km||Under development|
Topic 3: Who should own the world’s lithium?
Context: The news of potentially significant reserves of lithium in Jammu and Kashmir has been welcomed universally.
Status of India’s lithium industry
- India’s electric-vehicle (EV) market was valued at $383.5 million in 2021, and is expected to expand to $152.21 billion in 2030.
- India imported 450 million units of lithium batteries valued at $929.26 million in 2019-2020, which makes the development of the country’s domestic lithium reserves a matter of high stakes.
- The ongoing global transition to low-carbon economies, the rapid expansion of artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G networks will greatly reshape global and regional geopolitics.
- The access to and control over rare minerals, such as lithium and cobalt, will play a crucial role in these epochal changes.
Who should own these minerals?
- In 2013, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled that the owner of the land has rights to everything beneath, “down to the centre of the earth”.
- The Supreme Court also recalled that the Union government could always ban private actors from mining sensitive minerals, as is already the case with uranium under the Atomic Energy Act 1962.
- In today’s context, lithium is as important as, if not more than, uranium.
How do other countries manage lithium reserves?
- In Chile, the government has designated lithium as a strategic resource and its development has been made the exclusive prerogative of the state.
- Bolivia’s new constitution gave the state the control and direction over the exploration, exploitation, industrialisation, transport, and commercialisation of natural resources.
- Mexico also nationalised lithium.
Way forward for India
- As India explores and develops its own lithium reserves, it is notable that the appropriate development of this sector will require a very high level of effectiveness on the part of the Indian state.
- Much of India’s mineral wealth is mined from regions with very high levels of poverty, environmental degradation, and lax regulation.
- Effective and careful management of the sector should be paramount if India’s rare minerals development is to meet its multiple goals of social wellbeing, environmental safety, and national energy security.
Topic 4: Formation water
Context: A mixture consisting of plant-based biomaterial, biosurfactant, and NPK fertilizer can help efficient restoration of formation water.
What is formation water?
- Water that develops during the drilling process for oil and gas extraction is known as the formation water. It is the wastewater disposed during crude oil excavation and processing.
- Formation water is disposed in huge volumes during crude oil excavation and processing.
- It has a high viscosity and density.
Challenges associated with formation water:
- It consists of oily components, brine solutions, and solvents that are used during various phases in the oil industry.
- It is usually drained off and reaches the rivers and streams, ultimately deteriorating the water quality and threatening the existing aquatic life.
- The larger animals’ consumption of fish and plants collected from such contaminated sites can transfer and even magnify the associated risks.
- Thus, the formation water needs to be treated before it is released to the environment.
The new technology for its treatment:
- Scientists in India worked towards developing a green approach for the treatment of formation water.
- They formulated a mixture consisting of plant-based biomaterial, biosurfactant, which are secondary metabolites of microbes, and NPK fertilizer, to efficiently restore formation water.
- Around 2.5 gm of the formulation could treat one litre of formation water in 12 hours.
- The “wonder mixture” can help prevent pollution of the environment from formation water and render it reusable for maintaining the green revolution.
- This can help enhance crop production to meet the ever-growing food demand.
Topic 5: BRICS FM meeting in South Africa
Context: India’s External Affairs Minister is in Cape Town, South Africa, to attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of BRICS.
Key agendas for the meeting:
- The foreign ministers’ meeting will finalise the agenda for the 15th BRICS summit scheduled to be held in South Africa this year.
- The theme of BRICS 2023 is: “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism”.
- Two items on the agenda are attracting notice for their potential for a greater geopolitical consolidation of the grouping:
- a plan to expand the membership of BRICS, and
- a common currency.
- As many as 19 countries are said to be in the queue to join BRICS.
- It is not clear which countries might be admitted, but any expansion can be seen as strengthening the group’s heft as a spokesperson of the developing world.
- By admitting some key countries in the list, BRICS could lay claim to representing more than half the world’s population.
- Significantly, the list includes big oil producers Saudi, Iran, the UAE, Nigeria, and Venezuela.
