Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 13th December 2023


National News 

1.India's Jal Shakti Ministry launches 'Global River Cities Alliance' at Dubai COP28 

  • The Global River Cities Alliance (GRCA) was launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference-COP28, Dubai, UAE under the leadership of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India. 
  • GRCA is a unique alliance covering 275+ global river-cities from 11 countries, international funding agencies and knowledge management partners and is the first of its kind in the world. 
  • India, Egypt, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ghana, Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, Japan, and the Netherlands are represented in knowledge management institutions such as The Hague river city, Adelaide from Australia, Szolnok from Hungary, and international funding agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and KPMG. During this, Union Minister for Jal Shakti, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat highlighted the recent Memorandum of Cooperation (MoCP) signed between Namami Gange and Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI). 
  • River Cities Alliance/River-City Coalition (RCA) Launched in November 2021 with 30 member cities, RCA is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs(MoHUA), which aims to connect river cities and focus on sustainable river centric development. The alliance focuses on three broad themes –networking, capacity building and technical assistance. 
  • At present, 143 cities of India including Aarhus city of Denmark have been included in it. 
  • It is being implemented by the National Council for River Ganga Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management also known as the National Ganga Council. The Mission was established as a registered society on 12 August 2011 

2.An anti-terror law and its interference with liberty 

  • Judgement on November 17, 2023 by the Division Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court cleared the last hurdle for the release of journalist Fahad Shah. Mr. Shah, who had been granted bail in three cases already and had also seen preventive detention orders against him quashed, was in custody because of allegations in Case FIR No.1/2022 P.S. JIC/SIA Jammu. Charges had been framed by the trial court in the case earlier this year, and he was standing trial for various offences under the Penal Code and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010, as well as offences punishable under Sections 13 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 1967. The High Court, in its November 17 judgement, has not only granted Mr. Shah ball but also partially set aside the order framing charge, as it has found no grounds to charge him for any offences other than Section 13 of the UAPA, and under the FCRA. While doing so, the High Court made notable observations on the interpretation and application of UAPA, India's primary anti-terror statute, in matters of personal liberty. 
  • The use of UAPA to arrest and detain individuals in fact situations that are either entirely unconnected to actual incidents of violence, or individuals tangentially connected with such incidents, has been well-documented. There are important legal reasons for this choice; the text of terrorism offences under UAPA is rather vague, and when read together with the preparatory offence of Section 18, allows the statute to cast an unimaginably wide net to label seemingly innocent acts such as hosting an article online as a preparatory or conspiratorial act to commit terror. 
  • Together with the catch-all nature of the offence, there are the procedural recalibrations of the ordinary rules of the game brought about by UAPA. The latter is most apparent in Section 43-D(5) of UAPA, which places an embargo on courts from granting bail if they find that the police materials establish the accusations as 'prime facie true'. These twin features of the UAPA regime were what contributed to Mr. Shah's arrest and continued detention. In its judgement, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir offered a timely reminder to other courts and law enforcement agencies that the vast interference with liberty permitted under the anti-terror law requires greater, not lesser, circumspection in its enforcement. On matters of substantive law, Mr. Shah's counsel had argued that the charges under Section 18 were legally unsustainable as the State had not linked his act of publishing an article with terrorist acts punished under the law. To which, the government sought to argue that publication of the article was an act of terror, as it sought to harm 'property' in the form of India's reputation. The High Court ruled that to agree with the government would flip criminal law on its head by creating an altogether new offence- treating allegations of defaming the country as terrorism seemed like a bridge just too far to cross. 
  • On matters of arrest and detention, the High Court placed before itself an important question: does Section 43-D(5) mathematically deny bail in every case allegations are 'prima facie true? To answer this, it juxtaposes the image of a bomber, an active threat, with that of a shepherd who has been forced to divulge information or finances. While both commit different offences under UAPA, attracting Section 43-D(5), to suggest that the second should be treated on a par with the first outrages all notions of common sense. According to the High Court, provisions such as Section 43-D(5) were meant to prevent the easy release of persons such as the imaginary bomber, and could not become insurmountable obstacles preventing the release of persons such as the shepherd. Ultimately, the High Court held, both the law enforcement agency as well as the court must apply their mind before exercising their powers of arrest and sanctifying further detention, to ensure that only in cases where a 'clear and present danger' is evinced are persons taken into custody. 
  • Has the High Court in Fahad Shah's case delivered findings that may revolutionise the workings of UAPA? I would argue that it has not. To conclude that the anti-terror law did not extend as far as to punish alleged defamation of the country was not a radical finding. Similarly, arguments on proportionality by Invoking a 'clear and present danger' test to restrict arrests are not novel, as the High Court itself acknowledges the role of prior judicial decisions such as Joginder Kumar on this point. 
  • What about compensation or damages for wrongful arrest and confinement? What about accountability of the state to redress the years that the accused would never reclaim? Fahad Shah's case offers nothing on these points of note. Perhaps such ideas are still too far off to fathom in a legal regime where courts are deciding whether a statutory rule can oust the fundamental right to life and liberty altogether. 
  • Deprivations of liberty For better or for worse, the Indian state has witnessed a penchant for arbitrary deprivations of liberty since its founding, unwillingly equipping its courts with enough means to try and secure the promise of liberty. Using UAPA to present the alleged defamation of the country as an act of terror to justify the arrest and prolonged detention of a person is only a footnote in that long, rather undistinguished history. What the Judgement in Fahad Shah reminds us, as did the Supreme Court of India's decision in Vernon Gonsalves some months ago, is that there is no need for revolutionary turns by courts to secure personal liberty in the face of oppressive laws and their enforcement. The path to hold the state accountable can be easily chartered by those willing to do so. All it takes is a commitment to the underlying logic of state action being accountable to questions. At the same time, there is also the path of comparably lesser resistance for agencies and courts, where the official version is accepted without questions. The High Court, in Fahad Shah's case, reminds the powers-that be, that only the former course of action is blessed by the Constitution. 

