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GS-2


International relations:

UAE to set to open more consular offices in India (The Hindu)

Context

Bilateral engagement b/w India & UAE receives a new fillip

What has happened?

Expansion of UAE’s consular access: Boosting bilateral engagement with India, the United Arab Emirates will open several new consular centers in India and invest $75 billion of its sovereign wealth fund in the country

PM’s visit

It should be noted that Indian PM will visit UAE in February 2018 on a two day tour

  • His maiden visit to Abu Dhabi in August 2015 was the first visit of an Indian Prime Minister in more than three decades

Together against terror

UAE said that it denounces extremism, terrorism, and works closely with other countries to counter-attack organisations and individuals that have been listed or proscribed

Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA)

UAE also said that it has put in place a mechanism to oversee investment of $75 billion of its sovereign wealth fund (ADIA) into the Indian economy over the next decade

  • Fund will be utilised for infrastructure projects in India and$ 1 billion has already been invested

Stability of GCC within India’s interest

UAE and India have held two rounds of strategic dialogue. Significantly, terrorism is also a criterion on which the country has been trying to corner neighbour Qatar, which is facing isolation within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which began its summit meeting in Kuwait on Tuesday. GCC, host of more than seven million Indian workers and professionals, is a key source of foreign remittances to India, and stability of the region is in India’s interest

What is GCC?

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional political organisation comprising the energy rich Gulf monarchies – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates

When and why was it founded?

  • Since its establishment in Abu Dhabi in 1981, the GCC has promised to achieve ever closer union between the energy rich Gulf countries
  • Western analysts originally attributed its foundation to security concerns, which have always plagued the Gulf monarchies, but the founding charter focused more on issues of social and cultural cohesion, environmental and scientific coordination and economic cooperation

Division within GCC

UAE and Saudi Arabia have formed a separate security alliance away from GCC on Tuesday, hinting at an emerging division within the GCC

  • The Emirati Foreign Ministry announcement, just hours ahead of a GCC meeting in Kuwait, said the new “joint cooperation committee” was approved by the UAE’s ruler and president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Supreme Court refuses to defer Ayodhya case hearing (The Hindu)

Context

The Supreme Court refused requests by appellant parties from the minority community to defer the hearing in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute till after July 15, 2019, that is, post the next general elections

The petition

The plea was to refer the 13 appeals, including one filed by the U.P. Sunni Central Waqf Board, to a five-judge Constitution Bench. The appeals are against a September 2010 judgment by a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court for a three-way partition of the disputed site

  • Appellant parties from the minority community wanted the court to defer the hearing in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute till after July 15, 2019, that is, post the next general elections
  • Petition also said that every day of the Ayodhya title dispute hearing in the Supreme Court would invite serious repercussions across the country

Petitioner’s view

  • The dispute was not just any other civil suit but probably the most important case in the history of India, which would “decide the future of the polity
  • Decision in the case will invite serious ramifications. Now is not the right time to hear it. It will have repercussions. It is already happening. Post it after July 15, 2019, when everything is over. We will not ask for an adjournment then

Court’s stand

  • Justice Ashok Bhushan, on the Bench with Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, reminded Mr. Sibal that it was the appellants who had wanted an early hearing in December/January of 2017
  • The court did not entertain, for now, the plea to refer the 13 appeals to a five-judge Constitution Bench& fixed the date for final hearing on February 8, 2018

Ismail Faruqui Case

The senior counsel referred to the 1994 three-judge Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in the Dr. M. Ismail Faruqui case, which had held that “the right to practice, profess and propagate religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution does not necessarily include the right to acquire or own or possess property. Similarly this right does not extend to the right of worship at any and every place of worship”

SC calls for regulating hefty fees of lawyers (The Hindu)

Context

The astronomical fees charged by lawyers and the commercialisation of the legal profession is a violation of the fundamental right of the poor to get equal justice, the Supreme Court held in a latest judgment

Backdrop

The judgment came in the case of B. Sunitha, a woman from Telangana whose husband died in a road accident. She was made to sign a cheque for ₹three lakh by a lawyer who represented her accident claims case in the lower courts. This was over and above the ₹10 lakh she had already paid to him

Bench’s observation

A Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, in a scathing judgment on the state of the legal profession, said that neither the Bar nor the judiciary have made any move to regularize the hefty fees charged by lawyers from the poor and the needy

