19 Dec 2023 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs


1. New Parliament, new record: 78 Opp MPs suspended, highest in a day; total now 92

Topic: GS2 – Polity 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of rules for the Suspension of MPs.
  • The maximum number of Opposition Members of Parliament (MP) suspensions ever documented in Parliament was achieved on a single day when seventy-eight MPs, 33 from the Lok Sabha and 45 from the Rajya Sabha, were suspended.
  • The administration and the opposition are at odds regarding who is interfering with House proceedings, and tensions have escalated as a result.

Reasons for Suspension:

  • MPs were suspended as a result of their demonstration against the December 13 security breach in Parliament.
  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been under pressure from the Opposition to make a statement, hold a debate on the matter, and in certain circumstances, resign.
  • The absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Parliament has further intensified their calls for accountability.

Government and Opposition Perspectives:

  • The Congress claimed that in order to distract from important concerns, the government wants to establish an “Opposition-less Parliament.”
  • On the other hand, the BJP asserted that the Opposition had a “pre-planned strategy” to obstruct crucial bills and charged them of demeaning the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha.

 House Proceedings and Future Implications:

  • Adjournments occurred in the Lok Sabha as a result of disturbances caused by opposition members, who held banners and chanted slogans.
  • Thirty members were suspended for the remainder of the meeting, and the privileges committee will investigate the actions of the three members who climbed on the Speaker’s platform.
  • 34 Rajya Sabha members were suspended, and 11 were told to abstain while the privileges committee reviewed its report.
  • The Winter Session, which ends on December 22, is currently confronted with difficulties in passing significant legislation.
Who can suspend MPs?
General Principle:

  • The usual rule is that the Presiding Officer, who serves as both the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, has a responsibility to uphold order in order for the House to run efficiently.
  • The Speaker or Chairman may compel a member to leave the House in order to guarantee that business is handled correctly.


  • The increased political tensions in Parliament are reflected in the widespread suspension of opposition MPs.
  • The administration is emphasising the necessity for seamless parliamentary proceedings, while the opposition is demanding accountability for the security breach.
  • Both sides are still accusing one other of undermining democratic principles.
  • It is yet unclear how this incident will affect how Parliament operates and what will happen to important bills.
PYQ: The Indian Constitution has provisions for holding joint session of the two houses of the Parliament. Enumerate the occasions when this would normally happen and also the occasions when it cannot, with reasons thereof. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Discuss the implications of an “Opposition-less Parliament” on democratic norms and the legislative process. (150 words/10 m)

2. India’s first winter of Arctic research: why it matters

Topic: GS3 – Environment 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of India’s interest in the Arctic region.
  • Himadri, India’s Arctic research station, will be open all year round at Ny-Ålesund, on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.
  • The first winter trip, which included four scientists from different institutes, was sent to Himadri, which was a major step forward for India’s Arctic exploration capacity.

Arctic Research Landscape:

  • Ny-Ålesund, a town near the North Pole, is home to the International Arctic Research base, where at least ten nations, including India, have set up permanent facilities.
  • For a wide range of scientific research in the fields of earth, geology, biology, atmospheric, oceanic, and glacial sciences, the Arctic region provides exceptional settings.
  • Scientific study on climate change is bringing experts closer to the Arctic.

Warming and Environmental Impact:

  • Over the past century, the average temperature in the Arctic has increased by about 4 degrees Celsius, with 2023 being the warmest year ever recorded.
  • Global concerns are raised by the Arctic sea-ice extent loss, which affects tropical sea surface temperatures, air circulation, sea levels, precipitation patterns, and the probability of intense rainfall events.

 Duration and Research Focus:

  • The winter expedition will run until January 15, 2024, and is being directed by experts from organisations including the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
  • Research topics include the study of wintertime lightning over the Arctic, the role of precipitation in climate change, the characterization of radio frequency environments, and the influence of aerosols on climate change.