3.Biden unlikely to visit India for R-Day 

  • India has put off plans to hold the Quad Summit in January, said government sources, in an indication that U.S. President Joseph Biden has declined the invitation to visit India as chief guest at the Republic Day parade as well. 
  • The invitation to Mr. Biden had been revealed by the U.S. Ambassador Eric Garcetti, who said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited Mr. Biden for the parade during their meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Delhi in September, 
  • Asked whether the Quad postponement meant that the U.S. President would also miss Republic Day, officials pointed out that it would be unlikely for Mr. Biden to travel twice to India in an election year. 
  • While the dates for the Quad Summit of the leaders of India, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. had never been publicly announced, The Hindu had learnt from diplomatic sources that New Delhi had proposed to hold the summit on January 27. 
  • The government sources said the Quad Summit, which India is due to host for the first time in 2024, will now be held "later in 2024". "We are looking for revised dates as the dates currently under consideration do not work with all the Quad partners," said the sources who were aware of the planning. 
  • A senior official said the U.S. had expressed difficulties with scheduling Mr. Biden's visit in January given the Congressional schedule, as well as plans to hold the State of the Union address. Mr. Biden is the third U.S. President to have been invited to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in the past decade. However, only U.S. President Barack Obama was able to attend in 2015, while U.S. President Donald Trump had declined attending the parade in 2020, owing to Congressional commitments. 
  • On the Quad Summit, the U.S. State Department indicated that the ball was in New Delhi's court. "We defer to India, as hosts of the next Quad Summit, on any announcements of a date or location," a State Department spokesperson told The Hindu on Tuesday. The Hindu also reached out to the White House for a comment on whether Mr. Biden would attend R-Day celebrations. 
  • For Japan and Australia too, the timing of the Quad Summit had earlier posed some issues, as January 26 is Australian National Day and Prime Minister Antony Albanese would have had to leave Canberra directly after the ceremonies, and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida would have needed a special parliamentary waiver to travel, as the Japanese Diet would be in its Budget session at the time. 
  • While officials have been clear that scheduling difficulties are behind the reason for the Quad meeting and Mr. Biden's visit being put off, the announcement comes at an awkward time in Indo-U.S. relations, as it comes days after the indictment in New York of an Indian national in an assassination plot allegedly directed by a senior Indian intelligence official against wanted Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singl Pannun. 