  • Law commission’s report: A report filed by the Law Commission way back in 1988 to regularise lawyers’ fees continues to be in cold storage. The very essence of the legal profession is to provide inexpensive access to justice, the court observed
  • The apex court urged for a law to check the violation of professional ethics by lawyers as the confidence of the public in the legal profession is integral to the confidence of the public in the legal system

Of Crime and punishment (TH Ed)

Context

Low conviction rates and a lack of a lawful definition of crime mark criminal administration in India

Author’s contention

Author states that police reform in India has been concerned with political interference ever since the landmark Supreme Court judgement, in 2006, on the subject. The focus should really be on reorganizing criminal administration

Issues:

Poor conviction rate

The annual publication of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), “Crime in India 2016”, which was released recently, presents a dismal picture of the key performance statistic with only 47% convictions in Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes at the national level

Example: Delhi

Author states that Delhi provides an interesting case study, where there is no political interference and the Police Commissioner reports to the Lieutenant Governor, and not the Chief Minister

  • Comparison with Mumbai: With a population smaller than Mumbai, it has two times the number of police stations
    • Low conviction rate: Yet, in Delhi, while 190876 persons were sent to trial last year, there were only 9,837 IPC convictions in the year
    • Less chargesheets:In Delhi only 58% of those arrested were chargesheeted, while in Mumbai, more persons were chargesheeted than were arrested for IPC crimes
    • In Delhi, 13,803 crimes against women were reported and no chargesheets filed in 4,371 cases (32%); in Mumbai with 5,128 crimes reported against women, final reports were filed in only 15% of cases
    • DNA Testing is a low priority: In Delhi, DNA testing, which can secure higher conviction rates, is, inexplicably, a low priority. There is only one forensic testing laboratory, with around 9,000 samples pending for examination. Over 5,000 are DNA samples. Delays in this crucial evidence, which plays an important factor in acquittals, are a setback as samples deteriorate with time. Consequently Delhi has a conviction rate of only 21%, 24% and 30% in cases of kidnapping and abduction, rape and murder, respectively
    • Delhi accounts for five times the IPC crime when compared with Mumbai, and 33% of violent crime in metros when compared with 13% in Mumbai

The key statistic of police performance is not merely correct reporting and recording but charge-sheets and convictions, as this impacts on criminal behaviour

Systemic issues

  • Absence of separate wings: Despite the recommendations of Law Commissions and the Supreme Court, as well going by experience in the developed world, we do not have separate wings for investigation of crime and for law and order. In most countries, the prosecutor, and not the police, has discretion on whether to press charges as they involve adjudication. Years ago, the Law Commission had suggested a directorate of prosecution independent of the police to guide investigation
  • Let judiciary concentrate on real crime: There is still controversy over which kinds of conduct are best controlled by the application of criminal law and which kinds by other means. For example, special and local offences account for as much crime as under provisions of the IPC, with nearly 60% of cases under liquor and narcotics offences at the national level. Causing simple and grievous injures under rash driving accounts for 11% of IPC crimes; theft also accounts for 16.6% of IPC crime at the national level
    • The criminal justice system should be limited to crimes under the IPC, while enforcement of administrative law and social legislation requires a different approach involving summary trials, changing societal attitudes and modes of behaviour. For example, in Britain part-time lay judges outnumber full-time judges, leaving the judiciary to concentrate on the real crime
  • Ineffective prison system: The effectiveness of prisons is under question
    • Nearly two-thirds of the prison population is awaiting trial and half the number of undertrials are normally acquitted
    • Over 80% of prisoners are sentenced to terms less than three months, 40% are under 30 years old, semi-literate and convicted under special and local acts
    • Criminologists now feel that short-term sentences expose such prisoners to criminal indoctrination in jail and social condemnation on release, with a strong case for greater reliance on compounding, probation and parole

Conclusion

The main purpose of criminal administration should be the prevention of crime, and the police cannot be an instrument of social change. Administrative measures and fines levied by honorary and executive magistrates will change behaviour better than penal action

India’s plural soul (The Hindu)

Context

25th anniversary of Babri Masjid Demolition

Events that shook India’s pluralism

Author begins with the partition of India & Pakistan and the ensuing horror that unveiled itself and then goes on to list out events that shook India’s pluralism

  • After that traumatic year of partition, three dates, three events, shook Indian pluralism again
    1. Gandhi’s assassination — January 30, 1948
    2. The Babri Masjid demolition — December 6, 1992, and
    3. The unveiling of V.D. Savarkar’s portrait in Parliament House — February 26, 2003

