14 March 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs

14-March -2024- Top News of the Day

1. SC to hear plea to include CJI on EC selection panel

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Constitutional Bodies  

GS2 – Indian Polity –  Judiciary

This topic is important for UPSC as it relates to the constitutional framework and electoral integrity, reflecting governance challenges.


  • The Supreme Court agreed to urgently hear a plea concerning the filling of two Election Commissioners’ vacancies amid concerns over potential Executive advantage.

 Additional information on this news:

  • The Supreme Court agreed to urgently hear a plea regarding the filling of two vacancies for Election Commissioners in the Election Commission of India (ECI) after Arun Goel’s unexpected resignation.
  • The NGO Association for Democratic Reforms filed the plea, urging to put the new law on hold and involve the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in the selection committee as directed by a previous Supreme Court judgment.
  • Concerns were raised about the Executive having the ability to appoint ECs, potentially giving them unfair advantage, impacting the integrity of free and fair elections.
  • The previous Supreme Court judgment emphasized the need for independence and neutrality in EC appointments, but the government enacted a new law, altering the selection committee’s composition.
  • The NGO highlighted the importance of insulating the Election Commission from political or executive interference to maintain a healthy democracy.
  • With the upcoming elections, leaving vacancies for Election Commissioners would not be prudent, considering the critical role of the Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections and resolving disputes between political parties.

Change in process for appointments of Election Commissioners

The process for the appointment of Election Commissioners involves has been changed after the passage of  The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Office and Terms of Office) Bill, 2023:

  • Eligibility: The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) must be individuals who are currently holding or have previously held a post equivalent to the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
  • Search Committee: A search committee is established, headed by the Minister of Law and Justice, tasked with preparing a panel of five suitable candidates for consideration by the selection committee.
  • Selection Committee: The selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister. This committee recommends candidates for appointment to the President.
  • Appointment: The President appoints the CEC and ECs based on the recommendation of the selection committee.
  • It is noteworthy that this process deviates from the previous mechanism established in the Anoop Baranwal case by removing the Chief Justice of India from the selection process.

Importance of insulating the Election Commission from political or executive interference

  • Preservation of Democracy: Insulating the Election Commission from political or executive interference ensures the integrity and fairness of electoral processes, which are fundamental to upholding democracy.
  • Impartiality and Neutrality: Political or executive interference can compromise the impartiality and neutrality of the Election Commission, potentially favouring certain parties or candidates over others.
  • Public Trust and Confidence: Maintaining independence helps to foster public trust and confidence in the electoral system, ensuring that citizens believe their votes are counted fairly and accurately.
  • Prevention of Manipulation: Independence reduces the risk of electoral manipulation or fraud by preventing undue influence that could distort election outcomes.
  • Effective Oversight: An independent Election Commission can effectively oversee electoral processes, including voter registration, campaigning, polling, and counting, without external pressures or biases.
  • Legal Compliance: Insulation from political interference ensures that the Election Commission operates in accordance with the law, upholding constitutional principles and protecting the rights of voters and candidates.
  • International Reputation: A politically independent Election Commission enhances the country’s reputation internationally, demonstrating a commitment to democratic principles and fair electoral practices.

PYQ: In the light of recent controversy regarding the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), what are the challenges before the Election Commission of India to ensure the trustworthiness of elections in India? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018)

Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of recent changes in the appointment process of Election Commissioners on the autonomy and neutrality of the Election Commission. (250 Words /15 marks)

2. Russian dominance in India’s arms imports declines

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies
GS2 –  International Relations
The topic is crucial for UPSC as it reflects shifts in global geopolitics, defense procurement, and strategic alliances.

  • The news highlights India’s reduced dependence on Russian arms, increased imports from France and the U.S., and India becoming the world’s largest arms importer.

