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Daily Current Affairs

16-September-2023

Daily Current Affairs For UPSC ,Daily Current affairs of The hIndu and Indian Express.

1. Goods trade deficit hits a 10-month high.

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Context:

  • Goods Exports Decline: India’s goods exports contracted for the seventh consecutive month in August.
  • Services Exports Reduction: Services exports, which had been growing, are estimated to have declined in August.
  • Goods Trade Deficit: The goods trade deficit reached a 10-month high in August, standing at $24.16 billion.
  • Merchandise Import Bill: The import bill for merchandise in August decreased year-on-year but rose significantly compared to July, reaching $58.64 billion.
  • Economic Impact: The uptick in imports contributed to the widening trade deficit, impacting India’s foreign trade dynamics.

Potential reasons for increasing trade deficit:

  • Increased Import Demand: Rising consumer and business demand for foreign goods and services can lead to higher imports, causing a trade deficit.
  • Economic Growth: Strong economic growth can boost imports as domestic consumption and investment rise.
  • Currency Exchange Rates: Exchange rate fluctuations can affect trade balances, with a weaker domestic currency increasing import costs.
  • Consumer Preferences: Changing consumer preferences for foreign products can drive up imports.
  • Trade Agreements: Trade agreements can influence trade imbalances, often leading to increased imports.
  • Economic Policies: Government policies, like tariffs, can impact imports and exports.
  • Global Economic Conditions: Economic slowdowns in trading partners can reduce export demand while maintaining import levels.
  • Investment Flows: Foreign investments can affect imports, particularly FDI for machinery and equipment.
  • Commodity Prices: Price fluctuations of commodities like oil can significantly impact trade balances.
  • Political Factors: Geopolitical tensions and policy decisions can disrupt trade patterns and influence deficits.

Way forward:

  • Export Promotion: Encourage and support domestic industries to increase exports by offering incentives, reducing export barriers, and exploring new markets.
  • Diversify Exports: Promote the diversification of export products and markets to reduce reliance on a few sectors or trading partners.
  • Boost Domestic Production: Invest in domestic industries and manufacturing to reduce import dependency and enhance competitiveness.
  • Currency Management: Monitor and manage currency exchange rates to ensure they remain competitive for exports while not excessively inflating import costs.
  • Trade Agreements: Explore and negotiate trade agreements that benefit domestic industries and facilitate exports.
  • Infrastructure Development: Invest in transportation, logistics, and port facilities to streamline trade and reduce export costs.
  • Research and Development: Invest in research and development to enhance product quality, innovation, and competitiveness in global markets. Economic Diversification: Diversify the economy to reduce vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices and global economic conditions.
  • Policy Coordination: Ensure coordination among government departments and agencies involved in trade policies to create a cohesive strategy.
  • Long-Term Planning: Develop and implement long-term strategies for sustainable economic growth and balanced trade.
  • Foreign Direct Investment: Attract foreign direct investment to support domestic industries, technology transfer, and job creation.
  • Fiscal and Monetary Policies: Implement appropriate fiscal and monetary policies to manage inflation, interest rates, and government spending, which can impact trade balances.

Mains question: What are the primary measures that the Indian government should undertake to mitigate the growing trade deficit? Explain the significance of export diversification and currency management in this context.

2. Wrong to think only ‘fancy’ cases reach Constitution Benches, says Chief Justice

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud addressed a lawyer’s notion that the Supreme Court forms Constitution Benches for “fancy” matters unrelated to everyday concerns.
  • Clarification by CJI: CJI Chandrachud emphasized that the Supreme Court also addresses vital issues affecting the common people, citing the example of the Article 370 abrogation challenge.