Defining the acts

  • The first of these three saw a believer in the criticality of India’s pluralism being put to death
  • The second witnessed a pre-eminent Islamic monument reduced to rubble
  • The third valorized (to enhance the status) a man who believed India was meant to be a Hindu Rashtra
  • The first was murder, the second vandalism, the third a celebration

Still affecting us

  • All three occurrences dented India’s plural soul
  • Their “work” is still on. It is still affecting ways of thinking, acting, reacting

Gandhi’s assassination

The assassination was a carefully planned plot by people who owed allegiance to the concept of a Hindu Rashtra

  • Aim: Its aim was threefold:
    • punish, by murder, one who believed India to be the home of all the faith traditions in it
    • Reverse Gandhi’s idea of “Ishvar Allah TereNaam”
    • Pronounce the primacy and power of Hinduism in India

It was meant to tell the Muslims of India that they were here by leave of the Hindus and that all talk of Hindu-Muslim unity and equality was sentimental and meaningless

  • Impact

Nehru said that evening: “The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.” For India’s Muslims who had said “no” to Pakistan and stayed back in India because they had faith in Gandhi’s India, that darkness was real. Along with the light, the oxygen of confidence in the air fled, too

Babri Masjid Demolition

Babri Masjid, the 16th century mosque was built spitefully, it is said, on the exact spot in Ayodhya, where Rama was born. In fact, the pious say, a temple stood where the mosque came up. The mosque had, over the years, become a contested site, a Hindu v Muslim akhara. And on that day 150000 Hindu karsevaks brought the mosque down

  • In the rubble lay all hope for Hindu-Muslim concord. In it lay shattered Muslim trust in India’s secular future. And in it lay tattered, the Constitution’s guarantees about the freedom of religious belief
  • India partitioned was now India polarized

Moving over to Parliament

  • A decade later, the BJP in power at the Centre, decided that for Savarkar’s fulfilment to be complete, due ceremony was in order. It decided to place in Parliament House’s Central Hall, along with portraits of the Greats of India’s freedom struggle
  • Savarkar believed that Hindus and Muslims formed Two Nations. Savarkar’ dream remained un-realised until the unveiling of the portrait
  • Impact:The unveiling in Parliament House did three things
    • First, it placed against the Indian Republic a conceptual alternative — Hindu Rashtra
    • Second, it made demolition the exact co-relative of construction
    • Third, it made Veer Savarkar, the precise opposite number of Mahatma Gandhi. And thereby, his peer, alternative and equal. It juxtaposed the Two Nations theorist against the One Nation preceptor

Agenda of Polarization

All of the above three events reveal an underlying agenda of polarization

  • The demolition in Ayodhya was the first step. Like a bhumi-puja. The second step is the building of the temple. The third, its consecration. And there will be as many more steps as the rites of polarisation require. The building of a Ram temple at the site of the Masjid is not going to be easy. But keeping the idea of that building alive is all too easy
  • Temple building idea is more powerful than temple itself: For polarisers, better than a temple built is a temple that is waiting to be built. It keeps spirits up, tensions high. It keeps terrorists on the other side activated. And it keeps cadres on this side motivated

Spirit is still alive

Author states that despite communal tensions over the years and terrorist events that could have sparked communal tensions, India has remained quite attached to the Gandhian ideas of peaceful co-existence and harmony

Conclusion

The India of Asoka, Akbar, Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar is strong but immboilized under the blades of the Two Nations theory. It is for the inheritors of their India to match the date-lines of hate and the fate-lines of death with the life-line that Gandhi realized from the belief that India is One Nation and Ishvar Allah two names, among other ones, for the One

Pak.textbooks glorifying war:UNESCO (The Hindu)

Context

Report also blames Indian texts from 2002 that have ‘bias’ against Muslims

What

The Global Education Monitoring Report 2017-18 of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expresses concern over school textbooks in many countries glorifying war and military heroes rather than teaching peace, non-violence and reconciliation

It says that that just 10% of the textbooks across the world include explicit statements on the need for conflict prevention and resolution.

Historical errors

The report offers the example of textbooks in Pakistan that focus on militarism, wars with India and differences between Hindus and Muslims.

