Trai’s attempt to review tariffs raises concerns
GS Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc.
Discovery Communications filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court against TRAI’s new consultation paper on tariffs regarding broadcasting and cable services.
It seeks a stay on the consultation paper saying that it lacks objectivity, transparency and fairness of approach.
Discovery argues the consultation paper is based on the assumption that television broadcasters are responsible for manipulating and distorting pricing of channels, thereby affecting consumer choice.
TRAI is attempting to review the six-month-old new tariff order (NTO), which allowed consumers to choose their channel on an à la carte basis with broadcasters having to declare the maximum price of each channel separately.
Several research studies found that instead of lowering the monthly cable and DTH bills for the consumers as was intended, the new framework led to an increase in monthly charges.
Several broadcasters raised concerns about the new consultation paper. They say that the Trai’s move favours the distribution platform operators (DPOs) such as cable and DTH services.
They feel that under the new tariff order the distribution platforms have gained the most as they get a fixed network capacity fee (NCF) of ₹130 for 100 standard definition (SD) channels and ₹20 for the next slab of 25 SD channels.
The new consultation seeks to review broadcasters’ bouquets to check misuse of flexibility in pricing.
By regulating the channel pricing, it is not allowing broadcasters to monetize their IPR
Trai assumes that à la carte is the preferred choice among consumers, although it offers no research by way of evidence.
Broadcasting and NTO
Broadcasting in India has always been a standoff between broadcasters and DPOs, and the DPOs have always been winning.
Trai, as well as the ministry of information and broadcasting, have always seen their role as controlling broadcasters, never the DPOs.
DPOs have other advantages, too. If you have to be part of the first 100 free-to-air (FTA) channel bouquet of a DPO, you have to pay a carriage fee.
Also, they are pushing their own bouquets onto the consumers.
At present no distributor platform has the capability to offer complete à la carte channel choice involving various permutations and combinations for each and every consumer.
The new tariff order robs a consumer of his chance to discover new content as he was getting many channels for a very low monthly fee.
The new tariff order and the new consultation paper may kill the smaller channels. There is nothing wrong if weaker channels piggyback on stronger ones.
Consumer should get actual choice and be able to pay only for what he watches. The revised tariff order seeks to make amends, but Trai has not acknowledged the mess it created.
Assam: from the state of influx to a state of flux
GS Paper 3: External State & Non-State Actors: Challenges To Internal Security.
It’s been less than a week after the final list was released on 31 August. Uncertainty prevails over the process that could take nearly two million people stateless.
Though people can appeal within 120 days, a majority aren’t well-off and many live in areas away from NRC tribunals.
Vast numbers of non-Muslim people out of the NRC net. Govt tried to give non-Muslim immigrants the opportunity for naturalization by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 by reducing the residency requirements for persons belonging to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan from 11 years to 6 years.
NRC and the Citizenship Bill proved a contradictory and volatile mix. NRC sought to address long-time local feelings against ‘outsiders’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ while the Citizenship Bill seemed to be a way to legitimize such migration.
The complexity of the issue can be understood from the Cachar area where matters of religion, language and ethnicity are incendiary.
This area wasn’t even part of Assam not too long ago.
The East India Company extended its conquest of Assam in 1826 with that of Cachar six years later and merged them with the Bengal Presidency.
After the administrative reorganization in the wake of the 1857 mutiny, the largely Bengali-speaking districts of Sylhet, Cachar, and Goalpara (or) Lower Assam—were merged into the new Chief Commissioner’s Province of Assam.
It administratively cut off Bengali speakers from Bengal, besides isolating the Sylheti people.
With partition in 1947, much of Muslim-majority Sylhet went over to newly born Pakistan after a referendum except for the eastern extremity of Sylhet.
The anti-Bengali violence in Assam in the 1960s following the pro-Bengali language movement in Cachar, sharpened divides.
Bursts of migration from East Pakistan and later heightened pressures as well as expectations.
Many non-Muslim Bengalis out of the final NRC register in the Cachar area do not have the Citizenship Bill sought to provide.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues
Explained: Economics behind e-vehicle batteries
Mains Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc.
Shifting gears in the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), the NITI Aayog, in May this year, proposed to ban the sale of all internal combustion engine (ICE) powered three-wheelers post March 2023.
It also suggested that all new two-wheelers below 150cc sold after March 2025 should be electric.
In consonance with these proposals, the Union Budget announced tax incentives for early adopters.
The automobile industry had objected to the proposal and called for a practical approach in framing EV-related policies.
There has been the worry that EVs are still not financially viable because of various costs associated with their manufacture and use.
How are cost structures of conventional vehicles and electric vehicles different?
The portion of the costs of the drive train of EVs the system in a motor vehicle which connects the transmission to the drive axles in comparison to the cost of the entire vehicle is 4% lower compared to ICE vehicles.
