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Daily Current Affairs

23-December-2023

1. Delhi-Paris Pact: Macron to be Chief Guest this Republic Day

Topic: GS2 – International Relations- Bilateral Relations
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of Indo-French Strategic Partnership
Context:
  • The 75th Republic Day celebrations in India will feature French President Emmanuel Macron as the Chief Guest, according to a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • This move, which makes a French leader the sixth to be honoured on Republic Day, was made in response to US President Joe Biden’s unavailability.
  • A combination of bilateral, diplomatic, and strategic factors influence the decision.
Strategic Partnership:
  • As they commemorate the 25th anniversary of their strategic partnership, France and India have a lot in common when it comes to regional and global concerns.
  • Since its founding in 1998, the partnership has played a key role in promoting all-encompassing growth, especially in the areas of civil nuclear cooperation, defence, security, and space.
Bilateral Relations:
  • Seventy-five years of intimate and cordial relations since the establishing of diplomatic relations in 1948 serve as a testament to the depth of the bilateral relationship between France and India.
  • With France backing India’s claims for permanent membership in the UN Security Council and admission to international organisations like MTCR, WA, and AG, the Strategic Partnership has facilitated cooperation in a number of areas.
Expanding Cooperation
  • New areas of collaboration have been added to the alliance throughout time, including as cybersecurity, digitization, counterterrorism, climate change, renewable energy, and marine security.
  • Both countries actively seek the UN’s passage of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) and have long condemned terrorism.
Leadership Interactions
  • President Macron and Prime Minister Modi’s regular encounters have improved relations.
  • Following Macron’s victory for a second term in office, Modi will be meeting Macron for the first time as a world leader after his May 2022 visit to Paris.
  • They are involved in gatherings such as the G20 in Bali and the G7 in Hiroshima.
Economic Collaboration:
  • Macron and Modi virtually attended the introduction of Air India and Airbus, one of the economic partnerships between France and India.
  • Macron’s visit is regarded as evidence of the two countries’ continuous support and collaboration in a variety of fields.
Conclusion:
  • The fact that Macron is the Chief Guest for Republic Day highlights the long-standing and complex relationship that exists between France and India on a political, economic, and strategic level.
  • It is anticipated that the visit will deepen relations and increase cooperation
between the two countries.
Strategic Partnerships
  • France had been non-problematic about the “Quad-Plus” coalitions, first floated in 2020, (but were dropped after US-France rift over the AUKUS agreement).
  • France is also the only country the Indian Navy has conducted joint patrols with so far, and future plans could involve the use of French international territories in Reunion, New Caledonia and French Polynesia, and even India’s Andaman Islands, for port calls and reconnaissance by both navies on a bilateral basis.
  • The India-France Roadmap on the Indo-Pacific released recently also clarifies that neither side is attempting to pull the other into its other regional military coalitions.
PYQ: Critically examine the procedures through which the Presidents of India and France are elected.  (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2022) (150 words/10 m)
Practice Question: Discuss the evolution and key milestones in the India-France Strategic Partnership. How has this partnership contributed to the comprehensive growth of India-France relations over the years? (250 words/15 m)

2. Aadhaar, PMLA as money bills: SC to hear pleas in Jan

Topic: GS2 – Polity 

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of constitutional provisions

Context:
  • Petitions contesting the legality of laws, such as the Aadhaar Act and money bill modifications to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), will be heard by a seven-judge Supreme Court bench.
  • Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud will chair the hearing, which is set for January 30, 2024.

Background:

  • A petition challenging the government’s supervision of Tribunals served as the impetus for the legal dispute.
  • This petition eventually made its way to a five-judge court, along with others that contested the Aadhaar Act’s designation as a money bill.
  • It was then sent to a bench of seven judges for additional review.

Money Bills and Legislative Process:

  • One of the main points of disagreement put out by the petitioners is the designation of important laws as money bills, a procedure that only permits their introduction in the Lok Sabha and shields them from rejection by the Rajya Sabha.
  • Opponents contend that the administration is using this designation purposefully to avoid possible challenges in the Rajya Sabha, where it does not have a majority.