Glorifying War:

Textbooks that glorify war and military heroes, exclude pluralistic perspectives or undermine other peoples or ethnicities can make teaching peace, non-violence and reconciliation difficult

Prominent Leaders Excluded:

  • In Pakistan, textbooks have been criticised for normalising militarism and war and including biases and historical errors and distortions
  • Prominent Pakistanis other than military heroes and nationalist movement leaders are often excluded.

Ignoring Peace:

  • Pakistani textbooks published after a 2006 curriculum reform still emphasised wars with India and largely ignored peace initiatives
  • They also perpetuated a narrative of conflict and historic grievances between Muslims and Hindus, rather than discussing the potential for conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Same story in India: Bias against Muslims

  • Indian history textbooks from 2002 put the blame on Pakistan and contained clear bias against Muslim elements in the region’s history.
  • The time pertains to the replacement of the history textbooks that had been in circulation since the 1970s by the Vajpayee government in the early 2000s.

Conclusion

Emphasising that textbooks shape young minds powerfully as they trust them as a prime source of knowledge but, textbooks in many countries fail to deal comprehensively with concepts that are crucial for social cohesion and political stability, including peace and non-violence


GS-3


Economy:

₹8,450 crore package to boost exports post GST (The Hindu)

Context

The FTP mid-term review was to be brought out before July 1, to be implemented along with the GST. It was postponed to incorporate feedback from exporters regarding GST

What has happened?

The government has announced incentives worth ₹8,450 crore to boost exports of goods and services — mainly from labour-intensive segments and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) — and to increase employment generation and value-addition. The incentives were announced as part of the mid-term review of the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP)

Backdrop

The move comes at a time when India’s shipments shrank in October — the first after 14 consecutive months of positive growth — due to the impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Highlights of FTP 2015-2020

The Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2015-20 was unveiled by Government of India on April 1, 2015. Following are the highlights,

  • Framework for increase in exports: FTP 2015-20 provides a framework for increasing exports of goods and services as well as generation of employment and increasing value addition in the country, in line with the ‘Make in India’ programme
  • Target: It set an ambitious target of $900 billion for India’s exports of goods and services by 2019-20
    • It also aims to raise India’s share in world exports from 2% to 3.5%
  • Guideline to respond to challenges: The Policy aims to enable India to respond to the challenges of the external environment, keeping in step with a rapidly evolving international trading architecture and make trade a major contributor to the country’s economic growth and development.
  • New schemes introduced: FTP 2015-20 introduces two new schemes, namely
    • ‘Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)’ for export of specified goods to specified markets
    • ‘Services Exports from India Scheme (SEIS)’ for increasing exports of notified services.
  • Fully transferable duty credit slips: Duty credit scrips issued under MEIS and SEIS and the goods imported against these scrips are fully transferable
  • Categorization of countries for rewards under MEIS: For grant of rewards under MEIS, the countries have been categorized into 3 Groups, whereas the rates of rewards under MEIS range from 2 per cent to 5 per cent. Under SEIS the selected Services would be rewarded at the rates of 3 per cent and 5 per cent
  • Encouraging procurement of capital goods from indigenous manufacturers: Measures have been adopted to push procurement of capital goods from indigenous manufacturers under the EPCG scheme by reducing specific export obligation to 75per cent of the normal export obligation
  • Measures have been taken to give a boost to exports of defense and hi-tech items
  • Benefit for E-commerce export extended to new items: E-Commerce exports of handloom products, books/periodicals, leather footwear, toys and customised fashion garments through courier or foreign post office would also be able to get benefit of MEIS (for values up to INR 25,000)
  • Approved exporter system: Manufacturers, who are also status holders, will now be able to self-certify their manufactured goods in phases, as originating from India with a view to qualifying for preferential treatment under various forms of bilateral and regional trade agreements. This ‘Approved Exporter System’ will help manufacturer exporters considerably in getting fast access to international markets.
  • Steps to encourage manufacturing and export: A number of steps have been taken for encouraging manufacturing and exports under 100 per cent EOU/EHTP/STPI/BTP Schemes. The steps include a fast track clearance facility for these units, permitting them to share infrastructure facilities, permitting inter unit transfer of goods and services, permitting them to set up warehouses near the port of export and to use duty free equipment for training purposes.
  • Trade facilitation and enhancing the ease of doing business are the other major focus areas in this new FTP. One of the major objective of new FTP is to move towards paperless working in 24×7 environment

