Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 30 June 2023

India’s ranking in Energy Transition Index

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

The World Economic Forum ranked India at the 67th place globally on its Energy Transition Index and said it is the only major economy with energy transition momentum accelerating across all dimensions. Sweden topped the list and was followed by Denmark, Norway, Finland and Switzerland in the top five on the list of 120 countries.

More about the report

  • Releasing the report published in collaboration with Accenture, the WEF said the global energy transition has plateaued amid the global energy crisis and geopolitical volatilities, but India is among the countries that have made significant improvements.
  • Achieving universal access to electricity, replacing solid fuels with clean cooking options and increasing renewable energy deployment have been primary contributors to the improvement of India's performance.
  • India also emerged relatively less affected from the recent energy crisis, largely due to the low share of natural gas in power generation and increased use of existing generation capacities.
  • Although the country maintains a well-diversified mix of energy trade partnersrising import dependence represents a risk amid global energy market volatilities, the WEF said.
  • The energy mix, however, remains predominantly carbon intensive, with a low share of clean energy in final demand.
  • Improvements in the enabling environment have been driven by political commitment, an ambitious reform agenda, infrastructure investments and a competitive renewable energy landscape, the WEF said.
  • skilled workforcepublic-private collaboration in innovation, and investment in research and development in low-carbon technologies are necessary to enable India's energy transition.
  • Besides IndiaSingapore is the only other major economy showing "true momentum by advancing sustainability, energy security and equity in a balanced way, the WEF said.
  • France (7) was the only G20 country in the top 10, followed closely by Germany (11), the US (12), and the UK (13).
  • The WEF said that out of 120 countries,113 have made progress over the last decade but only 55, including India, have improved their scores by more than 10 percentage points.


PM pushes for Uniform Civil Code

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Prime Minister made a pitch for the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and hit out at Opposition parties for allegedly inciting minority communities against it. The PM’s statement comes after the 22nd Law Commission invited the views of the public and “recognised” religious organisations on the UCC within 30 days.

What is the UCC?

  • UCC is the idea of having a common code of personal laws for people of all religions. Personal law includes aspects of inheritancemarriagedivorcechild custody, and alimony.
  • However, currently, India’s personal laws are fairly complex and varied, with each religion following its own specific regulations. While the form and shape of a common civil code are often debated, the idea also finds mention in the Constitution.
  • Part IV of the Indian Constitution deals with the Directive Principles of State Policy, which, although not enforceable by courts, is supposed to act as guiding principles that play a fundamental role in governing the country.
  • Article 44 mentions the State should “endeavour to secure for citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.” PM Modi in his speech also emphasised that the UCC was an idea mooted by the makers of the Constitution.

What have the previous Law Commissions said?

  • In 2016, a reference was sent by the Ministry of Law and Justice to the Law Commission for examining all matters relating to the UCC’s implementation.
  • First came the 21st Law Commission of India, which, after taking in the views of various stakeholders, issued a consultation paper instead of a final report on the issue. The paper, titled Reforms of Family Law, was published on 31 August 2018, and argued for reforming family laws across religions through amendments and codification of personal laws to limit “ambiguity in interpretation” and application.
  • Since over three years had lapsed since the paper’s publication, the 22nd Law Commission of India considered it “expedient to deliberate afresh over the subject”, in light of its importance, relevance, and also “various court orders on the subject.”
  • However, even before the UCC was taken up by the Law Commissions, it was extensively deliberated by the judiciary, from as far back as 1952.

What has the Supreme Court said?

  • In a number of rulings, the SC has supported the introduction of UCC. Notable among the rulings is the landmark 1985 Shah Bano ruling in which the SC upheld the right of a Muslim woman to seek alimony.
  • The judgment set off a political battle as well as a controversy about the extent to which courts can interfere in Muslim personal law and the decision was undone by Parliament.
  • A common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to law which have conflicting ideologies, the Court had said.
  • In Sarla Mudgal v Union of India (1995), the SC while prohibiting conversion to Islam to benefit from laws that allow polygamy said that the need for a UCC “can hardly be doubted”.
  • However, it added that this can happen only when the social climate is “properly built up by elite of the society” and “statesmen amongst leaders who instead of gaining personal mileage rise above and awaken the masses to accept the change.”
  • In October 2022, the Centre, while responding to a plea filed before the top court for uniformity in laws of divorce, succession, inheritance, adoption and guardianship, said that the Constitution obligated the State to have a UCC for its citizens and that the matter would be placed before the 22nd Law Commission.