Legal Implications

  • According to the petitioners, this kind of classification has been employed to prevent undesirable consequences during the legislative process.
  • In order to address issues with legislative accountability and transparency, the Supreme Court will hold a hearing to examine the legal and constitutional implications of labelling important laws as money bills.

Significance of the Case

  • The seven-judge bench’s ruling may have a significant impact on how money bills are interpreted and how legislative processes are carried out.
  • The case emphasises how important it is to conduct a thorough analysis of the constitutional precepts guiding bill classification in order to guarantee an impartial and open legislative process.

Conclusion:

  • The Supreme Court’s impending hearing on the legality of laws classified as money bills, such as the PMLA amendments and the Aadhaar Act, represents a significant legal issue that will influence how legislative processes and constitutional principles are understood in the Indian context.
What is a Money Bill?

     Definition:

  • A Money Bill is a financial legislation that contains provisions exclusively related to revenue, taxation, government expenditures, and borrowing.

Constitutional Basis:

  • According to Article 110(1), a bill is considered a money bill if it solely addresses the topics listed in Article 110 (1) (a) to (g): among other things, taxes, government borrowing, and the appropriation of funds from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Article 110(1)(g) adds that “any matter incidental to any of the matters specified in Articles 110(1)(a)-(f)” can also be a Money Bill.
  • According to Article 110(3) of the Constitution, the Speaker of the House of the People will make the final decision on any dispute over whether a bill is a money bill or not.

Procedure:

  • Money Bills must be introduced in the Lok Sabha and cannot be introduced in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house).
  • The Rajya Sabha can only make recommendations on a Money Bill but does not have the power to amend or reject it.
  • President can either accept or reject a money bill but cannot return it for reconsideration.
  • There is no provision for Joint sitting.

PYQ: Regarding the Money Bill, which of the following statements is not correct? Prelims (2018)

  1. A bill shall be deemed to be a Money Bill if it contains only provisions relating to the imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax.
  2. A Money Bill has provisions for the custody of the Consolidated Fund of India or the Contingency Fund of India.
  3. A Money Bill is concerned with the appropriation of money out of the Contingency Fund of India.
  4. A Money Bill deals with the regulation of borrowing of money or giving of any guarantee by the Government of India.

Ans: (3)

Practice Question: Critically analyze the constitutional and legal implications of categorizing significant legislations as money bills. (150 words/10 m)

3. Half of the Bills passed debated for less than 2 hrs each: Report

Topic: GS2 – Polity and Governance 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of Governance and Legislative Efficiency and Role of Committees.
Context:
  • Nearly half of the laws passed during the 17th Lok Sabha’s mandate had fewer than two hours of discussion each, according to an analysis done by PRS Legislative Research.
  • Furthermore, hardly sixteen percent of the proposals were referred to standing committees, suggesting a change in the way legislation is passed.
Bill Discussion and Passage:
  • 172 bills were discussed and passed in the 17th Lok Sabha before the just ended Winter Session. Of these, the Rajya Sabha passed 103 (60%) while the Lok Sabha passed 86 (48%) of them.
  • Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha approved bills after two to four hours of deliberation.
Decrease in Committee Referrals:
  • The data shows that the percentage of bills submitted to committees has significantly decreased, from 71% in the 15th Lok Sabha to 16% in the 17th Lok Sabha.
  • This decrease begs the question of how carefully laws are inspected and evaluated before they are passed.
 Conclusion:
  • PRS Legislative Research’s analysis indicates a trend towards more laws passing with little debate and a marked decrease in the number of measures sent to standing committees.
  • These results bring up important issues regarding the effectiveness and scope of the 17th Lok Sabha’s legislative process.
PYQ: Explain the structure of the Parliamentary Committee system. How far have the financial committees helped in the institutionalization of Indian Parliament? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2023)
Practice Question: Parliamentary committees play an important role in exercising effective control over executive. How far do you agree with the argument that role of parliamentary committees has been declining in Indian Parliamentary functioning? (250 words/15 m)