India’s Role in Arctic Exploration:

  • India, a party to the Svalbard Treaty since 1920, launched the first mission into Arctic exploration in 2007.
  • Himadri, a permanent research station, started operating in 2008 and has since contributed to studies in geology, atmospheric sciences, and microbiology.
  • Research in atmospheric sciences, astronomy, astrophysics, and climate studies are the objectives of the most recent winter expedition.
About Svalbard Treaty
  • The Spitsbergen treaty or the Svalbard Treaty recognizes sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard, which is located between mainland Norway and the North Pole.
  • It provides citizens of signatory countries the equal right to exploit the archipelago’s resources. However, only two countries – Norway and Russia have utilised this benefit.

Preparations for Winter Observations:

  • Himadri is outfitted with specialised winter gear, transportation, and logistical support from Norwegian authorities, enabling it to be observed during polar nights.
  • With this extension, India is demonstrating its dedication to furthering polar research and enabling year-round exploration in the harsh Arctic environment.
PYQ: Why is India taking keen in resources of Arctic region? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2018) (150 words/10 m)
Practice Question: Examine the significance of India’s decision to operate its Arctic research station, Himadri, throughout the year. Discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with year-round Arctic exploration, considering environmental changes in the region. (250 words/15 m)

3. How MPs are suspended

Topic: GS2 – Polity 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of rules for the Suspension of MPs.
  • Members of the Opposition INDIA group, thirty-three from the Lok Sabha and forty-five from the Rajya Sabha, were suspended for the duration of the Winter Session.
  • This comes after 14 opposition members, or about 12% of the total number of members in the Parliament, were suspended last week.

Cause of Suspensions:

  • In protest of the most recent security breach at the Parliament, the MPs were suspended for interfering with legislative business.
  • Amit Shah, the home minister, was pressed for a response in the Lok Sabha, which resulted in interruptions with several MPs holding signs.
  • Meanwhile, protests about the security breach caused disruptions in the Rajya Sabha.

Historical Context of Parliamentary Disruptions:

  • Legislative disorder has historically been linked to a number of issues, such as a lack of time for important issues to be brought up, government inaction, purposeful disruptions for political advantage, and the lack of swift action against disruptive Members of Parliament.
  • The Opposition’s power to set the legislative timetable has waned over the years.

Mechanisms of Suspension:

  • A crucial part in the suspension procedure is played by the Presiding Officer, who might be the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • The suspension process is governed by Rules 255 and 256 in the Rajya Sabha and Rules 373, 374, and 374A in the Lok Sabha.
  • After designating an MP for disorderly conduct, the House may introduce a motion to suspend them until the conclusion of the session.

Duration of Suspensions and Historical Trends:

  • Suspensions may be lifted by the House by a motion, and they may extend until the conclusion of the current session.
  • Although MP suspensions are not unusual, there has been a rise in these cases in recent years.
  • At least 149 suspensions have happened since 2019, as opposed to 81 in 2014–19 and 36 in 2009–14.

Challenges for Presiding Officers:

  • The delicate balance between upholding democratic principles and maintaining order must be struck by presiding officers.
  • Dealing with planned parliamentary offences and disturbances motivated by publicity or political agendas presents a problem.

The Purpose of Suspension Rules
  • To Clear Logjam in the House: The purpose of the rules is to remove obstacles from the House so that business can proceed without hindrance.
  • To Punish Unparliamentary Behaviours of MPs: There is also an element of punishment in it. The member is temporarily disqualified in that, while he is suspended, he is not permitted to attend House sessions or any meetings of any committees he might be a member of.
  • Similarly, they will not be allowed to give any notice of questions, motions, or resolutions.
  • In effect, they are compelled to remain a non-member during this period.

Long-term Solutions for a Changing India:

  • The former president, K R Narayanan, stressed the need for long-term solutions that align with democratic principles.
  • He also highlighted the Presiding Officer’s sensitive role in upholding order without weakening the House’s democratic spirit.
  • The continuous discussion underlines how difficult it is to deal with disturbances in Parliament.
PYQ: Discuss the role of Presiding Officers of state legislatures in maintaining order and impartiality in conducting legislative work and in facilitating best democratic practices. UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2023) (150 words/10 m)
Practice Question: Discuss the role of Presiding Officers in meting out suspensions and maintaining order, and suggest long-term solutions that align with democratic values. How can Parliament strike a balance between enforcing discipline and ensuring the democratic expression of diverse opinions? (250 words/15 m)