Highlights of FTP mid-term review

The highlights of the FTP Mid-Term Review included

  • Restoring the benefits under the export promotion schemes of duty free imports under Advanced Authorisation, Export Promotion Capital Goods and 100% Export Oriented Units, thus resolving the problem of blocked working capital for exporters following the roll-out of GST
  • Export incentives under Merchandise Exports from India (MEIS) have been increased by 2% across the board for labour-intensive MSME sectors leading to additional annual incentive of ₹4,567 crore. This is in addition to already announced increase in MEIS incentives from 2% to 4% for ready-made garments and madeups in the labour intensive textiles sector, with an additional annual incentive of ₹2,743 crore
  • A new scheme of self-assessment based, duty-free procurement of inputs required for exports has also been introduced
  • Analytics division: A state-of-the-art Trade Analytics division has been set up in the Directorate General of Foreign Trade for data based policy actions. The initiative envisages processing trade information for specific policy interventions
  • A new Logistics division:Besides, a new Logistics Division has been created in the Department of Commerce to develop and coordinate integrated development of the logistics sector
  • Enhanced support to ECGC:Support to Export Credit Guarantee Corporation is also being enhanced to increase insurance cover to exporters, particularly MSMEs, for exploring new or difficult markets
  • Change in validity period & GST rates for duty scrips: In addition, the validity period of Duty Credit Scrips has been increased from 18 to 24 months and GST rates on transfer/sale of scrips has been reduced to zero
  • Issue of gold availability for exporters has been resolved by allowing specified nominated agencies to import gold without payment of IGST

Steps taken to help exporters

  • Export incentive package: The export (incentive) package was approved by the GST Council to resolve the exporters’ problem of blockage of working capital
  • Input tax credit and integrated goods and services tax (IGST) refunds for exporters were being expedited

New India formula? (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

The 15th Finance Commission’s job will be especially tricky in the time of GST

What

  • The Centre has moved swiftly to notify the presidential order setting up the Fifteenth Finance Commission, within five days of the Cabinet’s approval
  • The constitutional body is tasked with recommending a fiscal road map and a sharing of resources between the Centre and the States

Timeframe

The Commission has less than two years to complete its deliberations and submit its report by October 2019, giving the government a little over a quarter to consider and implement its recommendations for the period from April 2020 to March 2025

14th Finance Commissions’ recommendation accepted

Accepting the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendation to raise the States’ share in the divisible pool of taxes to 42% from the previous 32% level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told Chief Ministers that although this meant less money at the Centre’s disposal, his government had decided to strengthen the States’ capacity to move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Factoring in the Impact

The Centre has urged the Commission to finalise its tax-devolution formula after factoring in the impact on the Union’s fiscal situation

Centre Seeking Rollback

Taken together with its need for resources for essential spending in areas such as defence, security, infrastructure and climate change, the Centre seems to be seeking a rollback of the 42% share for States

Dent in Co-operative Federalism

The government’s top brass has repeatedly asserted the need for revenue to maintain public spending in the face of flak for high petroleum taxes. But a reduction from the 42% rate could dent States’ faith in the Centre’s claims of cooperative federalism.

GST offers a tricky challenge

  • The Centre is committed to compensating States for any revenue losses arising out of GST implementation till June 2022, thus covering nearly half the period for which the Commission is to recommend a formula
  • Its mandate includes formulating performance-linked incentives for States on a range of desirable outcomes such as attaining a replacement rate in population growth, deepening the GST net and improving the ease of doing business.

Conclusion

Devising a fiscal nudge for development goals sounds attractive, though the challenge would lie in quantifying the good from the ugly, especially when one has to reward a State for showing ‘control or lack of it in incurring expenditure on populist measures

GST opens up a lot of data for policymaking (TH)

Context

The Chief Statistician of India on the economy, the meaning of the new series of GDP data, and the need to wait for the impact of demonetization to unfold

Article is an interview with Chief Statistician of India.

Give it a go through once

Fight for market economy status (TH Ed)

Context

The U.S. protested at the World Trade Organisation against China’s bid for recognition as a market economy. Its opposition is a counter to China’s 2016 legal challenge against the U.S. and the European Union, both of which refuse to accord China the coveted status it wants

Market Economy

  • A market economy is a system where the laws of supply and demand direct the production of goods and services. Supply includes natural resources, capital, and labor. Demand includes purchases by consumers, businesses and the government.
  • Businesses sell their wares at the highest price consumers will pay. At the same time, shoppers look for the lowest prices for the goods and services they want.
  • Workers bid their services at the highest possible wages that their skills allow. Employers seek to get the best employees at the lowest possible price.
  • Capitalism requires a market economy to set prices and distribute goods and services

View of US

  • The use of state subsidies in China distorts market prices
  • Also the U.S. Commerce Department is conducting separate investigations into the dumping of aluminium foil by China.
  • Were China to be granted the coveted position, it would be hard for the U.S. to defend its anti-dumping rulings against Chinese firms at the world body.