4. India-made LCA, LCH can boost clout in Global South: IAF Chief

Topic: GS3 – Defence technology, Prelims 
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of Security Challenges and Defense Strategies.
Context:
  • The competitiveness and dependability of domestic aerospace platforms, including as the Light Combat Aircraft, Light Combat Helicopter, Akash Missile systems, and radars, were highlighted by Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari.
  • He emphasised the platforms’ export potential, saying they can increase India’s scientific and economic clout in the Global South.
Mutually Beneficial Joint Ventures:
  • Chaudhari proposed that it may be advantageous for both parties to establish collaborative ventures with nations who are interested in these platforms.
  • He suggested working together to develop components in tandem, share production facilities, and establish local hubs for maintenance and support.
  • The goal of this strategy is to promote technological and economic cooperation.
Focus on Capability Development and Collaboration:
  • The Air Chief emphasised the significance of emphasising the formation of maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities, manufacturing centres, and capability development in global supply chains.
  • To bolster India’s standing in the aerospace industry, he promoted cooperative R&D initiatives, defence innovation, and technology transfer.
IAF’s Role in Collective Progress
  • Chaudhari talked about how the Indian Air Force (IAF) can be a force for good, building strategic alliances and advancing the Global South as a whole.
  • He emphasised how the IAF has expanded its reach through frequent training sessions with partner countries, which have resulted in the exchange of best practices for operations and maintenance.
Training Initiatives and Cooperation
  • The Indian Military Advisory Teams and the courses provided by the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme were recognised by the Air Chief for their important contributions.
  • Training over 200,000 officials in the defence and civic sectors has been made possible by these programmes.
  • In the last nine years, the IAF has trained over 5,000 international trainees.
Identifying Contemporary Security Challenges
  • Chaudhari emphasised the importance of identifying the modern security issues that the Global South, including India, are facing.
  • He stressed the significance of having a single forum to address issues like cyber threats, terrorism, regional conflicts, and other shared concerns related to changing security environments.
Shifting International Relations and Global Challenges
  • The head of the IAF emphasised how new players are upending established power structures in the dynamic field of international relations.
  • He outlined the interrelated problems brought about by international conflicts, ideological differences, the depletion of natural resources, climate change, economic inequality, and resource exploitation.
Conclusion:
  • In his speech, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari reaffirmed India’s goal of becoming a more powerful force in the world by working with other countries on defence and aerospace projects and providing the Global South with competitive solutions.
What is a Light Combat Helicopter?
About:
  • The LCH is the only assault helicopter in the world that can carry a sizable payload of fuel and weaponry and land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 metres.
  • The helicopter features a frame and landing gear that are largely crash-proof, and it uses material that absorbs radar waves to reduce its radar signature.
  • Protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) emergencies is provided by a pressurised compartment.
  • The chopper is shielded from enemy radars and infrared seekers of enemy missiles by a countermeasure dispensing mechanism.
PYQ: How is S-400 air defence system technically superior to any other system presently available in the world? (150 words) S-400? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question: Examine the strategic significance of indigenous aerospace platforms, including the Light Combat Aircraft and Akash Missile systems, in boosting India’s economic and technological influence in the Global South. (150 words/10 m)

5. 2024 will have more seven-judge Benches hearing crucial matters in Supreme Court.

