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Indian Express

20-November-2023

1) A plan to manage stubble

Context:

  • Crop debris, especially stubble, was used for fuel in kitchens and as animal feed until a few decades ago.
  • But in the 1990s, something changed, prompted by things like heavily subsidized or free electricity for groundwater extraction.
  • As a result, states like Punjab and Haryana expanded their paddy acreages, which changed the way that harvesting was done and led to a rise in stubble burning.

Harvesting Shift and Stubble Burning:

  • Due to the need for labor during paddy harvesting, machines such as the Combined Harvester were introduced, leaving stubble standing in fields.
  • This remaining stubble was frequently set ablaze since it was inconvenient for continued cultivation.
  • Although in-situ stalk breakdown was made possible by manual harvesting, the mechanical method led to a rise in stubble burning incidents in central and eastern regions as well as in northwest India.

Challenges with Paddy Straw:

  • Paddy straw, high in silica content, is inappropriate as animal feed and disturbs succeeding crop operations when ploughed back into the field.
  • The issue of stubble burning still exists despite efforts by the federal and state governments, including programs like the application of decomposer or the direct sowing of rice.
  • There are restrictions with early harvest or alternate crops like maize, therefore creative solutions are required.

Proposed Solutions:

  • Reevaluate Power Subsidy: A metered system should be implemented in place of the current free or subsidized power supply, together with direct payments to farmers. Diversification beyond paddy would become more feasible as a result.
  • Create a Market for Stubble: Create a market for paddy straw and stumps to discourage farmers from burning them. One method to include stubble into the value chain is to employ baling machines, which are currently in use in Punjab and Haryana. The manufacture of biofuels, such ethanol and BioCNG, offers a possible market for small paddy straw bales.

Economic Viability of Stubble Utilization:

  • Estimates indicate that a price of Rs 1,000–1,200 per tonne of bale might cover costs and leave farmers with a modest margin.
  • Baling paddy straw costs Rs 1,000–1,100 per acre.
  • Establishing a market for paddy straw might possibly save enormous costs associated with stubble burning, as Punjab produces approximately 20 MMTs of stubble.

Support for Biofuel Production:

  • It is emphasized to promote the use of stubble for the generation of biofuel, specifically compressed biogas by anaerobic digestion.
  • In addition to addressing financial issues, this strategy takes environmental considerations into account and creates bio-slurry that restores soil fertility.

Enforcement and Legal Measures:

  • The stringent implementation of law prohibiting the burning of crop straw is necessary to guarantee the success of these activities.
  • After a strong supply of paddy straw is developed, administrative assistance, market opportunities, and legal support can work together to stop stubble burning and the negative effects it has on both health and the economy.

Way Forward:

  • A comprehensive strategy to prevent stubble burning can be put into place by reconsidering power subsidies, developing a market for paddy straw, and encouraging its usage in the creation of biofuel.
  • This strategy contributes to a circular economy in agriculture by helping farmers both financially and environmentally.

2) Digging our way to prosperity

Context:

  • According to estimates, Afghanistan has a trillion-dollar supply of rare earth minerals and valuable lithium. This is especially true in the Hindu Kush Mountain range in the province of Nurestan.
  • The present geopolitical landscape, dominated by China and the Taliban, poses questions about resource development despite the potential richness.
  • India has a chance to reflect on its economic destiny and the significance of essential minerals in the worldwide transition to electric vehicles in light of the contradictory situation.

India’s Geological Potential:

  • Given their shared tectonic origins, geological data indicate a high probability of discovering comparable important minerals on the northern Indian side of the Hindu Kush ranges.
  • This theory gains support from the discovery of lithium in Jammu and Kashmir recently.
  • India, one of the biggest nations with the least amount of exploration and mining, offers an unrealized potential for vital minerals in its vast sea and ocean beds as well as on land.

Economic Opportunities for India:

  • The world’s shift from combustion engines that run on oil to electric vehicles is driving up demand for rare earth, cobalt, and lithium materials like never before.
  • India, which is experiencing a gap between GDP growth and job creation, might use extensive mineral exploration to provide job opportunities for young people.
  • According to the article, mining and exploration create more jobs than traditional industry and offer chances to a range of groups, such as tribal people, Dalits, and members of lower castes.

Challenges in the Mining Sector:

  • This article highlights the necessity for a nuanced approach while addressing historical challenges, such as labor conditions, land acquisition issues, and environmental concerns.
  • It implies that in order to stop exploitation, a strong set of labor, land, and environmental protection regulations must be implemented and upheld by capable regulators.
  • It is not advisable to nationalize mining out of concern for cronyism in the private sector; instead, the private sector is thought to be able to provide the required funding and technology.

Government Policy and Global Competition:

  • The article promotes aggressive government policies with financial rewards and stringent guidelines to promote extensive private sector mining for vital minerals.
  • Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chile, Australia, and Afghanistan are already ahead of the rest in the global competition for vital minerals.
  • India needs to increase mining and exploration productivity and efficiency in order to catch up and satisfy international demand.

Reimagining India’s Economy:

  • The article makes reference to the ‘Reimagining the economy’ effort at Harvard University and suggests that economic development policies should become less GDP-centric and more job and labor market-focused.
  • It implies that the best way to gauge India’s economic performance would be to reduce the country’s reliance on employment guarantee programs like MGNREGA rather than to maximize GDP growth.
  • India has an economic story it can use to create jobs and generate income: the shift to electric mobility is driving up worldwide demand for minerals.

Conclusion:

  • The unique economic potential that India has in the worldwide need for key minerals is highlighted in the article’s conclusion.
  • Through ethical and effective mining methods, it urges India to harness its unrealized potential for wealth and calls for a careful balance between natural conservation and livelihoods.

 

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