This is primarily due to less part in the electric drive train.
However, the battery pack takes up nearly half the cost of an electric vehicle.
For any meaningful reduction in the physical value of EVs, the cost of battery packs needs to reduce significantly.
Components of a battery pack and their cost
The predominant battery chemistry used in EVs is lithium-ion batteries (Li-ion).
No new technologies are on the horizon for immediate commercial usage.
The cost of the materials or key-components of the battery, namely the cathode, anode, electrolyte, separator, among others, contribute the most (60%) to the total cost.
Any reduction in the cost of the battery pack will have to come from a reduction in materials cost or the manufacturing overhead.
How has the cost of the Li-ion battery pack cost evolved in the last decade?
The price of these battery packs has consistently fallen over the past few years.
This decrease is in part due to technological improvements, economies of scale and increased demand for lithium-ion batteries.
Fierce competition between major manufacturers has also been instrumental in bringing down prices.
The chart shows the change in the price of Li-ion batteries from 2010 to 2016. It is not clear if the battery cost can be reduced even further.
Given that raw materials account for 60% of the cost of the battery pack, the room for further cost reduction is rather limited.
Where does India stand on EV adoption?
In India, EV adoption will be driven by two-wheelers rather than cars in high numbers on because India’s mobility market is driven more by two wheelers.
According to the NITI Aayog, 79% of vehicles on Indian roads are two-wheelers.
Three-wheelers and cars that cost less than ₹10 lakh account for 4% and 12% of the vehicle population, respectively.
Two-wheelers will also need smaller batteries when compared to cars and hence the overall affordable cost.
India needs to manufacture Li-ion cells in-house. Now, cells are imported and “assembled” into batteries.
Setting up a Li-ion manufacturing unit requires high capital expenditure. But battery manufacturing in India is expected to grow as electric vehicles grow.
Are EV vehicles completely environment friendly?
In conventional ICEs, petrol or diesel fuels the engine.
However, in EVs, batteries are not the fuel; electrons supplied by the battery fuel the vehicle.
Presently, most of India’s electricity is generated using conventional sources.
In 2018-19, over 90% of India’s electricity was generated from conventional sources, including coal, and around 10% was produced from renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass.
While the rate of electricity generated from renewable sources has increased over the years, more needs to be done for their adoption.
This is because the EV-charging infrastructure needs to be powered through renewable sources to make it truly sustainable.
Electric and Hybrid Cars – FAME, National Electric Mobility Mission, etc.
GS Paper 1 : Climatic Change
Scientists have made a new discovery challenging the previous understanding of the link between the Southern Ocean — next to Antarctica — and the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
The study published in a journal shows that biological processes far out at sea are the most important factors determining how the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide.
Researchers studied the ocean circulation and carbon concentration of the Weddell Gyre — a region lying east of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The team studied data collected as part of the ANDREX project (Antarctic Deep Water Rates of Export) which measured the physical, biological, and chemical properties of the waters in the gyre between 2008 and 2010.
The data considered in this study showed unambiguously that, in the Weddell Gyre, the dominant process enabling the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and its removal to the deep ocean included the role of phytoplanktons.
The researchers reasoned that as phytoplankton in the centre of the gyre grow and sink, they remove carbon from the surface of the ocean, causing an uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – a process known as the ‘biological carbon pump’.
Role of Southern Ocean in CO2 absorption
Carbon dioxide is absorbed in the surface oceans and stored in the deep seas, gradually, over a timescale of 100s to 1,000s years.
The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in how the carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere.
It helps scientists understand its role during dramatic climate transitions in the past, such as the ice ages, and better predict the current and future climate change.
Whether carbon is released into the atmosphere or trapped in the deep ocean, is crucially determined by the transformation of the water from light to dense which is in turn caused by cooling at the ocean’s surface.
The dominant factor driving the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean was not related to dense water formation in the shallow seas close to Antarctica, but rather to biological processes further out in the sea.
The results carry implications for our understanding of how the high-latitude Southern Ocean, close to the Antarctic continent, influences atmospheric carbon and global climate on 100 to 1000-year timescales.
The findings are important both for our understanding of climate transitions in the past, such as the ice ages, as well as our projections of future climate change.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.
Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA)
GS Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology
Among all the causes that will eventually cause the extinction of life on Earth, an asteroid hit is widely acknowledged as one of the likeliest.
Over the years, scientists have suggested different ways to ward off such a hit, such as blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth, or deflecting it off with a spacecraft.
Now, scientists have embarked on a plan to test their expertise with the second of these two methods.
Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA)
It is an ambitious double-spacecraft mission to deflect an asteroid in space, to prove the technique as a viable method of planetary defence.
The mission, which includes NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), is known as the Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA).