Which cases are referred to constitutional benches in India:

  • Interpretation of the Constitution: When there is a need to interpret specific provisions of the Constitution of India, especially when there is ambiguity or conflicting interpretations by lower courts.
  • Validity of Constitutional Amendments: Challenges to the validity of constitutional amendments are often referred to Constitutional Benches. This is to ensure that any changes to the Constitution comply with its basic structure and fundamental principles.
  • Federal Disputes: Cases involving disputes between the central government and state governments, or among different states, on matters related to distribution of powers are referred to Constitutional Benches.
  • Fundamental Rights: Cases involving the violation or infringement of fundamental rights enshrined in Part III of the Constitution are frequently referred to Constitutional Benches. These cases are of paramount importance as they deal with the protection of citizens’ fundamental rights.
  • Inter-State Water Disputes: Disputes between states over the sharing of river waters fall under the jurisdiction of Constitutional Benches, as these issues have federal implications.
  • Review of Landmark Judgments: In some cases, when there is a need to reconsider or review a previous landmark judgment of the Supreme Court, it may be referred to a larger bench for reconsideration.
  • Questions of Public Importance: Any case that raises questions of public importance or issues that have a significant impact on the country’s legal, social, or political landscape may be referred to a Constitutional Bench.
  • Presidential References: The President of India can seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on constitutional questions, and these references are usually heard by Constitutional Benches.

Mains question: What are the circumstances in which cases are referred to Constitutional Benches of the Supreme Court in India, and why are they significant in the legal and constitutional context?

3. A ‘platform’ will assess ‘top’ 50 judges before appointment in SC: CJI

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity.

Context:

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud unveiled a plan to assess the top 50 judges in India for potential appointment to the Supreme Court.

More about the news:

  • Transparency in Appointments: The CJI acknowledged criticism of the collegium system for lacking factual data in evaluating judicial candidates and emphasized the need for transparency in the appointment process.
  • Centre for Research and Planning: A specialized team, including young scholars, interns, and law researchers, was formed under the Centre for Research and Planning to assess the qualifications and performance of potential Supreme Court judges.
  • Parameters for Selection: The team will examine candidates’ judgments, quality of work, and other relevant factors to establish transparent selection parameters.
  • Objective: The objective is to enhance transparency in the appointment process, even though certain aspects may not be disclosed to the public, and to ensure a comprehensive assessment of potential judges.
  • Appointment Basis: The announcement did not clarify whether the “top” judges would be selected from the senior-most High Court judges or based on merit and performance, as the current appointments follow a Memorandum of Procedure influenced by the Three Judges Cases.

4. Wrong to assess economic activity on GDP alone: FinMin

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Context:

  • The Finance Ministry addressed concerns raised by certain sections regarding the credibility of India’s GDP data, particularly the 7.8% growth in the first quarter, emphasizing that the GDP data is not seasonally adjusted and is finalized three years later.
  • The ministry cautioned against solely relying on GDP indicators to assess economic activity, stating that critics should consider multiple growth indicators.
  • It highlighted positive signs such as growth in Purchasing Managers’ Indices, double-digit bank credit growth, improved consumption, and increased government capital expenditure.

What other indicators than GDP can be used to assess economy:

 It’s important to focus on economic indicators that are relevant for assessing the overall health and performance of an economy. Here are five key economic indicators:

  • Employment and Unemployment Rates: These rates provide insights into the labor market’s health. The employment rate indicates the percentage of the population that is employed, while the unemployment rate reveals the percentage of people actively seeking employment but unable to find jobs.
  • Inflation Rate: Inflation measures the increase in the general price level of goods and services over time. It’s crucial for assessing price stability and its impact on consumers’ purchasing power.
  • Fiscal Deficit and Government Debt: The fiscal deficit represents the shortfall between government revenue and expenditure. It reflects the government’s borrowing needs. Government debt as a percentage of GDP indicates fiscal sustainability and the risk of default.
  • Balance of Trade: The balance of trade measures the difference between a country’s exports and imports. A trade surplus (exports > imports) can have positive implications for an economy, while a trade deficit (imports > exports) can raise concerns about trade imbalances.
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): FDI measures the investment made by foreign entities in a country. It indicates international confidence in the country’s economic prospects and can contribute to economic growth and job creation.
  • Current Account Deficit (CAD): The CAD measures the difference between a country’s total exports and total imports, including not only goods but also services, income, and transfers. A persistent CAD can be a concern, as it implies that a country is spending more on foreign goods and services than it is earning from exports.