 Additional information on this news:

  • Decreased Dependence on Russia: India has significantly reduced its reliance on Russia as its primary arms supplier over the past 15 years, with Russia’s share dropping from 76% to 36% in India’s arms imports.
  • Increased Imports from France and the U.S.: Arms imports from France and the U.S. have surged in recent years, with France’s share increasing from 0.9% to 33% and the U.S.’s share rising from 8% to 13% during the same period.
  • India Tops Global Arms Imports: India has become the world’s largest arms importer, surpassing Saudi Arabia, with its share in global arms imports rising from 9.1% to 9.8% from 2014-18 to 2019-23.
  • Shifts in Global Arms Trade: Russia’s role as a major arms exporter has declined globally, with its share dropping from 21% to 11% from 2014-18 to 2019-23, while the U.S. has strengthened its position, increasing its share from 34% to 42%.
  • Trends in Arms Orders: Missiles constitute the largest component of India’s arms orders, with most sourced from Russia, followed by the U.S., Israel, and France. Engines, armoured vehicles, and aircraft are also prominent orders, often sourced from Russia, France, the U.S., and South Africa.

Potential reasons for decline of
Russian dominance in India’s Imports
  • Diversification Strategy: India is diversifying its arms imports to reduce dependence on any single supplier, including Russia.
  • Growing Defense Industry: India’s efforts to develop its indigenous defence industry are leading to reduced reliance on foreign imports, including Russian arms.
  • Technological Requirements: India is seeking more advanced technology and capabilities which are not solely provided by Russian arms manufacturers.
  • Geopolitical Realignment: Changes in geopolitical dynamics are prompting India to explore arms deals with a broader range of countries, potentially reducing its reliance on Russia.
  • Quality and Cost Considerations: Indian defence procurement strategy of prioritising quality and cost-effectiveness over historical ties, leading to a decline in Russian arms imports.
  • Strategic Partnerships: India is strengthening defence partnerships with other countries, such as the United States, Israel, or France, leading to a decrease in reliance on Russian arms.
  • Increasing Self-Reliance: India’s push for self-reliance in defence production is leading to decreased imports overall, including from Russia.
  • Diplomatic Relations: Shifts in diplomatic relations between India and Russia might be influencing defence procurement decisions, reducing the dominance of Russian arms imports.

PYQ: What is the significance of Indo-US defence deals over Indo-Russian defence deals? Discuss with reference to stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2020)
Practice Question:  What factors contribute to the declining dominance of Russian arms imports in India’s defence procurement strategy?
(250 Words /15 marks)

3. On judges and bureaucrats joining politics

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Important aspects of governance – Transparency and accountability
The topic is crucial for UPSC as it pertains to governance ethics, constitutional propriety, and democratic principles in India.

  • The news discusses the debate surrounding the propriety of retired judges and senior officials joining political parties, suggesting a cooling-off period for post-retirement political involvement.


  • Recent resignations of a Calcutta High Court judge and a senior IPS officer to join political parties have reignited discussions on the issue of independent constitutional authorities and senior government officials joining political parties after leaving office.

Constitutional Restrictions:

  • The Constitution ensures checks and balances among various branches of the government.
  • Independent bodies like the Election Commission, Public Service Commission, and CAG have guaranteed independence through fixed tenure, financial autonomy, and strict removal procedures.
  • After leaving office, a Supreme Court judge cannot practice law in India, except before the Supreme Court or other High Courts.
  • Similar restrictions apply to High Court judges, CAG, and Public Service Commission members to prevent favouritism towards the government in power.

Political Posts:

  • Unlike constitutional positions, there are no restrictions on joining political parties, contesting elections, or holding nominated posts.
  • Historical instances include Supreme Court judges contesting elections, former Chief Election Commissioners becoming ministers, and retired Chief Justices being nominated to the Rajya Sabha or appointed as Governors.

Recommendations and Legal Landscape:

  • In 2012, the Election Commission recommended a cooling-off period for retired bureaucrats before joining politics, but the government rejected it based on legal opinions.
  • A 2022 Supreme Court dismissal of a petition seeking such a law emphasised that it’s the legislature’s prerogative to decide on a cooling-off period.

Desirability of a Cooling-off Period:

  • Democracy upholds citizens’ right to contest elections, but concerns about independence and neutrality during service exist.
  • While restrictions against joining private jobs after retirement exist, imposing similar restrictions on contesting elections may not align with democratic principles.
  • Balancing legal principles with public perception, a cooling-off period of at least two years for joining political parties post-retirement could enhance public trust and mitigate allegations of favouritism.