Topic: GS2 – Indian Polity – Judiciary.
UPSC Significance: SC’s seven-judge Benches tackle constitutional, legislative dilemmas, vital for aspirants understanding governance, law, and rights.
Context:
  • In 2024, Supreme Court’s seven-judge Benches will address pivotal issues, including Money Bills, sub-classification of Scheduled Castes, and educational institution criteria.
  • Cases span constitutional, legislative, and governance concerns.
Crucial Issues:
  • Multiple seven-judge Constitution Benches to address significant issues in the upcoming year.
  • Topics include Money Bills, sub-classification of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, breach of privilege, Speakers’ authority, minority-run educational institutions, and validity of State laws on sales tax surcharge.
 Bench Composition:
  • Various cases to be heard by a seven-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud in January 2024.
Broad Legal Spectrum:
  • Encompasses a diverse range of legal issues, from constitutional validity to legislative authority, impacting governance and fundamental rights
Lack of Constitutional benches in the Supreme Court
Issue:
  • Backlog of cases: The Supreme Court faces a staggering backlog of over 60,000 cases, with many of them involving complex constitutional issues. Without dedicated Constitutional benches, these cases can languish for years, leading to delayed justice and uncertainty.
  • Inefficient adjudication: Regular benches may lack the specialized expertise and time required to thoroughly grapple with intricate constitutional questions. This can result in inconsistent rulings and a weakened interpretation of the Constitution.
  • Erosion of public trust: Public confidence in the judicial system can be undermined when landmark constitutional pronouncements are delayed or inconsistent. Timely and authoritative rulings from dedicated benches can bolster public trust.
Impact:
  • Delayed justice: Individuals and groups seeking vindication of their constitutional rights can face prolonged legal battles, impacting their lives and livelihoods.
  • Uncertain legal landscape: Businesses and other entities require a clear and predictable legal environment. The absence of prompt rulings on constitutional matters can create uncertainty and hamper economic activity.
  • Weakened constitutional protections: Delayed or inconsistent rulings on fundamental rights can erode the very fabric of India’s constitutional democracy.
Way forward:
  • Revival of Constitutional benches: Re-establishing dedicated Constitutional benches with specialized judges can expedite adjudication of critical cases and enhance the quality of rulings.
  • Streamlining case allocation: Prioritizing allocation of constitutional cases to these benches can ensure they receive the time and attention they deserve.
  • Adequate resources: Allocating sufficient resources, including legal staff and research support, to Constitutional benches can enhance their efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Exploring alternative models: Consider alternative models like fast-track procedures or temporary benches for specific types of constitutional cases to address the backlog effectively.
  • Focus on preventing future backlog: Implementing reforms like pre-litigation mediation and stricter criteria for accepting petitions can help prevent an accumulation of new cases in the Supreme Court.
PYQ: Discuss the reasons for the pendency of cases in the Supreme Court and suggest measures to overcome it. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2017) (150 words/10 m)
Practice Question: Discuss the significance of the Supreme Court’s multiple seven-judge Constitution Benches in 2024, addressing diverse legal challenges. (150 words/10 m)

6. Maoists blow up railway tracks in Jharkhand; trains halted at stations.

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security
UPSC Significance: Understanding the CPI(Maoist) disruption is crucial for aspirants, examining security challenges, internal conflicts, and governance in affected regions.
Context:
  • The banned CPI(Maoist) disrupts the Howrah-Mumbai railway line in Jharkhand, blowing up a track for a Bharat Bandh.
  • Maoists observe a “Resistance Week,” citing police atrocities in tribal areas, sparking chaos and train suspensions.
Maoist Activity in Red Corridor: A Multifaceted Challenge Understanding the Landscape:
  • Predominantly rural: Concentrated in remote, forested areas known as “Red Zones” across central and eastern India.
  • Ideological roots:Inspired by communist revolutionary Mao Zedong, aiming for social and economic revolution against perceived state oppression.
  • Tactics:Guerrilla warfare, extortion, propaganda, and recruitment from marginalized communities.
Impact on Affected Regions:
  • Security concerns:Frequent clashes with security forces, leading to casualties and disruption of public life.
  • Development hurdles:Infrastructure projects stall due to security risks, impacting local economies and access to basic services.
  • Social division:Exploitation of existing grievances and caste tensions, creating divisions within communities.
Current Efforts:
  • Multi-pronged approach:Combining security operations with development initiatives, addressing root causes like poverty and lack of opportunity.
  • Focus on welfare: Strengthening government presence through improved administration, education, and healthcare in Red Zones.
  • Dialogue and outreach: Engaging with local communities and addressing their concerns, promoting alternative political participation.
Challenges and the Way Forward:
  • Balancing security with human rights:Ensuring adherence to legal frameworks while maintaining public safety.
  • Addressing poverty and inequality:Long-term economic and social development programs are crucial for lasting solutions.
  • Breaking the cycle of violence: Promoting reconciliation and dialogue between affected communities and the state.
Conclusion:
  • Maoist activity remains a complex challenge in India, requiring a nuanced and comprehensive approach.
  • Balancing security measures with development initiatives, promoting social inclusion, and addressing root causes of disaffection are key to finding lasting solutions and building a more peaceful future for Red Zone communities.
PYQ: Discuss the major internal security challenges faced by India. How can technology be used to address these challenges? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2018) (150 words/10 m)

7. India’s rise in Global South marks a pivotal point, says IAF Chief.

Topic: GS2 – International Relations

UPSC Significance: Understanding IAF’s role in fostering military cooperation contributes to aspirants’ knowledge of national security, foreign relations, and global strategic partnerships.

