5 January 2023, Current Affairs
1. The government has formally approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission with an aim of making India a global hub for the production of green hydrogen.
While hydrogen’s potential as a clean fuel source has a history of nearly 150 years, it was only after the oil price shocks of the 1970s that the possibility of hydrogen replacing fossil fuels came to be considered seriously.
Later on, Japan’s Honda and Toyota, and South Korea’s Hyundai have since moved decisively to commercialise this technology.
About the National Green Hydrogen mission:
Objective: It aimed at;
The creation of export opportunities for green hydrogen and its derivatives;
Decarbonisation of the energy sector and use in mobility applications in a bid to lower the dependence on imported fossil fuels; and
The development of indigenous manufacturing capacities.
Significance: It will help to fuel key sectors of the economy using hydrogen that is made by splitting water through an electrical process called electrolysis, using a device called an electrolyser that is powered entirely by renewable energy.
The draft Mission is likely to propose support for the production and deployment of green hydrogen, alongside a major push for hydrogen in the auto sector.
It will also promote R&D for fuel cell development and pilot projects for fuel cell vehicles.
Hydrogen as a fuel:
Hydrogen, the most common element in nature, exists only in combination with other elements and has to be extracted from naturally occurring compounds like water.
Hydrogen is a clean molecule, but the process of extracting it is energy intensive.
It is a clean burning molecule that can decarbonise 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.
Green hydrogen is not commercially viable at present.
What is Green Hydrogen?
The sources and processes by which hydrogen is derived are categorised by colour tabs. Hydrogen produced from fossil fuels is called grey hydrogen, which constitutes the bulk of the hydrogen generated today.
Hydrogen generated from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage options is called blue hydrogen, while hydrogen generated using electrolysers powered by renewable power sources is called green hydrogen.
What India’s Green hydrogen mission aspires to?
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is in the process of formulating guidelines for the scheme that seeks to promote the development of green hydrogen production capacity of at least 5 million metric tonnes (MMT) per annum with an associated renewable energy capacity addition of about 125 gigawatts (GW) by 2030.
Making it viable for all: The current cost in India is around Rs.350-400 per kg which is likely to become viable only at a production cost of under Rs.100/ kg.
Providing Subsidy support: With implicit subsidy support and a government-backed R&D push, the plan is to target lower costs of renewable power generation and to bring down the costs of electrolysers to make the production of green hydrogen cost-competitive.
Replace fossil fuels: Green hydrogen could eventually potentially replace fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based feedstock in fertiliser production, petroleum refining, steel production, and transport applications.
Where this Green hydrogen energy be used?
Inclusion of renewable sources of energy: The electricity generation capacity addition over the last 10 years by way of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, can be diverted for green hydrogen production during non-peak hours.
For the steel sector:
The steel sector has been made a stakeholder, and it has been proposed to set up pilot plants with part funding from the government.
It will aim to explore the feasibility of using green hydrogen in Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) production by partly replacing natural gas with hydrogen in gas-based DRI plants.
Based on the success of the pilot projects, the gas-based DRI units are to be encouraged for large-scale adoption of the process.
Recent Government Interventions:
US-based Ohmium International has commissioned India’s first green-hydrogen factory in Karnataka.
Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme: A major part of this is a proposed Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition Programme (SIGHT), under which two financial incentive mechanisms are to be provided.
Also, it is targeting domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and the production of green hydrogen promoted to achieve a reduction in fossil fuel imports and abatement of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Kerala has set up a high-level working group for its own Hydrogen Economy Mission to devise a strategic roadmap, policy formulations, and implementation plans for facilitating investments in green hydrogen and making the state “a green hydrogen hub”.
Companies such as Reliance Industries Ltd, Adani Enterprises, JSW Energy, and Acme Solar have plans to tap the green hydrogen opportunity.
2.The values of local self-governance
Polity & Governance
With the 30th Anniversary of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, debates on federalism should include larger discussions on how power should be divided and shared between governments at the Union, State, and local levels.
In December 1992, Parliament passed the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments, which instituted Panchayats and municipalities, respectively.
These amendments mandated that State governments constitute Panchayats (at the village, block and district levels) and municipalities (in the form of municipal corporations, municipal councils and Nagar Panchayats) in every region.
They sought to institute a third tier of governance in the federal framework through the devolution of functions, funds, and functionaries to local governments.
