Salt Caverns: Unlocking India’s Strategic Energy Fortresses
Why in news?
- In a bold move to bolster its energy security, Engineers India (EIL), a government-owned engineering consultancy firm, is delving into the untapped potential of salt caverns in Rajasthan.
- These natural wonders could serve as strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs), offering a unique solution to India’s storage capacity needs.
- Salt cavern storage presents distinct advantages over traditional rock caverns, making it an intriguing prospect for the country.
Fortifying Energy Security
- As India stands as the world’s third-largest consumer of crude oil, ensuring uninterrupted supply is paramount.
- Strategic crude oil reserves, like SPRs, act as a buffer during supply disruptions in the global market. With over 85% reliance on imports, India is acutely aware of the importance of energy security.
- Currently, the country’s SPR capacity stands at 5.33 million tonnes, approximately 39 million barrels, providing a mere 9.5 days of demand coverage.
- However, India aims to expand this capacity by a substantial 65 million tonnes.
The Salt Cavern Advantage
- Salt cavern storage employs a unique process that leverages the properties of brine and petroleum substances.
- By injecting brine into the caverns, the lower density of the petroleum allows it to be pushed out, creating storage space.
- When more petroleum is needed, the brine is pumped out, making room for additional reserves.
- This extraction and replenishment process occurs through well-designed pipeline systems, ensuring separation between the brine and the stored hydrocarbon.
- The reuse of brine from surface ponds adds to the operational efficiency of salt caverns.
Unveiling the Benefits
- Salt cavern-based storage facilities boast exceptional impermeability and sealing properties, surpassing other geological formations.
- Besides their potential for storing liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons, salt caverns can also accommodate compressed air and hydrogen.
- Rajasthan’s abundant salt formations make it an ideal candidate for developing salt cavern-based SPRs.
- The low porosity of salt caverns translates into cost-effective storage solutions, marking a remarkable milestone in India’s SPR journey.
Salt Caverns vs. Rock Caverns
- Diverging from traditional rock caverns, salt caverns offer a distinct advantage.
- Developed and operated primarily from the surface, salt caverns present a faster, simpler, and more cost-effective solution.
- By utilizing solution mining, which involves dissolving salt deposits with pumped water, storage space is effortlessly created.
- This method stands in contrast to the extensive excavation required for rock caverns.
Charting India’s Energy Future
- India’s foray into salt cavern-based strategic petroleum reserves in Rajasthan epitomizes a bold stride towards fortified energy security. The impermeability and cost-effectiveness of salt cavern storage make it an enticing option for India’s petroleum reserves. As the country aims to augment its storage capacity, the combination of salt cavern-based facilities and ongoing rock cavern expansions promises resilience against global supply disruptions and unforeseen emergencies.
Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) for Inclusive Growth
Why in news?
- Karnataka, with its newly-elected Congress government, has joined the bandwagon by approving two DBT schemes, Gruha Lakshmi and Yuvanidhi, along with other welfare measures. With an estimated annual cost of Rs 50,000 crore, these initiatives aim to empower women, address unemployment, and provide essential services to the underprivileged.
Catalyzing Progress: Transforming through Direct Benefit Transfer
Gruha Lakshmi: Unlocking the potential of women, this scheme will transfer Rs 2,000 per month to the women heads of all households in Karnataka, fostering financial independence and gender equality.
Yuvanidhi: Recognizing the challenges faced by educated youth, this scheme will offer an unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 per month for graduates and Rs 1,500 per month for diploma holders, providing a safety net during job searches.
DBT Trailblazers in Southern States
Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu: Since its inception in 2018, this pioneering scheme has transformed the lives of farmers by providing investment support of Rs 4,000 per acre per crop season. Rythu Bandhu has inspired similar initiatives like the national-level Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) and Andhra Pradesh’s YSR Rythu Bharosa.
