UPSC Daily News: Minerals, Avian Flu, Core Industries and More

GS Paper 1

Critical and Strategic Minerals 

Context: The Union Cabinet approved the amendment of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 for specifying rate of royalty in respect of 12 critical and strategic minerals.

  • The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2023, had listed 24 minerals as critical and strategic minerals.
  • These minerals have gained significance in view of India’s commitment towards energy transition and achieving net-zero emission by 2070.


  • Critical minerals are the foundation on which modern technology is built. From solar panels to semiconductors, wind turbines to advanced batteries for storage and transportation, the world needs critical minerals to build these products. 
  • A mineral is labeled as critical when the risk of supply shortage and associated impact on the economy is (relatively) higher than the other raw materials. 
  • Depending upon the net import reliance and the resource / reserve position of the country, a total of 30 minerals are found to be most critical for India out of which two minerals are critical as fertilizer minerals (Rock Phosphate and Potash). 
  • In India, the value chain of Rare Earth Elements (REE) is yet to be fully developed. Hence, in the first instance, all the REEs are considered to be critical. 

Platinum Group of Elements

*PGE: Platinum Group of Elements 

  • The Centre of Excellence on Critical Minerals (CECM) periodically updates the list of critical minerals for India, preferably every three years.
  • Out of the 30 minerals identified as critical for the country, out of which 24 minerals are included in the list of critical and strategic mineral in Part D of Schedule 1 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act).
  • The Indian Critical Minerals Identification process tries to address five core objectives:
    • Supporting economic growth, competitiveness, and job creation.
    • Driving research, innovation, and exploration.
    • Enhancing global security and partnership with allies.
    • Raw material security for state-of-the-art defence.
    • Promoting climate action and environmental protection.
  • A joint venture company namely Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) has been incorporated with the equity contribution from three Central Public Sector Enterprises namely, National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd. with the objective to ensure consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to Indian domestic market.

UPSC Daily News: PMP, Art. 371A, SCS, Myanmar & More

GS Paper 2

PM-Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana 

Context: The Union Cabinet recently approved a ₹75,021-crore package for the “PM-Surya Ghar: Muft Bijli Yojana” (PM Free Electricity scheme) to promote rooftop solar (RTS) installations in India and providing free electricity up to 300 units every month for One Crore households. 


  • The Centre will fund 60% of the cost for installing for 2 kW (kilowatt) systems and 40% of the cost for systems from 2-3 kW capacity. Systems of higher wattage will not be eligible for Central subsidy. 
  • For the remaining costs, households will be able to “access collateral-free low-interest loan products of around 7% at present for installation of residential RTS systems up to 3 kW.
  • This implies that minus the Central subsidy, the rest of the installation expenses have to be borne by the aspirant consumer.
  • A 3 kW system will be able to generate more than 300 units a month on an average for a household. This is how the scheme aims to provide 300 units of “free electricity” every month to one crore households. 
  • Through this scheme, the households will be able to save electricity bills as well as earn additional income through sale of surplus power to DISCOMs. 

GS Paper 3

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)

Context: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has infected bird populations in mainland Antarctica for the first time, threatening penguin populations. 

The virus is known to spread among birds and mammals due to predators and scavengers feeding on infected birds.

Earlier, HPAI was also reported in polar bears, confirming the presence of the virus in the Arctic. The polar bear is suspected to have fed on an infected carcass of a bird. 


  • Avian influenza (AI) or the bird flu is a virus that infects wild birds (such as ducks, gulls, and shorebirds) and domestic poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese). 
  • AI viruses are classified by a combination of two groups of proteins: the hemagglutinin or H proteins, of which there are 16 (H1-H16), and neuraminidase or N proteins, of which there are 9 (N1-N9).
  • Surface antigens (foreign proteins) haemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) form the viral coat of the influenza viruses. 
  • There are two types of avian influenza (AI) that are identified as H5N1: one is low pathogenic (LPAI) and the other is highly pathogenic (HPAI).
  • Pathogenicity is the ability of the virus to produce disease.
Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI)
  • LPAI H5N1, often referred to as the “North American” H5N1, is of less concern. 
  • LPAI occurs naturally in wild birds and can spread to domestic birds. 
  • In most cases it causes no signs of infection or only minor symptoms in birds. 
  • These strains of the disease pose little significant threat to human health. 
  • These strains are common in the U.S. and around the world. 
Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI)
  • HPAI H5N1, often referred to as the “Asian” H5N1, is the type causing worldwide concern. 
  • HPAI spreads rapidly and has a higher death rate in birds than LPAI. HPAI is often fatal in chickens and turkeys.

Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI) and the Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA)

Context: According to the Office of Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, output growth in core sectors fell to a 15-month low of 3.6% this January,


Core Industries 
  • Index of Eight Core Industries has the base: 2011-12.
  • The Eight Core Industries comprise 40.27 % of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
  • The Index of Eight Core Industries is a monthly production index, which is also considered as a lead indicator of the monthly industrial performance. 
  • Since April, 2014, Electricity generation data from Renewable sources are also included. 
  • ICI measures combined and individual performance of production in selected eight core industries.
  • The eight core industries are, in descending order of their weights:
  • Petroleum Refinery Products (weight: 28.04%) 
  • Electricity (weight: 19.85%) 
  • Steel (weight: 17.92 %)
  • Coal production (weight: 10.33 %) 
  • Crude Oil (weight: 8.98 %) 
  • Natural Gas (weight: 6.88 %) 
  • Cement (weight: 5.37%)
  • Fertilizer (weight: 2.63 %) 
Aluminium Sector as India’s Ninth Core Industry 
  • VK Saraswat, NITI Aayog member, has advised that the Centre must actively consider classifying the aluminium sector as India’s ninth core industry.
  • The aluminium sector contributes to nearly 2 per cent of manufacturing GDP and is a high direct and an indirect employment multiplier creating lakhs of jobs. 
Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA) 
  • It is an attached office of the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. The main functions of the Office of Economic Adviser include, inter alia the following:
Policy Functions
  • Economic policy inputs on industrial development.
  • Rendering advice relating to formulation of Industrial Policy, Foreign Trade Policy with respect to industrial sector in general with thrust on manufacturing, issues relating to bilateral and multilateral trade, as well as taxes and duties related to industry, including but not restricted to safeguard and anti-dumping duties.
  • Analysis of trends of industrial production and growth.
  • Examination of multilateral and bilateral issues and processing Policy Notes with economic implications referred to the Office.
Statistical Functions
  • Compiling and releasing monthly Wholesale Price Indices
  • Compiling and releasing monthly Index of Core Industries Production
  • Developing other Indices on experimental basis, e.g. select business service price indices
  • Supervising as a ‘source agency’, compilation of monthly production statistics for identified industrial items, their validation, and onward transmission for computation of the monthly Index of Industrial Production (IIP) by Central Statistics Office.
  • Monthly Statistical compilation of macro indicators (secondary information). 

UPSC BASIC Foundation

Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy

Context: The Union Cabinet recently approved the nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) rates for the upcoming kharif season for Phosphatic and Potassic (P&K) fertilizers.