- The rush towards BRICS is driven by two basic impulses:
- First, there is considerable anti-US sentiment in the world, and all these countries are looking for a grouping where they can use that sentiment to gather together.
- Second, there is a lot of appetite for multipolarity, for a platform where countries of the Global South can express their solidarity.
- China in BRICS
- The idea of BRICS came between 2001 and 2003 from then Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill.
- He projected that the four emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China would be the future economic powerhouses of the world, with South Africa being added later.
- China is driving the expansion of the group.
- India in BRICS
- India should not be seen as ganging up with an anti-West coalition.
- India is also part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and despite problems, it has relations with Russia, with China.
- While China does want BRICS to be an anti-western group, the Indian view is that it is a “non-western” group and should stay that way.
- One view on the expanding membership is that it could sideline India’s role in the group.
- Common currency
- The idea of a common currency was proposed by Russia’s President at the Beijing BRICS summit last year.
- The idea got a cautious reception, with the leaders deciding to set up a committee to study its viability.
- Challenges to the idea:
- There are complications, such as the setting up of a common central bank of member countries that have different economic and political systems and are located on different continents.
- Countries are not yet ready to give up dollar, including Russia and China.
What is the BRICS?
- BRICS is an acronym that started as BRIC in 2001, coined by Jim O’Neill (a Goldman Sachs economist) for Brazil, China, India, and Russia.
- Later in 2010, South Africa was added to become BRICS.
- Goldman Sachs claimed that the global economy will be dominated by the four BRIC economies by 2050.
- The main reason for such a claim was that China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa were ranked among the world’s fastest-growing and emerging market economies for years.
- The main comparative advantage of this group is their low labour costs, favourable demographics, and abundant natural resources at the time of the global commodities boom.
How did BRICS Begin?
- Russia initiated the creation of BRICS.
- In 2006, they held the first BRICS Ministerial Meeting proposed by the then Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- At the initiative of Russia, on May 16, 2008, they hosted a meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers at Yekaterinburg, Russia.
- They issued a Joint Communique on common stances on topical global development after the meeting.
- Russia hosted the first BRIC Summit on June 16, 2009, at Yekaterinburg.
- It pledged to promote cooperation and dialogue among the BRIC countries in a transparent, open, proactive, and incremental manner.
Role of the BRICS
- The BRICS countries agreed to undertake measures of mobilizing sufficient resources so that the IMF can strengthen its potential to combat all kinds of crisis.
- They also created the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism that provides Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency and the BRICS Exchanges Alliance.
- The BRICS nation offered a source of foreign expansion for firms and solid returns for institutional investors.
- They also focused on some regional issues, including the problems related to Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iran (their indigenous nuclear program).
- BRICS also coordinated together in resolving:
- IMF reform
- The struggle against illicit drug trafficking
- The need, use, and development of technologies in information and communication
- To create favourable conditions for barrier-free trade.
Principles of BRICS:
- Neutrality (regarding third parties)
- Non-bloc nature
Topic 6: President’s Rule
Context: Imposition of President’s Rule in Manipur and creation of a separate administration for tribals were among the key demands from tribal leaders who met Union Home Minister recently.
What is President’s Rule?
- President’s Rule refers to the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre.
- The central government takes direct control of the state in question and the Governor becomes its constitutional head.
- The Vidhan Sabha is either dissolved or prorogued.
- Such a situation forces the Election Commission to conduct a re-election within six months.
How is President’s rule imposed in a state?
- Article 356 of the Constitution of India gives the President of India the power to impose this rule on a state on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
- There are some conditions that the President has to consider before imposing the rule:
- If the President is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
- The state government is unable to elect a leader as chief minister within a time prescribed by the Governor of that state.
- There’s a breakdown of a coalition leading to the chief minister having a minority support in the House, and the CM fails to prove majority in the given period of time.
- Loss of majority in the Assembly due to a vote of no-confidence in the House.
- Elections postponed on account of situations like natural disasters, war or epidemic.