Mains question: Explain the significance of the fiscal deficit and its impact on the economy. Discuss the measures that can be taken to address a high fiscal deficit.

5. Indian space start-ups say funding is the topmost challenge

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy.

Context:

  • The Indian space industry is facing a significant challenge related to funding, hindering its growth potential.
  • Experts at the International Conference on Space 2023 highlighted the need for soft funds and additional incentives to boost the sector’s growth.
  • Despite interest from venture capital firms, securing sufficient funding remains an issue for space start-ups and ecosystem players.

What are some other challenges for Indian space start-ups:

  • Regulatory Hurdles: The space sector in India is highly regulated, and obtaining necessary approvals, licenses, and permissions can be a time-consuming and complex process.
  • Limited Access to Infrastructure: Building and launching satellites and rockets require access to specialized infrastructure, which may be limited and expensive for start-ups.
  • Competition from Established Players: Established government organizations like ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) have a strong presence in the space sector, and competing with them can be challenging for start-ups.
  • Talent Acquisition: Attracting and retaining top talent with expertise in space technology and engineering can be a competitive challenge, as many professionals prefer to work with established organizations.
  • Technological Innovation: Keeping up with rapidly advancing space technology and innovation requires significant investment in research and development, which may be challenging for start-ups with limited resources.
  • Global Competition: Indian space start-ups face competition not only from domestic players but also from international companies and start-ups, making it crucial to establish a competitive edge.
  • Market Access: Expanding beyond the domestic market and accessing global opportunities can be difficult, especially with regulatory and export restrictions.

6) Tamil Nadu govt to launch scheme granting monthly aid to over 1 crore women.

Topic:GS2-govt policies, Prelims

Context:

  • In a groundbreaking move, the Tamil Nadu has launched the Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai Thittam (Kalaignar Women’s Rights Grant Scheme), the largest social welfare initiative aimed at providing monthly financial assistance.
  • This scheme is set to benefit over 06 crore eligible women who are the heads of their families.

Details:

Direct Bank Transfers and ATM Cards

  • Under this scheme, eligible beneficiaries will receive a monthly sum of Rs 1,000. This financial aid will be directly transferred into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. To facilitate easy access to the funds, ATM cards will be issued to the eligible women, allowing them to withdraw the allocated amount as needed.

Communication with Beneficiaries

  • To keep beneficiaries informed and updated about the scheme, the government will utilize SMS notifications, ensuring that the eligible women receive timely information about the program and any relevant updates.

Application Acceptance

  • Out of the approximately 1.63 crore applications received for the scheme, a total of 1.06 crore have been accepted.
  • This reflects the significant reach and impact of the Kalaignar Magalir Urimai Thogai Thittam in supporting women family heads across Tamil Nadu.

7) Centre clears proposal to buy 12 Su-30 MKI fighter jets.

Topic: GS3- Internal security, Prelims

Context:

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) cleared proposals worth Rs 45,000 crore to acquire 12 Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft and indigenous Dhruvastra short range air-to-surface missile for the Indian Air Force among nine platforms and weapon systems for the armed forces.

Details:

  • A statement released by the defence ministry said that the DAC has granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to procure 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft with associated equipment from the state owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

What is Acceptance of Necessity (AoN)?

  • AoN is the first step in the long defence procurement process.
  • Grant of an AoN does not necessarily lead to a final order.

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI

  • The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a multirole combat fighter aircraft jointly developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
  • A Russian-origin fighter jet, the Su-30 MKI jets have had a good flight safety record.
  • The IAF had inducted 272 of these jets since 1998.
  • Around 10 Su-30s have crashed since 2010.
  • Once procured and inducted, the IAF’s Su-30 fleet will be back to the planned levels by replacing the aircraft lost over the years in training.