4.India's extreme rainfall 'corridor’ 

  • The Indian monsoon has well-known features, such as the onset of the monsoon, the withdrawal, the active and break periods, and the low-pressure systems (or monsoon depressions). Every aspect of the monsoon has been affected by global warming. The total seasonal rainfall has also trended downwards for more than seven decades, due to the differential heating of the land versus the ocean due to global warming. However, this trend has been distributed unevenly through the monsoon season-as manifest in the longer duration but lower intensity of dry spells and the greater intensity of wet spells. While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has made progress in forecasting extremes, multiple factors can combine to still produce devastating heavy rain events that remain hard to anticipate. 
  • Where does extreme rain occur? India's monsoon forecasts rely heavily on its relation to the El Niño and the La Niña phenomena, although this relation holds only about 60% of the time. We also know of other global relations but translating them to better predictions requires careful modelling experiments. 
  • Researchers are also continuing to search for additional process understanding. especially for high-impact extreme rainfall events. A new study (of which the author was part) has found that despite all these seemingly disparate changes in different aspects of the monsoon dynamics, a remarkable stationary element exists in terms of where the synchronised extreme rainfall events occur. 
  • The so-called large-scale extreme rainfall events are actually simultaneous or near-simultaneous heavy rain episodes that are strewn across a 'highway' that extends from parts of West Bengal and Odisha to parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. The most remarkable new finding is that this corridor has remained unchanged from 1901 to 2019. In the seemingly chaotic change in all aspects of the monsoon, such a trapping of the extreme events to a relatively narrow corridor is good news for potential improvements in process understanding, which is bound to lead to better predictions of these synchronised extreme rainfall events. 
  • What does this mean for the monsoon's stability? Traditional statistical methods tend to miss the complex relations between multiple nodes of rainfall centres. Rainfall data from the IMD at a 25-km scale in latitude and longitude offers a rich field over which sophisticated network analysis can be applied to extract the nodes that have highest synchronicity in rainfall with other nodes near and far. This analysis applied in this study found that the most active nodes have followed this highway for more than a century. The link lengths between nodes, or the scales of synchronicity, have remained nearly constant, at an average value of about 200 km. 
  • We can use a popcorn and kettle analogy here to understand this better. Central India is the kettle that warms up from the pre-monsoon into the monsoon.. The monsoon rainfall systems are like kernels of corn popping randomly across the kettle, But it turns out that the kernels are popping in a synchronous dance, In an indication that large groups of popcorn are jumping up at the same time. 
  • An analysis of winds and other circulation features indicate that the monsoon domain has been unique in remaining fairly stable for the formation of these extremes despite the various kicks from all tropical oceans and from pole-to-pole. 
  • Some researchers have said that stationary elements no longer exist in climate systems because of global warming. Yet the Indian monsoon continues to produce surprises in the way it is able to synchronise heavy rain events well and stick to the 'highway' for such a long time. This is also the corridor for the monsoon depressions, which themselves have shown an increase at the 3to10-day timescales while decreasing at lower frequencies of 10-60 days. These changes are manifest in the active and break periods, as stated above. The main candidate for the geographic trapping of synchronised extreme rainfall is likely to be the range of mountains running along the west coast and across Central al India. This hypothesis needs to be tested in models, but its implications for improving forecasts of such events are undeniable. The finding also suggests that, in order to Improve forecasts, increasing the model resolution and the computational cost may not be necessary. Instead, the focus can be on the dynamics of synchronisation. 
  • The potential for reducing risk at the smaller scale from these large-scale extreme rainfall events, for agriculture, water, energy, transportation, health, etc., is also alluring. Fortunately, India is in a solid position vis-à-vis its modelling capacity and computational resources to fully exploit this potential. 
  • Raghu Murtugudde is a professor at IIT Bombay and an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland, 

5.India Joins UN's 'Race To Resilience' At COP28 

  • India has taken a significant step towards addressing the challenges posed by climate change by joining the United Nations' 'Race to Resilience' global campaign. This decision, announced during the recently concluded COP28 event in Dubai, reflects India's commitment to building climate resilience in its urban areas. 
  • The Climate Centre for Cities (C-Cube) at NIUA, an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, will play a pivotal role in spearheading India's. 