Prices determined by open competition

Central to China’s quest is the acknowledgement from trading partners that domestic prices are determined by open competition rather than by the government

Effect: Helping China counter unfair dumping

This will help China counter attacks of unfair dumping

China as a non-market economy

Conversely, as long as major trading powers treat China as a non-market economy, they would insist on ascertaining the value of goods with reference to prices in a third country to ensure that domestic firms did not gain an unfair trade advantage

WTO Rules

The protocol to China’s 2001 WTO entry has been a subject of controversy

  • Automatic upgradation of China as a market economy: Beijing insists that under Section 15 of the Protocol of Accession, the country’s upgrade as a market economy was automatic on the completion of 15 years of its WTO membership in 2016
  • Endorsed by several Nations: Several nations have endorsed China’s position in return for bilateral cooperation in trade and investments in infrastructure projects
  • View of the WTO: In support of that contention is a WTO appellate body’s 2011 ruling that the protocol to Beijing’s accession did not provide for the country to be treated differently by other member states for an indefinite period.

An Alternative Interpretation

The alternative interpretation draws upon sub-clauses of Section 15, which stipulates conditions when importers may rely on Chinese prices, or take recourse to a different methodology to impose anti-dumping tariffs

Onus on Chinese firms

  • Section 15(1)(i) places the onus on Chinese firms to prove that they were operating under conditions of a competitive market economy in the manufacture and sale of relevant products
  • If they fail to do so, the Section provides that importing states would be entitled to invoke rules applicable to a non-market economy while probing firms for dumping.
  • Now, a subsequent provision stipulates a 2016 date of expiry for recourse to the alternative methodology of determining prices.
  • Another clause allows for the status of market economy to be decided for specific industry sectors, rather than the entire economy

Conclusion

Western resistance to accord China the necessary recognition is rooted in concerns over a glut of Chinese imports flooding domestic markets and causing job losses in the manufacturing sector. But the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanism could further delay an outcome in the appellate body’s process of disposing of cases.

Environment:

2 kiwi birds are rare bright spot in grim extinction report (The Hindu)

Context

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s latest update

What has happened?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has,

  • Upgraded the Okarito kiwi and the Northern Brown kiwi from endangered to vulnerable. These birds belong to New Zealand

What more does the IUCN update say?

The conservation group’s latest update mostly detailed grave threats to animals and plants due to loss of habitat and unsustainable farming and fisheries practices

  • 3 new reptiles declared extinct: It said three reptile species are now considered extinct in the wild. The whiptail-skink, the blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko from Australia’s Christmas Island all have mysteriously disappeared. The group said a disease or the arrival of an invasive species, the yellow crazy ant, might be to blame.

What is IUCN?

  • It was created in 1948
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) is a membership Unionuniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organizations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together
  • IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it

Science and Technology:

New graphene battery charges 5 times faster (The Hindu)

What has happened?

Scientists have developed a new Graphene-based battery material with charging speed five times faster than today’s lithium-ion batteries

Who has done it?

Researchers at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in South Korea

Significance

  • Provides promise for the next generation mobile batteries and electric vehicles
  • The latest research will enable mass synthesis of Graphene at an affordable price

Problem with Li-ion

Standard lithium batteries require charging time of at least an hour to fully charge

Graphene

Among the materials looked at, Graphene, a material with high strength and conductivity, has widely become the primary source of interest

Study done

In the study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers used Graphene and mass synthesized it into a 3D form using silica (SiO2)

  • This “Graphene ball” was utilized for both the anode protective layer and cathode materials. This ensured an increase of charging capacity, decrease of charging time as well as stable temperatures
  • In theory, a battery based on the “Graphene ball” material requires only 12 minutes to fully charge

Graphene’s properties

  • It is ultra-light yet immensely tough
  • It is 200 times stronger than steel, but it is incredibly flexible.
  • It is the thinnest material possible as well as being transparent.
  • It is a superb conductor and can act as a perfect barrier – not even helium can pass through it.
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