Topic 1: Critical Minerals
Context: A recent working paper from Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP) extends the earlier minerals assessment for 23 minerals by assessing the criticality levels of 43 select minerals for India based on their economic importance (demand-side factors) and supply risks (supply-side factors) which are determined through the evaluation of specific indicators.
- What are critical minerals?
- Critical minerals refer to mineral resources, both primary and processed, which are essential inputs in the production process of an economy, and whose supplies are likely to be disrupted due to the risks of non-availability or unaffordable price spikes.
- To tackle such supply risks, major global economies periodically evaluate which minerals are critical for their jurisdiction through a quantitative assessment.
- Minerals such as antimony, cobalt, gallium, graphite, lithium, nickel, niobium, and strontium are among the 22 assessed to be critical for India.
- Significance for India:
- Many of these are required to meet the manufacturing needs of green technologies, high-tech equipment, aviation, and national defence.
- However, while India has a significant mineral geological potential, many minerals are not readily available domestically.
- Hence, India needs to develop a national strategy to ensure resilient critical minerals supply chains, which focuses on minerals found to be critical.
- Electric vehicles: cobalt, lanthanum, lithium
- Fuel cells: platinum, palladium, rhodium
- Wind energy technologies: neodymium, dysprosium, terbium
- Aviation sector: titanium
- Photovoltaic solar technologies: cadmium, indium, gallium
- Traditional — titanium, vanadium
- Sunrise — lithium
- Mixed use — cobalt, nickel, graphite, light rare earth elements (LREEs), heavy rare earth elements (HREEs)
Challenges for India
- China angle:
- China, the most dominant player in the critical mineral supply chains, still struggles with Covid-19-related lockdowns.
- As a result, the extraction, processing and exports of critical minerals are at risk of slowdown.
- Russia-Ukraine crisis:
- Russia is one of the significant producers of nickel, palladium, titanium sponge metal, and the rare earth element scandium.
- Ukraine is one of the major producers of titanium.
- It also has reserves of lithium, cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements, including tantalum, niobium, and beryllium.
- The war between the two countries has implications for these critical mineral supply chains.
- Supply chain disruption due to power shifts:
- As the balance of power shifts across continents and countries, the critical mineral supply chains may get affected due to the strategic partnership between China and Russia.
- As a result, developed countries have jointly drawn up partnership strategies, including the Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) and G7’s Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance, while developing countries have missed out.
- Indispensable for renewable energy:
- Manufacturing renewable energy technologies would require increasing quantities of minerals, including copper, manganese, zinc, and indium.
- Likewise, the transition to electric vehicles would require increasing amounts of minerals, including copper, lithium, cobalt, and rare earth elements.
- India does not have many of these mineral reserves, or its requirements may be higher than the availability, necessitating reliance on foreign partners to meet domestic needs.
- More exploration needed:
- On the domestic front, while India has a geological potential similar to mining-rich Western Australia, much still needs to be explored.
- Given the increasing importance of critical and strategic minerals, there is an imperative need to create a new list of such minerals in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act, 1957. Act.
- These minerals must be prospected, explored, and mined on priority, as any delays may hinder India’s emissions reduction and climate change mitigation timeline.
- The reconnaissance and exploration of minerals must be encouraged, with particular attention given to deep-seated minerals.
- An innovative regime must be devised to allocate critical mineral mining assets, which adequately incentivises private explorers, including ‘junior’ explorers.
- India needs to determine where and how the processing of minerals and assembly of critical minerals-embedded equipment will occur.
- Currently, India relies on global supplies of various processed critical minerals, as there are limited domestic sources.
- Critical minerals strategy:
- India requires a critical minerals strategy comprising measures aimed at making the country AatmaNirbhar (self-reliant) in critical minerals needed for sustainable economic growth and green technologies for climate action, national defence, and affirmative action for protecting the interests of the affected communities and regions.
- International collaborations:
- India must actively engage in bilateral and plurilateral arrangements for building assured and resilient critical mineral supply chains.
- Updating data:
- The assessment of critical minerals for India needs to be updated every three years to keep pace with changing domestic and global scenarios.
- National critical minerals strategy:
- A national critical minerals strategy for India can help focus on priority concerns in supply risks, domestic policy regimes, and sustainability.