International News 

6.Highly-skilled workforce makes T.N. an attractive investment destination: diplomats 

  • Consul General of the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Japan on Tuesday underlined that Tamil Nadu's sustainable development, skilled and trained workforce, and, of course, the Inuge market opportunities makes it an attractive investment destination in India Az a panel discussion on 'Destination TVN A Perspective From the Consul Generals' as part of the Tamil Unlimited summit organised by The Hindu, in association with Guidance Tamil Nadu, the United States (US) Consul-General in Chennai, Christopher W. Hodges said TamilNadu has big advantages in the American context. 
  • "I want to highlight the strengths and areas for potential further growth. Elite institutions in Tamil Nadu, such as IIT-Madras and Anna University, have enjoyed partnerships with US universities, but also really existed in the intersection between industry drivers for research and higher education as development," he said. "Another real strength is the huge power diaspora in the US and the work that the Tamil Nadu government as put in to leverage and mobilise the diaspora, not just to spread and solidify cultural connections but also as ambassadors for business," Mr. Hodges attack. 
  • At the session moderated by Suresh Seshadri, Business Editor, The Hindu, General of Japan in Chennai, said he was impressed with the response of the Tamil Nadu government and the medical system in Chennai and the rest of the State to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • "Since I joined the mission here in June 2020, during the COVID-19 pan's demise I was very much impressed by the response of the government and the medical system. Compared to New Delhi and Bengaluru, the situation in Chennai and Tamil Nadu was comparatively better. That is one important thing Japanese companies think about when searching for a destination for their investments," he said. Manufacturing companies choose TamilNadu due to its economic performance. India has a huge advantage because of its huge market. This was mainly in the automobile sector, Mr. Masayuki said, citing the case of Nissan. 

7.India Backs Urgent Ceasefire In Israel-Gaza Conflict 

  • India voted in favour of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict and unconditional release of hostages. 
  • The 193-member UNGA adopted the resolution introduced by Egypt in an Emergency Special Session. The resolution garnered 153 votes in favour, with 23 nations abstaining and 10 voting against. 
  • Sponsored by several nations, including Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Palestine, the resolution demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. 
  • It reiterates the obligation for all parties to comply with international law, particularly regarding the protection of civilians. The resolution also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensures humanitarian access. 

8.Gene therapy offer's new hope for those with sickle cell disease 

  • with sickle cell disease less than a month after the UK drug regulator approved Cash Levy, the gene therapy to treat people above 12 with sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, the U.S. FDA has approved two gene therapies Chevy and Lugenia to treat sickle cell disease in patients over 12. Its decision on approving Casey gene therapy for treating beta thalassemia is expected by March 2024. 
  • These landmark decisions mark the beginning of gene therapy using the CRISPR-Cas9 tool to treat diseases that could otherwise be cured only through bone marrow transplantation. While Lyfgenia uses a disabled lentivirus as a vector to introduce into the blood stem cells a new gene for haemoglobin that mimics the healthy version, Cassava uses the gene-editing tool of CRISPR-Cas9 to disable a particular gene (BCLIIA) that turns off foetal haemoglobin production in blood stem cells. While about 10% of adults continue to produce foetal haemoglobin, in others, the BCLIIA gene prevents the production of foetal haemoglobin. 
  • By disabling the BCLIIA gene, foetal haemoglobin that is produced, which does not have the abnormalities of adult haemoglobin, helps treat patients with sickle-cell disease or beta thalassaemia. In clinical trials, 28 of 29 sickle-cell disease patients who received Casgevy gene therapy were relieved of the debilitating effects of the disease for a year; for beta thalassaemia, 39 of 42 patients did not re- quire blood transfusion for one year, and in the remaining three the need for blood transfusion reduced by more than 70%. 
  • In the case of clinical trials involving Lyf Genia, 30 of 32 sickle cell disease patients did not suffer from severe blocked blood flow caused by sickle cells, while 28 of 32 patients did not experience any blocked blood flow events six to 18 months post-infusion. Since both gene therapies use patients' own blood cells for gene editing, the number of patients who can potentially be treated will be huge as these treatments do not rely on matching bone marrow donors. But in reality, these treatments would be exorbitantly expensive. 
  • Also, much like bone marrow transplantation, only certain hospitals will be equipped to extract a patient's blood stem cells and use the genetic editing tool to the stem cells before reinjecting them, thus limiting the number of beneficiaries. With clinical trials evaluating the therapies in a very small number of patients and for shorter duration, the compulsion to continuously monitor their safety and efficacy through real world data cannot be overemphasised: the possibility of unintended genetic modifications and their resultant side effects are real when the CRISPR-Cas9 tool is used. 