Dhruvastra short range air-to-surface missile

  • The DAC also accorded AoNs for the procurement of Dhruvastra short range air-to-surface missile, which is to be fired from the HAL-made Advanced Light Helicopters Mk-IV.
  • The precision guided missiles were designed by the Defence Research Development Organisation.

Other platforms and weapon systems which got AoN:

  • Avionics upgradation of the Dornier aircraft, which would improve the accuracy of operations for IAF.
  • Light Armoured Multipurpose Vehicles (LAMV)
  • Integrated Surveillance and Targeting System (ISAT-S) aimed at enhancing protection, mobility, attack capability and increased survivability of the Army’s mechanised forces.
  • Proposals for procurement of High Mobility Vehicle (HMV) Gun Towing Vehicles for swift mobilization.
  • Deployment of artillery guns and radars for the Army and Next Generation Survey Vessels to enhance the Navy’s capabilities in performing hydrographic operations were also cleared by the DAC.

8) Aditya L1 completes 4th manoeuvre, will leave Earth’s orbit:

Topic: GS3-science and tech

Context:

  • ADITYA L1, India’s mission to study the Sun, is scheduled leave Earth on September 19 when it will slingshot towards the L1 point 1.5 million km away.

Details:

  • ISRO’s ground stations at Mauritius, Bengaluru, SDSCSHAR and Port Blair tracked the satellite during this operation.
  • A transportable terminal currently stationed in the Fiji islands for Aditya L1 will support post-burn operations.
  • The first orbit raising manoeuvre was carried out a day after its successful launch.
  • After travelling for nearly four months to the L1 point, covering a distance that hasn’t been covered by any other Indian spacecraft, Aditya L1 will park itself in a halo orbit around the L1 point and study the Sun with seven complex instruments.
  • Usually satellites launched by ISRO are placed either in an orbit around the Earth or other celestial bodies like the Moon and Mars.
  • In the case of Aditya L1, the spacecraft will move around a point in space and not around any celestial object.

9) The mega refinery that India, Saudi want to resuscitate

Topic: GS2-IR, GS3-economics

Context:

  • India and Saudi Arabia will intensify efforts to implement the proposed 60 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) West Coast mega refinery project that has been hanging for years.

Details:

  • Billed as one of the world’s largest refining complexes, the project was proposed in 2015, but ran into opposition from the resident population around the proposed sites in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district, and suffered due to the political turmoil in the state.

Why the project matters?

  • India, which is the world’s third-largest consumer of crude oil, is expected to see significant increase in demand for petroleum fuels, products, and petrochemicals over the coming years and decades, the growth in the electric mobility and renewable energy sectors.
  • By some estimates, India is set to soon eclipse China as the largest driver of global oil demand.
  • In line with the likely increase in demand, India aims to increase its refining capacity to 450 mtpa from the current 250 mtpa over the next few years.
  • It also aspires to be a global refining hub, and to step up petroleum products and petrochemical exports.
  • The West Coast refinery and petrochemicals project is a marquee element of its medium- to long term refining capacity expansion strategy.

Why the project is stuck?

  • In 2015, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu were seen as contenders for the mega coastal refinery that the (then) new central government was planning.
  • The project ultimately went to Maharashtra, and after deliberations among the Centre, state, and the three public sector refiners, Nanar in Ratnagiri was chosen as the site.
  • However, the plan soon hit a roadblock as a large number of local people opposed the project strongly, and refused to give up their land
  • There was fear that a mega oil refinery would pollute and damage the region, destroy the cultivation of the famed alphonso mango and cashew, and hit local fishing.

What could be the possible solutions?

  • One option would be to look for an alternative coastal site in Maharashtra. Over the years, sites in Raigad to the north and Sindhudurg in the south have been evaluated, but the sites in Ratnagiri were chosen on both occasions.
  • The other option would be to consider another coastal state, preferably on the west coast due to the maritime proximity to West Asia.
  • A more drastic alternative would be to split the proposed 60 mtpa refinery into three or four separate refineries of 15-20 mtpa.
  • This option has been discussed earlier, but the idea of a mega refinery has prevailed given the higher scale and efficiency potential of a large single-location complex.

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