Context:
  • ACM V. R. Chaudhari advocates increased military cooperation with Global South nations, emphasizing IAF’s role as a catalyst.
  • Training initiatives and human resource development crucial for shared security challenges.

India’s Rise as a Leader for the Global South:

Historical Role and Emerging Power:

  • Shared history and struggles:India’s experience with colonialism and development resonates with many nations in the Global South.
  • Economic growth and global influence:India’s rising economic and military power grants it a stronger voice on the international stage.

Championing South-South Cooperation:

  • Development assistance and technical expertise:Sharing India’s experience in areas like agriculture, healthcare, and IT through various initiatives.
  • Promoting trade and investment:Leading efforts to build regional trade blocs and advocating for fairer global trade deals.

Global Governance and Multilateral Reform:

  • Pushing for equitable representation:Advocating for reforms in international institutions like the UN to reflect the interests of the Global South.
  • Championing climate action and sustainable development:Leading initiatives to combat climate change and promote sustainable practices.

 Challenges and the Path Forward:

  • Balancing domestic priorities:Aligning global leadership role with domestic development needs and challenges.
  • Building consensus and navigating diverse interests:Ensuring cooperation and unity among various countries within the Global South.
  • Strengthening soft power and cultural influence:Projecting India’s rich culture and values alongside its economic and political contributions.

Conclusion:

  • India’s rise as a leader for the Global South presents both opportunities and challenges.
  • By leveraging its strengths, advocating for shared interests, and building bridges, India can play a crucial role in shaping a more just and equitable world order.

8. ‘Economic scenario turning benign’

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy UPSC Significance: Understanding MPC discussions on inflation and growth aids aspirants in economic policy comprehension, vital for governance and economy-related questions
Context:
  • RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee minutes reveal concerns over inflation, emphasizing the need for a restrictive policy to balance growth. Members caution against inflation vulnerabilities, emphasizing cautious monetary policy measures.
Key Concerns:
  • MPC members, as per the released minutes, express concerns over containing inflation and reviving economic growth.
Economic Environment:
  • MPC member Jayant Varma notes a more favorable economic environment but underscores the need for a restrictive monetary policy to balance inflation and robust growth.
Monetary Policy Challenges:
  • Varma highlights two requirements: maintaining a restrictive monetary policy for inflation targeting and preventing excessive real interest rates as inflation decreases.
Inflation Projection:
  • Current projections suggest inflation below 4.75% in the next two to four quarters.
  • Real interest rates, at 6.75%, are seen as more than 2%, indicating the need for caution.
Inflation Vulnerabilities:
  • Deputy Governor Michael D. Patra underscores inflation vulnerability to food price spikes, leading to persistent price pressures.
Consumer Sentiment:
  • Consumers express increased uncertainty about inflation three months ahead, revealing more pessimism about inflation a year ahead.
RBI Governor’s Outlook:
  • Governor Shaktikanta Das acknowledges a receding trend in food inflation but highlights its elevation.
  • Overall inflation outlook clouded by volatile food prices and intermittent weather shocks.
Monetary Policy Stance:
  • MPC members, including RBI Governor Das, stress the need for a high-alert restrictive monetary policy stance given prevailing economic uncertainties.

Monetary Policy Committee

  • Role: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is a crucial decision-making body for monetary policy in India.
  • Composition: The MPC consists of six members, with three nominated by the government and three from the RBI, including the Governor.
  • Objective: The primary goal is maintaining price stability while supporting economic growth.
  • Meetings: The committee meets every two months to assess economic conditions and decide on key policy rates, such as the repo rate.
  • Transparency: The RBI follows a transparent approach, releasing meeting minutes and providing forward guidance, fostering communication with the public and markets.
  • Impact: MPC decisions influence interest rates, inflation, and economic activities in India.

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