9.Deadlock at COP-28 climate talks forces negotiations into 'overtime’ 

  • With countries unable to resolve differences in language over what the final version of the Dubai COP-28 agreement should look like, deliberations are likely to extend into Wednesday. Officially, COP-28 should have concluded at 12:30 p.m. IST on Tuesday. 
  • COP Director General Majid Al Suwaidi said that the COP team was facing "the most demanding agenda of all time." On the state of deliberations he said: "We need to keep 1.5°C within reach, that is our North Star...part of this is to include language on fossil fuels in the text." He added that "...Parties (delegations) have deeply held and deeply split views....especially the language around fossil fuels." 
  • 1.5°C refers to an increase in the average global temperature that science now considers the upper ceiling to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. 
  • The latest version of the Global Stocktake text, which was made public on Monday, did not carry a reference to 'phasing out fossil fuel. It also had stronger language on coal with a recommendation to "rapidly phase down unabated coal," that runs afoul of positions held by countries such as India, Indonesia and China major consumers of coal power and developing countries at that. 

Business News 

10.Poonawala Housing Finance Becomes Grim Housing Finance 

  • In a strategic move following its acquisition by TPG Capital Asia, Poonawalla Housing Finance has undergone a significant rebranding, emerging with a new identity Housing Finance. 
  • This transformation comes as TPG Capital Asia acquired a substantial 99.02% equity stake in the company from Poonawalla Fincorp earlier this year. The new name, Grihum, is a fusion of 'Grih' (home) and 'Hum' (togetherness), reflecting the company's commitment to fostering collaboration and unity. 
  • Grihum Housing Finance is dedicated to creating the cherished space of a 'Dream Home' for its customers, a significant portion of whom are self-made individuals and micro-entrepreneurs in semi-urban, peri-urban, and rural regions, constituting 62% of the business from the self- employed informal sector. 

11.Industries should involve themselves in education in a big way, says official 

  • Industries should come forward to participate in a big way in education, with the Tamil Nadu government opening the campuses of educational institutions for industry participation through its flagship 'Naan Mudhalvan' scheme, said J. Innocent Divya, Managing Director (MD), Tamil Nadu Skill Development Corporation (TNSDC), on Tuesday. 
  • Speaking at the Tamil Nadu Unlimited summit, she said the State government, through the scheme, was trying to bridge the gap, which had existed between academia and industry for many decades and had only widened in recent years due to tremendous growth in technology. 
  • In a panel discussion on Expanding Education Landscape of Tamil Nadu, moderated by D. Suresh Kumar, Deputy Resident Editor, Tamil Nadu, The Hindu, said the government was going to different industrial sectors once in six months to get their feedback on the curriculum and revised them accordingly. 
  • V. Kamakoti, Director, Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M), said while TamilNadu could reJoice because of its highest Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of around 50%, it should not relax. The State should target a 100% GET to ensure that every child completed at least an undergraduate degree. 
  • He highlighted the measures of IIT-M and the Tamil Nadu government to get more students interested in pur- suing technical education. He stressed the need for investment in high-end equipment in various fields. The government should undertake an initiative to make available for researchers at least one sample of all equipment present in the top 10 departments of the top 10 educational institutions. Ramkumar Ramamoorthy, partner of Catalincs, and former Chairman, spoke on the role industry could play in driving research in educational institutions.
  • Highlighting that of around 450 private un- iversities in the country "only two" (top level) are The State must target a 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio to ensure that every child completed at least an undergraduate degree V. KAMAKOTI Director, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, present in Tamil Nadu, he said there was a need to allow corporations to participate in higher education in a meaningful way. With technology becoming more distributed and talent available across Tamil Nadu post-COVID-19, he said there was a huge op- portunity for industries to have their physical presence in educational institutions.
  • On the craze for professional courses, he said there was a need to highlight the success stories of people who studied humanities and went on to become top leaders in renowned companies. Kalpathi S. Suresh, Executive Director and Chairman, Veranda Learning Solutions, said while there was accelerated demand for online education during COVID-19, the demand had significantly reduced now. 
  • He, however, said the situation would move towards a new normal of hybrid education in certain areas. According to him, there was a perception among parents, students, and, surprisingly, in the in- dustry that the quality of offline education was better than online education. Expressing concern that some companies were filtering out candidates who studied online courses during recruitment, Mr. Suresh said this perception needed to be corrected. 