Andhra Pradesh’s Comprehensive DBT Initiatives: Under the visionary leadership of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, AP has implemented a wide range of DBT schemes. These include YSR Pension Kanuka, YSR Aasara, Sunna Vaddi, Cheyutha, Jagananna Ammavodi, Jagananna Vidya Deevena, and Dr YSR Aarogyasri, aimed at uplifting various sections of society.
Driving Economic Impact
Karnataka’s Potential: With approximately 1.34 crore households, the Gruha Lakshmi scheme alone could account for an annual expenditure of Rs 24,000 crore if one crore households are covered, injecting significant funds into the economy.
Telangana’s Success Story: Over ten seasons, Telangana has disbursed an impressive Rs 65,559 crore under various DBT schemes, notably through Rythu Bandhu, supporting agricultural growth and rural prosperity.
Andhra Pradesh’s Exemplary Efforts: Since June 2019, the AP government has transferred a staggering Rs 210,177.89 crore to around 7.89 crore beneficiaries, fostering inclusive development and community empowerment.
DBT Advantages and Criticisms
Harnessing Technology for Progress: DBT schemes leverage the JAM trinity, ensuring efficient identification of beneficiaries and real-time fund transfers. This technological prowess paves the way for inclusive growth and political dividends.
Balancing Priorities: Critics argue that DBT schemes may divert attention from traditional government responsibilities such as infrastructure development and public investments. Striking a balance between cash transfers and holistic development remains crucial.
- As the DBT revolution surges forth, it becomes paramount to strike a harmonious equilibrium, synergizing cash transfers with time-honored governance responsibilities, paving the way for a radiant and resplendent future.
GS II & III
Why in news?
- The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has released draft guidelines for Bima Vahaks, a new initiative aimed at promoting insurance inclusion and awareness nationwide.
- Bima Vahaks, referred to as “insurance volunteers,” will play a crucial role in extending insurance coverage to all individuals in the country, regardless of their location.
- Industry experts and Prashant Tripathy, MD and CEO of Max Life Insurance, have expressed optimism about the potential of Bima Vahaks to enhance insurance inclusion and meet the evolving financial protection needs of the population.
Objectives and Key Features
- Enhancing Insurance Inclusion: The primary goal of the Bima Vahak guidelines is to establish a dedicated distribution channel to improve insurance accessibility and availability in every Gram Panchayat (village council) across India.
- Local Resource Development: The guidelines emphasize the identification and development of local resources within each Gram Panchayat, with a special focus on encouraging the participation of women as Bima Vahaks to gain the trust of the local community.
Two Types of Bima Vahaks
- Corporate Bima Vahak: This refers to legal persons registered in accordance with the respective laws and engaged by an insurer. Corporate Bima Vahaks would be entities, such as organizations or companies, appointed by insurers to undertake insurance distribution activities at the level of Gram Panchayats. They would be responsible for tasks like collecting proposal information, KYC (Know Your Customer) documents, and coordinating claims-related services.
- Individual Bima Vahak: Individual Bima Vahaks are individuals appointed either directly by an insurer or by a Corporate Bima Vahak. They are authorized to participate in insurance distribution activities at the Gram Panchayat level. These individuals would engage in tasks similar to Corporate Bima Vahaks, including collecting proposal information, KYC documents, and facilitating claims-related services.
Consumer Protection and Monitoring
- Identification and Monitoring: Insurers and Corporate Bima Vahaks must issue identification cards to Individual Bima Vahaks and implement monitoring frameworks for product solicitation and sales.
- Retail Outlets: Retail outlets operated by Corporate Bima Vahaks must prominently display relevant details, including the names of Bima Vahaks, appointing insurer’s information, services offered, contact details of grievance redressal officers, and Insurance Ombudsman’s contact information.
- Responsibilities and Guidelines for Insurers: Insurers are allowed to engage both Corporate and Individual Bima Vahaks for solicitation of insurance business and servicing, with the appointing insurer being responsible for their actions and conduct.