Since local governments seldom derive their authority directly from the Constitution, India’s constitutional reforms for decentralisation are exceptional.
But still, despite these reforms, municipal governments are often seen to be ineffective in addressing even the most basic needs of citizens, such as reliable water supply and walkable footpaths. Urban residents tend to blame “corrupt” local politicians for these civic woes.
What is the basis of Local self-governance in India?
Local self-governance is linked to the idea of subsidiarity and is typically grounded on two broad arguments.
First, it provides for the efficient provision of public goods since governments with smaller jurisdictions can provide services as per the preferences of their residents.
Second, it promotes deeper democracy since governments that are closer to the people allow citizens to engage with public affairs more easily.
The democratic decentralization through the 73rd and 74th CAA has entrusted the Local self-government with the main task of local governance, while the district administration plays an enabling and coordinating role.
However, in several cases bureaucratic inertia and lack of empowerment of LSG (local self-government) have hindered the objective of decentralized local governance (enshrined in Art 40 of the DPSP), needing immediate reform in this regard.
However, India is undergoing a centralising shift in its politics, economy, and culture.
The Constitution (73RD and 74TH Amendment) Act, 1992 provided for the establishment of urban local bodies (ULBs) (including municipal corporations) as institutions of local self-government.
It also empowered state governments to devolve certain functions, authority, and power to collect revenue from these bodies and made periodic elections for them compulsory.
Urban governance and Panchayats are part of the state list under the Constitution.
Thus, the administrative framework and regulation of ULBs vary across states.
Levels: The Act stipulated three levels of municipal bodies to be set up in the country:
Nagar Panchayat: Nagar Panchayat for a transitional area (an area in transition from a rural area to an urban area).
Municipality: It is constituted of a smaller urban area
Municipal Corporation: It is constituted of a larger urban area exceeding 3 lakhs population.
What do they mandate?
The 73rd and 74th amendments require States to vest Panchayats and municipalities with the authority to enable them to function as institutions of self-government, including the powers to prepare and implement plans and schemes for economic development and social justice.
They also mandate the regular conduct of local elections, provide for the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Schedules Tribes and women in local councils, and institute participative forums like gram sabhas in Panchayats and ward committees in municipal corporations.
Hence, the core values that the amendments sought to entrench are that of deepening local democracy and devolving functions for meeting the ends of economic development and social justice.
What are the loopholes in the local governance structure?
Limited autonomy and authority: Despite the constitutional promise of local self-governance, local governments, especially municipalities, operate with limited autonomy and authority.
Limitations include the discretion given to the States regarding the devolution of powers and levying of local taxes.
State governments are reluctant to implement the 74th amendment as cities are economic powerhouses and controlling urban land is important for financing State governments and political parties.
Narrowing the scope of Municipalities: The courts have also mostly interpreted the 74th amendment narrowly, allowing State governments to retain their control over cities.
The 2021 amendment transferred the powers of appointment of Grade C and D employees of municipalities from the Empowered Standing Committee of the municipality to the State government-controlled Directorate of Municipal Administration.
3. Why has a high-power Ladakh committee been formed?
Polity & Governance
Acts and Amendments
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted a high-powered committee for the Union Territory of Ladakh in order to conserve the region’s unique culture and language.
In 2020, the Peoples Movement for Constitutional safeguard under the sixth schedule or the Apex Body, Leh was formed.
Separation from J&K: On August 5, 2019, the former State of Jammu & Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh, the latter without a Legislative Assembly.
The demand for UT: Buddhist-dominated Leh district had long demanded UT status because it felt neglected by the erstwhile state government, which was dominated by politicians from Kashmir and Jammu.
Demand for inclusion in the Sixth Schedule: Since then, the civil society and political groups in Ladakh have been demanding inclusion under the sixth schedule of the Constitution to protect the land, employment, and cultural identity of Ladakh.
Details of the committee:
Chaired by: Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai.
It is a 17-member committee that includes Ladakh Lieutenant Governor.
Objective: The committee will discuss;
Measures to protect the region’s unique culture and language taking into consideration its geographical location and strategic importance;
Ensure protection of land and employment for the people of Ladakh;
Strategize inclusive development and discuss issues related to the empowerment of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill District Councils of Leh and Kargil.
Why was the committee formed?
Civil society groups in Ladakh have been demanding protection of land, resources and employment for the past three years after the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution.
The fear of big businesses and conglomerates taking away land and jobs from the local people has contributed to this demand.