Economy News 

12.India And Oman Fast-Track Free Trade Agreement Negotiations In Boost To Economic Ties 

  • A team of officials from India's Department of Commerce is currently in Muscat, engaged in negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement A team of officials from India's Department of Commerce is currently in Muscat, engaged in negotiations for a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) with Oman. The department has set an internal deadline to finalise the deal by the end of the month. 
  • This development gains significance as negotiations between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have faced obstacles, particularly with Saudi Arabia, delaying progress for over a year. If successful, Oman would become the second GCC member, after the UAE, to sign an FTA with India. 
  • Oman currently stands as India's 29th largest trading partner, with bilateral trade showing robust growth. From $3.15 billion in FY22, trade has surged to $4.48 billion during FY23, marking a substantial 42% YoY increase. 

13.Nine States Exceed National Inflation Average In November 

  • In November, nine states in India experienced a higher rate of inflation compared to the national average, according to recent data. The average cost of living for Indian consumers rose by 5.55% compared to the same period last year. 
  • States with higher inflation rates are: Odisha led the pack with the highest inflation at 7.65%. Rajasthan followed closely with an inflation rate of 7%. Haryana recorded a significant increase of 6.8%. 
  • Other States Above National Average are Bihar, Karnataka, Punjab, Telangana, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh also witnessed inflation rates exceeding the national average, ranging from 5.56% to 6.54%. 
  • Delhi, Chhattisgarh, and the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir reported milder increases in prices, with inflation rates of 3.1%, 3.56%, and 3.8%, respectively. 

14.Retail inflation rises to 5.55% in November 

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which had warned last week of a spike in inflation in November due to hardening prices of some vegetables, expects inflation to average 5.6% between October and December. This implies that price rise may accelerate to around 6.4% in the current month.
  • Among food items, cereals inflation remained in double digits at 10.3% from 10.7% in October, while meat and fish inflation eased from 3.3% to 2.15% in November. There was some relief in milk inflation (down from 6.44% to 5.75%) and egg prices, which grew 5.9% compared to 9.3% in October, but other food items offset these moderations. 
  • The price surge in pulses hardened to 20.23% from 18.8% in October, vegetables inflation hit 17.7% from just 2.7% in the previous month, and fruit prices were up almost 11% in November from 9.3% a month earlier.
  • Most non-food prices rose at a milder pace than October, including clothing and footwear (up 3.9%), education (5.01%), healthcare (5.51%), household goods and services (3.56%), and housing (3.55%). 
  • Among the 22 major States that the National Statistical Office computes inflation rates for, Odisha recorded the highest inflation at 7.65% in November, followed by Rajasthan at 7%, and Haryana with 6.8%. 
  • The inflation rate was above the central bank's tolerance threshold of 6% in eight States, including Gujarat, Bihar, Punjab, Karnataka and Telangana. Uttar Pradesh, with a 5.56% inflation, was the only other major State to witness higher inflation than the national average of 5.55%. 
  • ICRA chief economist Aditi Nayar pointed out that cereals and spices had now persisted in double-digit inflation for the 15th and 18th consecutive months, respectively. The silver lining, she said, was that core inflation (excluding food and energy prices), had eased to 4.2% in November, the lowest so far in the post-pandemic period.

15.Base effects boosted IIP growth to 11.7% in October 

  • India's factory output grew at a 16-month high rate of 11.7% in October, recovering from a three-month low rate of 5.8% in September, thanks to base effects from last year when output had dropped 4.1%. Manufacturing output grew 10.4%, as opposed to a 5.8% contraction in October 2022, but was merely 0.4% over this September. 19 of 23 manufacturing sectors grew in October. 
  • IIP growth witnessed a bounce in October but many segments experienced slow to no growth from September 19 of 23 manufacturing sectors grew in Oct. and four of six segments on enduse basis saw double digit growth 
  • Capital goods and consumer durables logged strong growth but after a sizeable contraction in the year earlier Consumer durables and non durables lagged their 2021 levels when the festive season had a similar onset 
  • On an end-use basis, all six segments grew in October, with double-digit growth in four sectors-capital goods Capital goods and consumer durables had contracted 2.9% and 18.9% a year earlier, and their output levels this October were 5.1% and 1.4% below September 2023, respectively. 
  • Consumer non-durables' production was up 8.6%, compared to a 13% contraction last October. 
  • "The index values for consumer durables and nondurables in October lagged their 2021 levels, when the festive season had a similar onset," said Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA. 
  • (22.6%), consumer durables (15.9%), primary goods (11.4%) and construction goods (11.3%). 