- Requirements and Policies: The guidelines outline various requirements and policies for insurers, including appointment and engagement norms, territorial allocation, educational qualifications and training standards, code of conduct, technology deployment, and compliance requirements.
- Scope of Activities: Bima Vahaks are assigned activities such as collecting proposal information, ensuring KYC compliance, supporting policy and claims servicing, and facilitating premium payments.
- The Bima Vahak initiative, guided by the draft guidelines, is expected to positively impact insurance inclusion and awareness in India. Through the dedicated efforts of Bima Vahaks, insurance coverage can be extended even to remote areas, fostering trust and reliability within local communities. As the country aims to achieve “Insurance for All by 2047,” Bima Vahaks will serve as a crucial pillar in ensuring that every Indian has access to essential financial protection.
GS II & III
Consumer-Centric Approaches for E-cooking Transition
Why in news?
- The central government of India is organizing a conference titled ‘Consumer-Centric Approaches for E-cooking Transition’ in New Delhi on World Environment Day, June 5. The conference aims to explore ways to accelerate the deployment of energy-efficient, clean, and affordable e-cooking solutions.
Objectives of the Conference
- The conference intends to address the rising need for a sustainable, affordable, and clean cooking solution in India.
- It aims to reduce the country’s dependence on imports and enhance energy security. Various aspects related to the adoption of e-cooking solutions, including finance, demand aggregation, carbon credits, and business models, will be discussed.
Key Stakeholders and Participants
- The conference will witness participation from institutional consumers, policymakers, think tanks, and other relevant stakeholders.
- Their collective expertise and insights will contribute to finding effective solutions for promoting the adoption of e-cooking technologies.
India’s Need for Clean and Affordable E-cooking Solutions
- With the rise in fuel prices and increasing supply pressures, India is seeking clean, sustainable, and affordable e-cooking solutions.
- Such solutions would not only address environmental concerns but also reduce the country’s dependence on imports and enhance energy security.
- The conference will focus on various key issues, including finance, demand aggregation, carbon credits, and business models.
- These topics will be explored in the context of promoting the adoption of e-cooking solutions and driving the transition towards sustainable cooking practices.
Consumer-Centric Approaches for E-cooking Transition
- The conference aims to brainstorm consumer-centric approaches and behaviors that can facilitate the widespread adoption of e-cooking solutions.
- By understanding and addressing consumer needs, preferences, and challenges, a smoother transition to sustainable cooking practices can be achieved.
Transforming Indians into Pro-Planet People
- Director General of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Abhay Bakre, expressed that the conference will contribute to transforming Indians into environmentally conscious individuals who adopt sustainable lifestyles.
- The adoption of e-cooking solutions aligns with the government’s Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) initiative.
Impact of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
- The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has played a significant role in providing access to cleaner and more efficient cooking fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), to over 70 million families.
- The conference will likely explore ways to build upon the success of this initiative and further enhance clean cooking practices.
Importance of Efficient and Affordable Products
- Efficiency policies for induction cookstoves have already been established.
- The next crucial step is to encourage the widespread adoption of efficient and affordable e-cooking appliances.
- The conference will likely discuss strategies to promote the availability and affordability of such products.
The Transition to E-cooking for Sustainability
- The transition to e-cooking, or electric cooking, is gaining importance due to its environmental sustainability and energy efficiency benefits.
- Electric cooking appliances are generally more energy-efficient compared to traditional stoves.
- The conference will address the significance of this transition in India’s energy journey.
- In conclusion, the government conference on ‘Consumer-Centric Approaches for E-cooking Transition’ serves the purpose of expediting the adoption of clean and affordable e-cooking solutions. By placing consumers’ needs and behaviors at the forefront, India can effectively facilitate a smoother transition towards sustainable cooking practices, resulting in reduced environmental impact and enhanced energy security. This conference marks a significant step towards achieving a more sustainable future for cooking in India.