The target is the smaller of two bodies in the “double Didymos asteroids” that are in orbit between Earth and Mars.
Didymos is a near-Earth asteroid system. Its main body measures about 780 m across; the smaller body is a “moonlet” about 160 m in diameter.
The project aims to deflect the orbit of the smaller body through an impact by one spacecraft.
Then a second spacecraft will survey the crash site and gather the maximum possible data on the effect of this collision.
Tools of the mission
NASA is building the Double Asteroid Impact Test (DART) spacecraft for launch in summer 2021.
It is planned to collide with the target at 6.6 km/s in September 2022.
Flying along with DART will be an Italian-made miniature CubeSat, called LICIACube, to record the moment of impact.
ESA’s contribution is a mission called Hera, which will perform a close-up survey of the post-impact asteroid, acquiring measurements such as the asteroid’s mass and detailed crater shape.
Hera will also deploy a pair of CubeSats for close-up asteroid surveys and the very first radar probe of an asteroid.
All this would allow researchers to model the efficiency of the collision.
This can help turn this experiment into a technique that could be repeated, as needed, in the event of a real threat.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries
Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme
GS Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia
The Union Cabinet has approved a higher procurement price for ethanol purchased by oil marketing companies for the ethanol blended petrol (EBP) programme.
Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in January, 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol.
The programme sought to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels and to reduce import dependency for energy requirements.
OMCs are advised to continue according priority of ethanol from 1) sugarcane juice/sugar/sugar syrup, 2) B-heavy molasses 3) C-heavy molasses and 4) damaged food grains/other sources.
At present, this programme has been extended to whole of India except UTs of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands with effect from 01st April, 2019 wherein OMCs sell petrol blended with ethanol up to 10%.
About the decision
According to the new decision, the price of ethanol from C-heavy molasses will be increased from ₹43.46 per litre to ₹43.75 per litre.
The price of ethanol from B-heavy molasses will be increased from ₹52.43 per litre to ₹54.27 per litre. The price of ethanol from sugarcane juice, sugar, and sugar syrup has been set at ₹59.48 per litre.
The oil marketing companies will also pay the GST and transportation tax associated with the ethanol supply — a provision that existed in the previous plan as well.
Ethanol, an anhydrous ethyl alcohol having chemical formula of C2H5OH, can be produced from sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc which are having high starch content.
In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by fermentation process.
Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline to form different blends.
As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered as renewable fuel.
Asiatic Society of Bombay
GS Paper 1: Arts & Culture
On Saturday, the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, which was started by and for white European men in the early 19th century, elected the first woman president in the 215 years of its existence.
Prof Vispi Balaporia will head the institution that is a treasure house of remarkable historical artifacts.
Asiatic Society, Mumbai
The Asiatic Society is housed in the iconic Town Hall building in the colonial-era Fort precinct and has witnessed the evolution of the city’s intelligentsia in its long history.
It is a learned society whose activities include conducting historical research, awarding historians, and running an institute of post-graduate studies.
Its library, home to over 1 lakh books, consists of rare manuscripts contributed to it by the East India Company.
It has generous donations by the likes of Mountstuart Elphinstone, Jagannath Shankarsheth, Cowasji Jehangir, and Bhau Daji Lad.
The library recently scrapped its referral system for membership, thus expanding access to its resources.
Among the prized collections of the Society is an original copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and coins issued by Kumaragupta (5th century), Akbar (16th century), and Shivaji (17th century).
The Society offers Junior Fellowships for research and recommends scholars for the Tagore National Fellowship of the Ministry of Culture.
The Governor of Maharashtra is the Society’s Chief Patron.
A 200-year history
The Asiatic Society began its journey in 1804 as the Literary Society of Bombay.
It was founded by Sir James Mackintosh, a Scottish colonial administrator who had a keen interest in Oriental studies.
In 1826, the Literary Society became the Mumbai arm of the London-based Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and came to be called the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (BBRAS).
In its early days, membership of the Society was restricted to European “gentlemen”, and the “natives” were not allowed to join until 1841.
The Bombay Geographical Society and the Anthropological Society of Bombay merged with the BBRAS in 1873 and 1896 respectively.
In 1954, the institution was severed from its London parent and became the Asiatic Society of Bombay. In 2002, it acquired its present name.
According to the Society’s website, its journal has been in publication since 1841.
The Asiatic Society was founded by civil servant Sir William Jones on 15 January 1784 in a meeting presided over by Sir William Jones, Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Calcutta.
It aimed to enhance and further the cause of Oriental research.
In 1832 the name was changed to “The Asiatic Society of Bengal” and again in 1936 it was renamed as “The Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal”.
One of the main activities of the Asiatic Society was to collect the old manuscripts of India. There was an enormous collection of Sanskrit manuscripts with the society.