  • The Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) Policy is being implemented from 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers.
  • Under this policy, a fixed amount of subsidy decided on annual basis, is provided on each grade of subsidized Phosphatic & Potassic (P&K) fertilizers depending on its Nutrient Content.
  • Our country is fully dependent on imports in Potassic sector and to the extent of 90% in Phosphatic sector in the form of either finished products or its raw material. 
  • Subsidy being fixed, any fluctuation in international prices has effect on the domestic prices of P&K fertilizers.
  • Any variant of the subsidised P&K fertilizers covered under NBS Policy and are fortified/coated with Boron and Zinc are eligible for additional subsidy over and above the normal NBS.
  • The benefits of the Policy accrue to the farmers are as under:
  • The P&K fertilizes are made available to farmers in adequate quantities; and 
  • More grades of P&K fertilizers have brought under the purview of the NBS Scheme giving the farmers wider choice to use complex fertilizer grades. 
  • The fertilizer companies are required to print Maximum Retail Price (MRP) along with applicable subsidy on the fertilizer bags clearly. 
  • Any sale above the printed MRP will be punishable under the Essential Commodities Act. 
  • The Government of India has declared fertilizer as an essential commodity under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 (ECA).
  • Under NBS policy companies are allowed to fix the MRP on their own. 
  • The intention behind introduction of NBS was to increase competition among the fertilizer companies to facilitate availability of diversified products in the market at reasonable prices.
Flaws of the Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) Regime 
  • The Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) regime was introduced in 2010 with the goal of gradually reducing India’s burgeoning fertilizer subsidies and to address the growing imbalance in fertilizer use in many States, which is skewed towards urea (N). 
  • While it decontrolled prices of complex fertilizers (particularly for phosphoric and potassic fertilisers), it continued administering the price of urea, the most commonly used one. 
  • Only non-nitrogenous fertilizers (P and K) moved to NBS; urea was left out.
  • The immediate effect of the move was that prices of complex fertilizers rose to reflect higher input costs. 
  • As a result, not only did the consumption of complex fertilizers decline, there was also a shift in demand to urea, whose prices were still regulated. 
  • A second-round consequence was a rise in black marketing of urea and an increase in its prices. 
  • Although urea prices remained administered. The surge in demand for urea meant that not only was urea selling in the black market at twice the administered prices, there was also severe shortage of urea in the market.
  • But perhaps the biggest consequence was the worsening of the fertilizer mix. 
  • The recommended ratio of the nutrients N (nitrogen), P (phosphorous) and K (potassium) is 4:2:1. In 2010-11, it was 4.7:2.3:1. It worsened to 8.0:2.7:1 by 2013-14, before improving slightly to 6.3:2.5:1 by 2018-19. 
  • The NBS certainly did not lead to any decline in subsidy on fertilizer. 
  • Along with shortages there were price increase in all three types of fertilizers, namely nitrogenous, phosphoric and potassic. 

Facts for Prelims

Melanochlamys Droupadi

Melanochlamys Droupadi

  • The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has named a new marine species of head-shield sea slug with ruby red spot which was discovered from West Bengal and Odisha coast after President of India Droupadi Murmu.
  • This species belonging to Melanochlamys genus was discovered from Digha of West Bengal coast and Udaipur of Odisha coast. 
  • The new species of head-shield sea slug, which is found nowhere else in the world, has been named Melanochlamys droupadi.

UPSC Daily News: Rajya Sabha, Viruses, Tigers & More

International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA)

  • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister has approved the establishment of International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA) with headquarters in India.
  • Seven big cats include Tiger, Lion, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Puma, Jaguar and the Cheetah out of these five big cats viz. Tiger, Lion, Leopard, Snow Leopard and Cheetah are found in India.
  • IBCA aims at securing the future of big cats and landscapes they thrive. The pioneering and long standing tiger and other big cat conservation good practices evolved in India. It may-be replicated in many other range countries.
  • IBCA has been conceived as a multi-country, multi-agency coalition of big cat range countries, non-range countries, scientific organizations and business groups willing to contribute to the cause of big cats.

India’s Leopard Numbers Rose by 8% 

  • According to a report made public by the Environment Ministry. India’s leopard numbers rose by 8% from 12,852 in 2018 to 13,874 in 2022.
  • While the highest number of leopards were reported in Madhya Pradesh (3,907). And only three other States reported over 1,000 animals each — Maharashtra (1,985), Karnataka (1,879) and Tamil Nadu (1,070). 
  • While Uttarakhand reported a 22% decline in the big cat numbers — reportedly due to poaching and man-animal conflict.  Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal saw a collective 150% rise to 349 animals.
  • Unlike tigers, which are largely confined to forest reserves. Leopards are far more adaptable and tend to be found in significant numbers, in villages and sometimes, even in cities. 
  • They are also known to prey on cattle and thus be involved in conflict, resulting in higher mortality.


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