4. Monitoring the Emergence of JN.1 Variant Amidst Rising COVID-19 Cases in Kerala

Topic: GS3 – Health 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of the impact of covid and its variants on the health of the people.
  • With a surge in COVID-19 cases in Kerala, the Union health ministry has directed states and Union Territories to intensify monitoring of influenza-like illnesses, conduct thorough testing, and subject all positive samples to whole-genome sequencing.
  • The move follows the detection of the JN.1 variant in routine surveillance in Kerala and a traveler from Singapore to Tamil Nadu.

More about the news:
Detection as Part of Routine Surveillance: The case was detected in an RT-PCR positive sample as part of INSACOG’s (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium) ongoing routine surveillance.
Influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms: The patient healed after experiencing moderate ILI symptoms.
Increase in COVID cases in Kerala: There has been an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases from Kerala over the last few weeks.
This has been linked to an increase in the number of samples from ILI cases being referred for testing.
Understanding the JN.1 Variant:

  • Pirola, a sub-variant of BA.2.86, has garnered interest and is called JN.1.
  • Despite not being a recent finding, JN.1 has been under constant observation because it is descended from Pirola and has only one more mutation on the spike protein.
  • There are now known cases of JN.1 worldwide, and its prevalence is higher than that of Pirola.

Lack of Evidence for Severe Impact:

  • Despite early worries that JN.1 will cause severe symptoms or spread more quickly, there is no data to back up these concerns.
  • According to the Technical Advisory Group of the World Health Organisation (WHO), serum from people who have already been vaccinated and infected can efficiently neutralise both JN.1 and Pirola.

Global Concerns and Data from Singapore:

  • Concerns have been raised by the increasing Pirola and JN.1 cases occurring worldwide.
  • Pirola and its progeny are responsible for a considerable fraction of Sars-CoV-2 sequences worldwide, according to WHO reports.
  • In Singapore specifically, there has been a rise in JN.1 cases, especially among people older than 60.

Vaccine Coverage and Protection:

  • Experts stress that India is mostly protected due to the country’s current vaccination programme and innate immunity from previous epidemics.
  • According to data from Singapore, people whose last vaccination was more than a year ago may be more likely to end up in the hospital.
  • Nonetheless, researchers contend that given India’s population’s exposure to COVID-19, revised vaccinations might not be urgently required there.
About INSACOG’s (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium):
  • It is a national multi-agency consortium of Genome Sequencing Laboratories (RGSLs) laboratories established by the Government of India.
  • Its aim is to ascertain the status of Variants of Interest (VoI) and Variants of Concern (VoC) in the country

 Protective Measures:

  • Experts recommend regular preventative measures, such as masks in crowded or enclosed locations, ensuring ventilation to reduce the spread of illness, and frequent handwashing, as new varieties continue to appear.
  • Experts emphasise the significance of following tried-and-true preventive strategies against respiratory viruses, even as they acknowledge the dynamic nature of the virus.
PYQ: What is the basic principle behind vaccine development? How do vaccines work? What approaches were adopted by the Indian vaccine manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Evaluate the global concerns surrounding Pirola and its sub-variant JN.1, considering their prevalence in various countries. (150 words/10 m)

5. Omnibus Telecom Bill in Lok Sabha, legislation to streamline regulation

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Interventions for development in various sectors
The Telecommunications Bill, 2023, holds importance for UPSC as it signifies a groundbreaking overhaul of outdated telecom laws.
  • The Telecommunications Bill, 2023, seeks a holistic overhaul of telecom laws, consolidating regulations into a single statute, replacing the 1885 Telegraph Act.
  •  It introduces “authorisations” for operators and broadens the definition of telecom services.

 Additional information on the news:

  • The Telecommunications Bill, 2023, proposes a comprehensive rewrite of telecom laws after 138 years.
  • It consolidates spectrum rules, right of way, dispute resolution, and other aspects into a single statute.
  • The Bill aims to replace the Telegraph Act, 1885.
  • Instead of licensing, it introduces the concept of “authorisations” for telecom operators and service providers.
  • The wide definition of telecom services may include various Internet-based communication services.
  • The law incorporates accumulated amendments and structures since the Telegraph Act’s enactment.


