(GS-III: Conservation related issues)
Ministry of Railways has decided to close down the Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels’ with effect from September 7, 2021.
The closure comes nearly a month after the IROAF had floated a tender for “hydrogen fuel cell-based technology” for retrofitting the existing Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU).
All work-related to hydrogen fuel cells, including their tenders, will now be transferred to the Northern Railways.
Indian Railways are set to run trains on hydrogen fuel based technology under ‘Mission Net Zero Carbon Emission Railway’ by 2030.
What is Hydrogen fuel?
Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.
At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.
Occurrence of Hydrogen:
Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs.
Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Significance of Hydrogen Based economy:
Due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s potential for high efficiency hydrogen is considered an alternative.
Water is the only by-product that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel that makes the fuel 100 per cent clean.
Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines.
The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.
Government Missions towards hydrogen fuel:
The Finance Minister in the Union budget for 2020-21 formally announced the National Hydrogen Mission which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also disclosed that the draft regulations for NHM will be finalised by the end of this month and will thereafter proceed for approval of the Union Cabinet.
Challenges for India:
Economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.
The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.
The maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly, like in South Korea.
The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen.
Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh
(GS-I: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently laid the foundation stone for Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh State University in Aligarh.
It will provide affiliation to 395 colleges of the Aligarh division.
Who was Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh?
Born in a royal family on December 1, 1886 in Hathras, Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh was a freedom fighter, social reformer and a figure representing the Jat community, predominant in Western Uttar Pradesh.
In 1914, during World War I, Mahendra Pratap left India and led the German-backed first Provisional Government of India in Kabul, Afghanistan and declared himself its President while waging a war against colonial rule.
It was around this time (1917) that Mahendra Pratap was received by Lenin and Leon Trotsky in Petrograd, in Russia.
The British announced a bounty on his head and he fled to Japan to continue his movement.
In 1911-12, he went off to fight in the looming Balkan War in Turkey, on the side of the Ottoman empire, along with fellow students from the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College (MAO)
In 1932, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
His Contributions in the field of education:
Established Prem Maha Vidyalaya, a polytechnic college, in Vrindavan, which offered various courses, including carpentry, pottery and textiles under one roof.
He gave his own residence to establish the first technical school of the country.
He founded the world federation.
What is the Bill to scrap NEET in Tamil Nadu?
(GS-II: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these)
The Tamil Nadu Assembly has passed a Bill to dispense with the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET).
Why the bill to scrap NEET?
The Assembly has passed this Bill based on the recommendation of the high-level committee led by retired judge AK Rajan.
The bill will allow admission to medical courses based on Class 12 marks to “ensure social justice”.
The state assembly says the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test is not a fair or equitable method of admission since it favoured the rich and elite sections of society who can afford coaching.
The National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET), formerly the All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), is the qualifying test for MBBS and BDS programmes in Indian medical and dental colleges. It is conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
Arguments against NEET:
NEET ‘undermined the diverse societal representation’ in MBBS and higher medical studies, favouring mainly the affluent class.
Social groups most affected were the students of Tamil medium, having a rural background of government schools, those having a parental income of less than Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.
If NEET continued, the health care system of the state would be severely affected and there may not be enough doctors for Primary Health Centres or state-run hospitals.
Since it challenges a central law, it cannot come into force until and unless approved by the President of India.
Can states refuse to implement Central laws?
Usually, when a state wants to amend a Central law made under one of the items in the concurrent list, it needs the clearance of the Centre.
When a state law contradicts a Central law on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament prevails.
Why has the Constitution envisaged such an arrangement?
This is an arrangement envisaged as most Parliament laws apply to the whole of India and states amending the Central laws indiscriminately could lead to inconsistencies in different regions on the application of the same law. In matters of trade and commerce, this could especially pose serious problems.
The other options available with the states are:
To take the Centre to the Supreme Court over the validity of these laws.
Article 131 of the Constitution provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate matters between the states and the Centre.
Article 254 (2) of the Constitution empowers state governments to pass legislations which negate the Central acts in the matters enumerated under the Concurrent List.
A state legislation passed under Article 254 (2) requires the assent of the President of India.
(GS-III: Conservation related issues)
Power and New and Renewable Energy Minister RK Singh has urged US companies to participate in the bids for green hydrogen and electrolysers in the upcoming months.
The path for green hydrogen in the country is not clear and at the moment, production of green hydrogen is slightly more expensive than grey hydrogen.
What is green hydrogen?
Hydrogen when produced by electrolysis using renewable energy is known as Green Hydrogen which has no carbon footprint.
Significance of Green Hydrogen:
Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) Targets and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability.
Green Hydrogen can act as an energy storage option, which would be essential to meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future.
In terms of mobility, for long distance mobilisations for either urban freight movement within cities and states or for passengers, Green Hydrogen can be used in railways, large ships, buses or trucks, etc.
Applications of green hydrogen:
Green Chemicals like ammonia and methanol can directly be utilized in existing applications like fertilizers, mobility, power, chemicals, shipping etc.
Green Hydrogen blending up to 10% may be adopted in CGD networks to gain widespread acceptance.
It is a clean-burning molecule, which can decarbonize a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation.
Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.