Does the President’s rule impact people?
- No, it does not.
- However, once the President’s rule has been imposed on a state, no major government decisions can be made.
- No major policy decisions can be implemented nor can any project be sanctioned till the time President’s rule is revoked and the next government is formed.
Duration of the President’s rule
- Proclamation of President’s Rule under Article 356 of the Constitution stands for six months.
- This timeframe can be extended up to three years, in phases.
- President’s Rule can be revoked at any time by the President and this does not require Parliament’s approval.
- According to the 44th Amendment Act of 1978, President’s rule can only be extended over a year every 6 months under the following conditions:
- The Election Commission certifies that elections cannot be conducted in the state concerned.
- There is already a national emergency throughout India or in the whole or any part of the state.
What option do the elected representatives of the state have?
- With the Assembly in suspended animation, stakeholders can approach the Governor any time with the required proof of support to prove majority on the floor of the House.
- The EC notification on the election is treated as the new Assembly having been constituted.
Topic 7: President in Govt contracts: Art 299
Context: The Supreme Court has held that the government, when entering into a contract under the President’s name, cannot claim immunity from the legal provisions of that contract under Article 299 of the Constitution, in a recent case.
What is Article 299 of the Constitution?
- Article 298 grants the Centre and the state governments the power to carry on trade or business, acquire, hold, and dispose of property, and make contracts for any purpose.
- Article 299 delineates the manner in which these contracts will be concluded.
- Articles 298 and 299 came after the Constitution came into effect and the government entered into contracts even in the pre-independence era.
- According to the Crown Proceedings Act of 1947, the Crown could not be sued in court for a contract it entered into.
- Article 299 of the Constitution provides that:
- All contracts made in the exercise of the executive power of the Union or of a State shall be expressed to be made by the President or by the Governor of the State.
- All such contracts and assurances of property made in the exercise of that power shall be executed on behalf of the President or the Governor by persons in a manner as directed and authorised by them.
- The phrase ‘expressed to be made and executed’ under Article 299 (1) means that there must be a deed or contract in writing and that it should be executed by a person duly authorised by the President or the Governor on their behalf.
- Objective of Article 299:
- There must be a definite procedure according to which contracts must be made by agents acting on the government’s behalf; otherwise, public funds may be depleted by unauthorized or illegitimate contracts.
- It implies that contracts not adhering to the manner given in Article 299(1) cannot be enforced by any contracting party.
- However, Article 299 (2) says that essentially, neither the President nor the Governor can be personally held liable for such contracts.
Topic 8: RBI’s ‘lightweight’ payments system
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has conceptualised a lightweight payment and settlements system, which it is calling a “bunker” equivalent of digital payments, which can be operated from anywhere by a bare minimum staff in exigencies such as natural calamities or war.
- The infrastructure for this system will be independent of the technologies that underlie the existing systems of payments such as UPI, NEFT, and RTGS.
- Importance of such a system:
- In its Annual Report for 2022-23, RBI says that the lightweight and portable payment system is expected to operate on minimalistic hardware and software, and would be made active only on a “need basis”.
- Such a lightweight and portable payment system could ensure near zero downtime of the payment and settlement system in the country.
- It will keep the liquidity pipeline of the economy alive and intact by facilitating uninterrupted functioning of essential payment services like bulk payments, interbank payments and provision of cash to participant institutions.
- The system is expected to process transactions that are critical to ensure the stability of the economy, including government and market related transactions.
- Having such a resilient system is also likely to act as a bunker equivalent in payment systems and thereby enhance public confidence in digital payments and financial market infrastructure even during extreme conditions.
- How will the lightweight system be different from UPI?
- Existing conventional payments systems such as RTGS, NEFT, and UPI are designed to handle large volumes of transactions while ensuring sustained availability.
- As a result, they are dependent on complex wired networks backed by advanced IT infrastructure.
- Catastrophic events like natural calamities and war have the potential to render these payment systems temporarily unavailable by disrupting the underlying information and communication infrastructure.