PM-PRANAM scheme gets CCEA approval

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved PM-PRANAM, which is aimed at incentivising states to use alternativenon-chemical fertilisers, and also decided to continue the current urea subsidy for three years starting FY23, with an outlay of Rs 3.68 trillion. Fertiliser minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that the urea subsidy outlay projection was estimation and not a cap, and the Centre would provide more money, if required.

More about the News

  • The CCEA also took two more decisions for the fertiliser sector — a Rs 1,451 crore subsidy to promote organic manure, and a decision to debut sulphur-coated urea (Urea Gold) to address sulphur deficiency in the soil and reduce urea use.
  • The subsidy on organic manure will take the total cost of the package to over Rs 3.70 trillion.
  • PM-PRANAM stands for Prime Minister’s Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Generation, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth.
  • In case of this scheme, fertiliser minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that if a state was using 1 million tonne of conventional fertiliser and it reduced its consumption by 0.3 million tonnes, then the subsidy saving would amount to Rs 3,000 crore.
  • Of this saving, the Centre will give 50 per cent, or Rs 1,500 crore, to the state for promoting the use of alternative fertiliser and other development works.
  • PM-PRANAM was first announced in the 2023-24 Budget by the Union government.
  • On ureacontinuation of the subsidy till 2025 will ensure constant availability of fertiliser to the farmers at the same price of Rs 242 per 45 kg bag, excluding taxes and neem-coating charges.
  • Under the scheme, a subsidy of Rs 1,500 per tonne will be provided to support the marketing of organic fertilisers — fermented organic manures (FOM)/ liquid FOMphosphate-rich organic manures (PROM) produced as by-products from biogas plants/ compressed biogas (CBG) plants set up under umbrella GOBARdhan (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) initiative.


Creator of lithium-ion battery dies

GS Paper - 3 (ITC)

John B Goodenough, whose contribution to lithium-ion battery technology in 1980 helped him win the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry — making him the oldest man to receive the accolade — died at the age of 100. His work transformed the tech world, sparking the wireless revolution that made portable electronics ubiquitous.

Evolution of battery

  • The first true battery was created in 1800 by Alessandro Volta, who by using disks of copper and zinc, linked with a cloth soaked in salty water, was able to generate electricity.
  • But one of the first rechargeable batteries was invented some six decades later — they were lead-acid batteries, prominently used to power car ignition and its accessories like lights.
  • There were several issues with them such as their short life cycle, bulk, high maintenance, and slow and inefficient charging.
  • A breakthrough came in the early 1970s when Whittingham developed the first lithium-based rechargeable battery while he was working with Exxon.
  • What he did was use lithium for his battery’s “negative electrode (anode), and titanium disulfide (disulphide), not previously used in batteries, for its positive electrode (cathode).”
  • The result was a groundbreaking invention as Whittingham’s innovative battery could produce high voltage, work at room temperature and was rechargeable. He consciously used lithium because it easily releases electrons to travel to the cathode, making the battery work.
  • However, Whittingham’s batteries had some shortcomings — they would either explode or catch fire in case of overcharging or repeated recharging. This is where Goodenough came into the picture.

Contribution of Goodenough

  • Goodenough arrived at the University of Oxford in 1979, where he began to focus on electrochemistry, including batteries.
  • Being aware of Whittingham’s invention, the scientist realised that if he made the battery’s cathode from a metal oxide and lithium instead of a metal disulphide, it might have “higher potential”. The metal oxide that he and his team finally zeroed in on was cobalt oxide.
  • Whittingham’s battery generated more than two volts, but Goodenough discovered that the battery with lithiumcobalt oxide in the cathode was almost twice as powerful, at four volts.

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