16.Lok Sabha Approves Additional Spending Of ₹58,378 Crore In Current Fiscal 

  • In a recent development, the Lok Sabha has given its approval for a net additional spending of ₹58,378 crore in the ongoing fiscal year, set to conclude in March 2024. 
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted the government's commitment to fiscal prudence while maintaining a focus on social welfare programs. 
  • The gross additional spending sought by the government amounted to over 1.29 The gross additional spending sought by the government amounted to over 1.29 lakh crore, with a significant portion allocated to key areas. Notably, ₹13,351 crore has been earmarked for the fertiliser subsidy, demonstrating the government's support for the agricultural sector. Additionally, about ₹7,000 crore is allocated for spending by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, emphasizing the importance of food security measures. 

Schemes and Committee News 

17.India Launches Forest Certification Scheme For Sustainable Management: Key Highlights 

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has introduced the Indian Forest & Wood Certification Scheme. This voluntary national certification initiative aims to encourage sustainable forest management and agroforestry practices in India. 
  • The scheme encompasses forest management certification, tree outside forest management certification, and chain of custody certification. The Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal, will serve as the scheme's operating agency, managing implementation.
  • Indian Forest and Wood Certification Council will oversee the scheme, acting as a multistakeholder advisory body. The National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies under the Quality Council of India will accredited certification bodies. These bodies will conduct independent audits to assess adherence to prescribed standards. 

Appointment News 

18.K.S. Reddy Appointed Hyderabad Commissioner Of Police 

  • In a significant move towards ensuring clean governance, Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy has appointed seasoned police officials to spearhead the Hyderabad and commissionerates. Cyberabad police 
  • Kothakota Srinivas Reddy, a distinguished officer with a track record of effective leadership, is set to assume the role of Hyderabad Police Commissioner. Avinash Mohanty, a seasoned officer from the 2005 batch, is appointed as the Cyberabad Police Commissioner. 
  • G. Sudheer Babu, a 2001 IPS officer, is the new Rachakonda Police Commissioner, succeeding D.S. Chauhan. 
  • With experience G. Sudheer Babu, a 2001 IPS officer, is the new Rachakonda Police Commissioner, succeeding D.S. Chauhan. With experience as additional police commissioner, traffic, Hyderabad, and roles in Warangal, Sudheer Babu has a proven record of enhancing policing standards, exemplified by his impactful stint as DCP Task Force in Hyderabad City. 

19.Rajya Sabha passes Bill for appointment of CEC, ECs

  • The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, which will guide the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commissioners (ECS) in future. 
  • Denying the Opposition's charges that the Supreme Court was being kept away from the process of selecting the CEC and the ECs, Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said the Bill had been prepared following a direction from the Supreme Court. Mr. Meghwal said that so far the appointments had not been guided by any laws, and the Bill made the process transparent. 
  • The Law Minister said the 1991 Act did not have a clause related to the appointment of the CEC and ECs. He said the names of the commissioners had so far been decided by the government, and from now on, a search-and-selection committee would look over the process. 
  • "A clause related to protection from initiation of legal proceedings against the CEC and ECs for actions taken while carrying out their duties has also been introduced through the Bill," he said. 
  • Apparently accepting suggestions from former CECS, the Centre was Rejected by the House. 
  • Opposition questioned the Intention of the Centre. Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala, who initiated the debate, said the Bill violated the Constitution. 
  • "It completely negates and subjugates the Election Commission to the authority of the Executive and it does away willingly, maliciously the judgement of the Supreme Court, and that is why this law is per se like a stillborn child," he said. 
  • The Opposition wanted to send the Bill to a select panel but this was rejected by the House two amendments, bringing the protocol of the CEC and ECs on a par with Supreme Court judges, with similar salaries and emoluments. 
  • The Opposition wanted to send the Bill to a select committee, but this was released. 
  • "An independent appointment mechanism would guarantee eschewing of even the prospect of bias... this is what this government is afraid of. I am saying it with a sense of responsibility, for they don't want an independent Election Commission, CEC and EC. They want a pocket borough," Mr. Surjewala said, adding that the process was arbitrary, the intent was malicious, and the result was disastrous. "That is what is going to happen," he said. 