  • Balancing democratic principles with the need for public trust, a cooling-off period for retired officials joining political parties could mitigate concerns of quid pro quo and uphold the integrity of independent constitutional authorities.

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance and potential implications of implementing a cooling-off period for retired judges and senior officials joining political parties. (250 Words /15 marks)

4. Overcoming theoretical limits on solar cell capacity

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Development & their applications
Critical for UPSC as it pertains to renewable energy advancements, technological limitations, and global sustainability efforts in solar power.

  • The news discusses the theoretical concept of the Shockley-Queisser limit in photovoltaics, which defines the maximum efficiency of solar cells, and explores methods to surpass it.

 Additional information on this news:
Photovoltaics Overview:

  • Photovoltaics involves converting light energy into electrical energy using devices like solar cells made of semiconducting materials like silicon.
  • Sunlight excites electrons from the valence band to the conduction band, leaving behind holes, which together form electron-hole pairs, the charge carriers in semiconductors.

Shockley-Queisser Limit:

  • Represents the maximum efficiency of a solar cell due to transparency loss (around 25%) and thermalization (around 30%).
  • Named after physicists William Shockley and Hans-Joachim Queisser, this limit confines the maximum efficiency of conventional solar cells, currently around one-third of incident solar energy.

Efficiency Constraints and Research:

  • Solar cells can’t utilize photons with less energy than needed for electron excitation or those with excess energy causing heating.
  • Efforts to surpass the limit include carrier multiplication, enabling a photon to generate multiple electron-hole pairs, and hot carrier extraction, capturing high-energy photons before dissipating as heat.

Challenges and Future Prospects:

  • Despite research into surpassing the Shockley-Queisser limit, practical implementation remains challenging.
  • Physicist Young Hee Lee suggests carrier multiplication and hot carrier extraction as promising pathways for improving solar cell efficiency.

PYQ: To what factors can the recent dramatic fall in equipment costs and tariff of solar energy be attributed? What implications does the trend have for the thermal power producers and the related industry? (200 words/12.5m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2015)
Practice Question:  What is the Shockley-Queisser limit in photovoltaics? Discuss its significance and challenges in achieving higher solar cell efficiency.  (150 Words /10 marks)

5. U.S. to moot first-of-its-kind resolution at UN seeking equal global access to AI

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Important International institutions, agencies and fora.

Critical for UPSC as it pertains to global governance, technological diplomacy, and the integration of AI in achieving sustainable development goals.

  • The news highlights the United States’ initiative to lead the first United Nations resolution on artificial intelligence, focusing on safety, accessibility, and global consensus.

 Additional information on this news:

  • The United States leads the first UN resolution on AI to ensure its safety, security, and global accessibility.
  • Aiming to bridge the digital divide, the resolution emphasizes equal participation in AI discussions and capabilities for all nations.
  • It acknowledges the rapid advancement of AI and the need for global consensus on its safe and trustworthy governance.
  • The resolution, though non-binding, seeks to establish principles for AI development and utilization while managing associated risks.
  • It aligns with UN’s 2030 development goals, urging regulatory frameworks to ensure AI benefits without compromising human rights.
  • European Union and other nations are also crafting AI regulations, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation in AI governance.
Need for Artificial Intelligence (AI) regulations

Need for AI Regulations:

  • Mitigate Risks: AI can perpetuate biases in data, leading to discriminatory outcomes in areas like loan approvals or job applications. Regulations can help ensure fairness and prevent harm.
  • Transparency & Accountability: Complex AI algorithms are often “black boxes,” making it difficult to understand their decision-making process. Regulations can promote explainability and hold developers accountable for unintended consequences.
  • Privacy Protection: AI systems rely heavily on data collection, raising concerns about individual privacy and potential misuse of personal information. Regulations can safeguard data and establish clear user rights.

Challenges in Implementing Regulations:

  • Rapid Evolution: The field of AI is constantly advancing, making it difficult for regulations to keep pace with the latest developments and potential risks.
  • Global Landscape: AI development and application occur across borders. Creating a unified set of international regulations is crucial but complex.
  • Balancing Innovation: Overly restrictive rules could stifle innovation and hinder the beneficial applications of AI.