  • The Telecommunications Bill, 2023, marks a significant shift by comprehensively rewriting telecom laws after 138 years, addressing contemporary challenges and streamlining regulations for a modernized telecommunications framework.

6. Far fewer CAG audits of Centre tabled in Parliament

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Important aspects of governance – Transparency and Accountability
The decrease in CAG audits impacts transparency and accountability, making it vital for UPSC aspirants to understand governance challenges.
  • In 2023, only 18 audits by the CAG were tabled in Parliament, indicating a decline from the previous years, possibly linked to reduced staff strength and budget cuts.

 Additional information on the news:

  • In 2023, only 18 audits by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) were tabled in Parliament.
  • The trend shows a decline, with 22 reports on average tabled each year from 2019 to 2023.
  • In comparison, 40 reports were tabled annually between 2014 and 2018.
  • The peak was in 2015 with 53 reports, but four of the last six years had 20 or fewer reports tabled.
  • The decline aligns with a reduction in CAG staff strength and budget cuts.
  • In 2023-24, the allocation to the Indian Audit and Accounts Department constituted 0.13% of the Union Budget.


  • The dwindling number of audits tabled in Parliament, especially in 2023, raises concerns about the impact of reduced staff and budget allocations on the CAG’s effectiveness and oversight.
Comptroller and Auditor General
CAG: Guardian of Public Finances

  • Independent watchdog: Audits the accounts of Central and State governments and reports to Parliament.
  • Unveiling irregularities: Exposes inefficiencies, mismanagement, and misappropriation of public funds.
  • Holding accountable: Puts pressure on government to improve financial discipline and utilization of resources.
  • Informing public: Reports raise awareness about government spending and promote transparency.
  • Catalyst for reforms: Recommendations trigger policy changes and initiatives to strengthen financial systems.

Constitutional provisions about CAG:

  • Constitutional provisions for the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) are outlined in Article 148 to 151.
  • Article 148 establishes the office of CAG.
  • Article 149 empowers CAG to audit public accounts.
  • Article 150 deals with the audit reports’ submission.
  • Article 151 provides for reports to be laid before Parliament and State Legislatures.

PYQ: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has a very vital role to play.” Explain how this is reflected in the method and terms of his appointment as well as the range of powers he can exercise. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2018) (150 words/10 m)
Practice Question: How does the decline in audits tabled by the CAG impact government oversight, considering staff reductions and budget cuts?. (150 words/10 m)

7. What does COP-28 mean for cities?

Topic: GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation.

Urban resilience, climate action, and equitable representation at COPs are vital for holistic global governance; relevant for UPSC.
  • COP-28 addressed global climate action, emphasizing cities’ role.
  • A special meeting highlighted urban challenges and urged recognition of subnational governments. Calls for fair participation, climate atlas creation, and acknowledging city efforts emerged, sparking vital discussions.

 More information on the news:

  • COP-28 discussed Global Stock Taking over the Paris climate deals and cleared the Loss and Damage Fund.
  • The focus was on both mitigation and adaptation strategies.
  • A special ministerial meeting on urbanisation and climate change highlighted the importance of cities in climate action.
  • 55% of the global population is urban, consuming 75% of primary energy and responsible for 70% of CO2 emissions.
  • City representatives emphasized the need for a “nothing for us without us” principle, redefining COP’s financial and governance architecture.
  • There’s a call for formal recognition of the role of subnational governments in global climate change negotiations.
  • Cities in the Global South, more vulnerable, need radical shifts in governance processes and fair participation in climate action plans.
  • Creating a climate atlas for cities and reclaiming space in COPs and national climate action plans is crucial.
  • Some cities, like Chennai, are leading in climate action plans, emphasizing the role of cities in meeting climate goals.
  • COP-28 raised the crucial question of acknowledging the interconnections of climate action, social justice, and the role of the urban world.
PYQ: Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference?         (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021) (250 words/15 m)


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