Topic 2: Hakki Pikkis tribe
Context: More than 181 members of the Hakki Pikki tribal community from Karnataka are stuck in violence-hit Sudan, even as the government is making efforts to bring them back.
Who are the Hakki Pikki?
- The Hakki Pikki is a tribe that lives in several states in west and south India, especially near forest areas.
- Hakki Pikkis (Hakki in Kannada means ‘bird’ and Pikki means ‘catchers’) are a semi-nomadic tribe, traditionally of bird catchers and hunters.
- According to the 2011 census, the Hakki Pikki population in Karnataka is 11,892.
- In different regions, they are known by different names, such as Mel-Shikari in northern Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- They are divided into four clans:
- Kaliwala and
- These clans can be equated with castes in the traditional Hindu society.
- In the olden days, there was a hierarchy among the clans, with the Gujaratia at the top and the Mewaras at the bottom.
- Hakki Pikki people are believed to hail originally from the bordering districts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
- They came to the south in search of game.
What are their rituals and customs?
- Hakki Pikkis in Karnataka follow Hindu traditions and celebrate all Hindu festivals.
- They are non-vegetarians.
- The eldest son in a family is not supposed to cut his hair so that he can be identified easily.
- The tribe prefers cross-cousin marriages.
- According to locals, the usual age of marriage is 18 for women and 22 for men.
- The society is matriarchal, where the groom gives dowry to the bride’s family.
Topic 3: Abhilekh Patal
Context: Prime Minister of India praises “Abhilekh patal” a portal with over 1 Crore Pages of Historical Records of the National Archives
- Abhilekh is a Sanskrit term used in India for records since ancient times and Patal is a Sanskrit word meaning a board, platform, or a surface.
- A combination of both these words has been adopted as an acronym for Portal for Access to Archives and Learning.
- It is a full-featured web-portal to access the National Archives of India’s reference media and its digitized collections through the internet.
- Both the reference media and the digital data will be regularly augmented.
- About National Archives of India:
- The National Archives of India is the repository of the non-current records of the Government of India and is holding them in trust for the use of records creators and general users.
- It is an Attached Office of the Ministry of Culture.
Topic 4: Exercise Iniochos-23
Context: The Indian Air Force (IAF) will be participating in Exercise INIOCHOS-23.
- It is a multi-national air exercise hosted by the Hellenic Air Force (Greece).
- The exercise will be conducted in Greece.
- The Indian Air Force will be participating with four Su-30 MKI and two C-17 aircraft.
- The objective of the exercise is to enhance international cooperation, synergy and interoperability amongst the participating Air Forces.
- The exercise will be conducted in a realistic combat scenario involving multiple types of air and surface assets.
Topic 5: The Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border dispute
Context: Assam Chief Minister and his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) over the long-standing border dispute between the two states.
- The two states share a roughly 800-kilometre long border.
- The disputed areas the MoU deals with are 123 border villages, which span 12 districts of Arunachal Pradesh and 8 districts of Assam.
- Before North East Frontier Agency or NEFA (former name of what is now Arunachal Pradesh) was carved out of Assam in 1954, a sub-committee headed by then Assam Chief Minister Gopinath Bordoloi had made a set of recommendations in relation to the administration of NEFA and submitted a report in 1951.
- In line with the recommendations of this report, around 3,648 kilometres of the plain area of Balipara and Sadiya foothills were transferred from NEFA to Assam.
- When Arunachal was made a Union Territory in 1972, it contended that several forested tracts in the plains that had traditionally belonged to hill tribal chiefs and communities were unilaterally transferred to Assam.
Past efforts to resolve this issue
- In 1979, a high-powered tripartite committee was constituted to delineate the boundary on the basis of Survey of India maps, as well as discussions with both sides.
- While around 489 km of the 800 km were demarcated by 1983-84, futher demarcation could not take place because Arunachal did not accept the recommendations and claimed several kilometres of the 3,648 sq km, which was transferred to Assam in line with the 1951 report.
- Assam objected to this and filed a case in the Supreme Court in 1989, highlighting an “encroachment” made by Arunachal Pradesh.
- To resolve the dispute between the states, the apex court appointed a local boundary commission in 2006, headed by a retired SC judge.
- Several recommendations were made some of which suggested Arunachal Pradesh get back some of the territory which was transferred in 1951 however, nothing came of it.