Way Forward:

  • Risk-based Approach: Focus on regulating high-risk areas like autonomous weapons or critical infrastructure management first.
  • Collaboration: Encourage open dialogue between policymakers, developers, and the public to address ethical concerns and find common ground.
  • Regulatory Sandboxes: Create controlled environments for testing and developing AI under regulatory oversight, fostering innovation within a safety framework.
PYQ: Introduce the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI). How does AI help clinical diagnosis? Do you perceive any threat to privacy of the individual in the use of Al in healthcare? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)
Practice Question:  What are the objectives and significance of the first United Nations resolution on artificial intelligence led by the United States? (150 Words /10 marks)

6. PM launches portal for marginalised sections

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government Policies /Initiatives – Interventions for development in various sectors

The topic highlights government initiatives for socio-economic empowerment, relevant for UPSC in understanding policies for inclusive development.

  • The news is about the virtual launch of the PM-SURAJ portal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, providing credit support to entrepreneurs from disadvantaged sections of society.

 Additional information on this news:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Samajik Utthan evam Rozgar Adharit Jankalyan (PM-SURAJ) portal virtually.
  • The portal aims to provide credit support to entrepreneurs from disadvantaged sections of society.
  • It reflects the government’s commitment to providing dignity and justice to the underprivileged.
  • Around ₹720 crore worth of credit was disbursed to one lakh beneficiaries from Scheduled Castes, Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Safai Karamcharis.
  • The portal serves as a one-stop point for applying for and monitoring the progress of all loan and credit schemes available to disadvantaged sections.
  • This initiative aims to empower marginalized communities and facilitate their participation in India’s economic growth and development.

Practice Question:  What are the key features and objectives of the Pradhan Mantri Samajik Utthan evam Rozgar Adharit Jankalyan (PM-SURAJ) portal?

(150 Words /10 marks)

7. Introducing Devin: The World’s First AI Software Engineer by US-based Cognition


Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Developing new technology

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the potential of AI software engineers like Devin to automate tasks and its implications for job markets.

  • Cognition, a US-based applied AI lab, has introduced Devin, which it claims is the world’s first AI software engineer.
  • Devin is purported to have passed practical engineering interviews at leading AI companies and completed real jobs on Upwork, a US-based freelancing platform.
More about the news:

Capabilities of Devin:

  • Devin possesses advanced capabilities in software development, including coding, debugging, problem-solving, and more.
  • It utilizes machine learning algorithms to constantly learn and improve its performance, adapting to new challenges.
  • Notably, Devin can plan and execute complex engineering tasks, recalling relevant context at each step, self-learning over time, and proactively collaborating with users.


  • On the SWE-Bench benchmark, Devin outperformed previous state-of-the-art models by correctly resolving a significantly higher percentage of issues without assistance.
  • It augments efficiency and speed within software development processes, automating tasks, generating code instantly, expediting project timelines, and reducing development expenses.
  • Devin ensures precision and uniformity in coding practices, minimizing human errors or inconsistencies.

Technical Details and Comparison:

  • Cognition has not disclosed detailed technical specifications or the AI model powering Devin AI.
  • However, it’s compared with other popular AI-powered coding tools like OpenAI Codex, GitHub Copilot, etc.

Challenges and Opportunities:

  • While Devin offers promising capabilities, some experts raise concerns about its ability to handle complex requirements reliant on human intuition and creativity, as well as the potential for job displacement.
  • However, others see Devin as an ally for software engineers, facilitating collaboration between human ingenuity and AI.


  • Devin represents a significant advancement in AI for software engineering, offering capabilities to streamline development processes and enhance productivity.
  • While concerns about its limitations and potential impact on employment exist, Devin also presents opportunities for collaboration and innovation in the field of AI-assisted software development.
About Cognition
  • Cognition, led by Scott Wu, positions itself as an applied AI lab focused on reasoning.
  • They aim to build AI teammates surpassing existing tools, with Devin being the first step.
  • The agent will soon be available for engineering work, with companies currently required to join a waitlist.

PYQ: With the present state of development, Artificial Intelligence can effectively do which of the following? (UPSC Prelims 2020)

1.     Bring down electricity consumption in industrial units

2.     Create meaningful short stories and songs

3.     Disease diagnosis

4.     Text-to-Speech Conversion

5.     Wireless transmission of electrical energy

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2, 3 and 5 only

(b) 1, 3 and 4 only

(c) 2, 4 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans: (b)

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance and implications of the emergence of AI software engineers, exemplified by Cognition’s creation, Devin, in the context of technological advancements and socio-economic dynamics. (150 words/10 m)


8. India Achieves Milestone in Nuclear Program with Core Loading at Indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor

Topic: GS3 – Science & Technology – Achievements of Indian S&T; Indigenization of technology

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding India’s progress in nuclear technology, such as the initiation of core loading in the FBR.

  • India’s nuclear program achieved a significant milestone with the commencement of ‘coreloading’ at the country’s first indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu.
  • This process, witnessed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, marks the first step towards achieving ‘criticality’ and eventual power generation by the 500 megawatt electric (MWe) FBR.
More about the news:

India’s FBR Program:

  • Initiated two decades ago, India’s FBR program aims to develop comprehensive capabilities spanning the entire nuclear fuel cycle.
  • The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) project, launched during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure, was delayed due to technological challenges but is now approaching completion, with commissioning expected soon.

Global Context and India’s Position:

  • India’s FBR program positions it as the second country after Russia to have a commercial operating FBR.
  • While China has a small program on fast breeders, other countries like Japan, France, and the United States have shut down similar programs amid safety concerns.

Three-Stage Nuclear Power Program:

  • India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) follows a three-stage power program, aimed at utilizing the country’s abundant thorium reserves to generate electricity.
  • The program, conceptualized by Homi J. Bhabha and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, involves the conversion of ‘fertile’ materials into fissile materials to achieve criticality in nuclear reactors.

Role of Fast Breeders in the Program:

  • Fast Breeders play a crucial role in India’s nuclear program by multiplying the fissile inventory and paving the way for utilizing thorium in the third stage.
  • The completion of core loading in the FBR marks a significant milestone towards achieving this objective.

Technological Advancements and Future Plans:

  • As core loading commences, the FBR will initially use Uranium-Plutonium Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel, with plans to incorporate Thorium-232 in the future.
  • Despite the advanced technology involved, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) asserts that the capital and operational costs of FBRs are comparable to other nuclear and conventional power plants.

India’s Nuclear Energy Goals:

  • India aims to increase its share of nuclear power in the energy mix by producing 22,400 MWe from nuclear power plants by 2032.
  • This includes the construction of 10 new Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) in ‘fleet mode,’ aimed at fast-tracking the expansion of its nuclear program.


  • The core loading at India’s first indigenous Fast Breeder Reactor signifies a significant advancement in the country’s nuclear program, aligning with its long-term energy security goals.
  • With the successful implementation of the three-stage nuclear power program and the continued development of Fast Breeder Reactors, India is poised to enhance its energy independence and contribute to global nuclear technology advancements.
Understanding the 3-Stages of India’s Nuclear Program
  • In the first, India used PHWRs and natural uranium-238 (U-238), which contains minuscule amounts of U-235, as the fissile material.
  • The heavy water in PHWR – water molecules containing the deuterium isotope of hydrogen – slows neutrons released by one fission reaction.
  • The heavy water is pressurised to prevent it from boiling. The reactions produce plutonium-239 (Pu-239) and energy.
  • Only U-235, not U-238, can sustain a chain reaction but it is consumed fully in stage I.
  • In stage II, India will use Pu-239 together with U-238 in the PFBR to produce energy, U-233 and more Pu-239.
  • The DAE set up a special-purpose vehicle in 2003 called Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam, Ltd. (BHAVINI) to implement stage II.
  • In stage III, Pu-239 will be combined with thorium-232 (Th-232) in reactors to produce energy and U-233.
PYQ: Give an account of the growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What is the advantage of fast breeder reactor programme in India? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of India’s Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR) program in the country’s nuclear energy strategy and its implications for energy security. (150 words/10 m)

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