Important Day News 

20.National Energy Conservation Day 

  • National Energy Conservation Day is observed in India on December 14 every year to celebrate the country's strides in energy efficiency and conservation. It is an opportunity for individuals, communities, businesses, institutions, and governments to reflect on their roles in contributing to energy conservation through embracing various energy-efficient practices. 
  • As of now, the government has not released the theme for National Energy. As of now, the government has not released the theme for National Energy Conservation Day 2023. National Energy Conservation Day aims to raise awareness about global warming, climate change, and encourage initiatives to conserve energy resources. It also serves as a platform to celebrate India's achievements in energy efficiency and conservation. 

Award News 

21.Dr. Atul Shah's Game-Changing Innovation For Leprosy Care Earns Global Recognition 

  • Dr. Atul Shah's Game-Changing Innovation for Leprosy Care Earns Global Recognition 
  • Dr. Atul Shah, a plastic surgeon, has been honoured with the 2023 REACH Game Changing Innovator award for his groundbreaking contribution to leprosy Three decades ago, Dr. Shah devised a simple surgery technique, 'One in Four Lasso, to address deformities in leprosy patients. His journey took a transformative turn when he observed the challenges of managing unhealed foot wounds. 
  • Dr. Shah designed a 'self-care kit' to empower leprosy patients in managing foot ulcers, a common issue. Since 2007, the kit has been part of India's National Leprosy Eradication Programme, benefitting over 80,000 individuals. 

22.Javed Akhtar To Receive Padmapani Lifetime Achievement Award At Ajanta- Ellora Film Festival 

  • The veteran lyricist-screenwriter Javed Akhtar is set to be honoured with the Padmapani Lifetime Achievement Award at the upcoming Ajanta-Ellora Film Festival. 
  • This recognition celebrates his remarkable contributions to the Indian film industry, including iconic works like 'Zanjeer, 'Deewar, 'Sholay,' 'Don' 'Kala Patthar, and 'Mr India.' 
  • The award ceremony will take place on January 3, 2024, marking the opening day of the ninth edition of the festival. The Padmapani Award, which includes a memento, a certificate, and a monetary award of Rs 2 lakh, will be presented to Javed Akhtar by the Ajantha-Ellora Film Festival Organizing Committee Chairman Nandkishore Kagliwal and Chief Guide Ankushrao Kadam. 

23.Ban Ki-Moon Honoured With 2023 Diwali 'Power Of One' Award At UN 

  • Former UN Secretary-General Ban Kimoon, along with three distinguished diplomats, was honoured at the annual 'Diwali Power of One Awards! This prestigious ceremony, often hailed as the 'Oscars of Diplomacy,' celebrated their selfless contributions to shaping a more perfect, peaceful, and secure world. 
  • Hailed as the 'Oscars of Diplomacy, these awards aim to recognize former Permanent Representatives and high-level members of the UN who have selflessly worked towards creating a more perfect, peaceful, and secure world. 
  • The other distinguished awardees for the year 2023 included Ambassador Mirsada Colakovic, Ambassador Kim Sook, and Miroslav Lajcak. Their invaluable contributions were acknowledged at a special ceremony held at the UN Headquarters, marking their commitment to global peace and development. 

Science and Technology News 

23.China, Egypt Jointly Launch Satellite MisrSat-2 

  • China and Egypt have achieved a significant breakthrough in their collaborative efforts with the successful launch of the Mist Sat-2 satellite. 
  • Developed and assembled jointly by the two nations, this marks a pivotal moment in their burgeoning space partnership. The satellite, assembled in Egypt with Chinese support, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, utilising the Long March-2C carrier rocket. 
  • The Mist Sat-2 project, valued at $72 million, originated from a 2019 agreement between the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA) and the China National Space Administration. Notably, this initiative positioned Egypt as the first African country with satellite assembly and testing capabilities. 

24.China successfully launches satellites for the first time in the world with methane-powered rocket 'Zhuque-2 Y-3 

  • Chinese private company Landscape became the first methane-powered rocket to successfully launch three satellites into space with a methane-liquid oxygen rocket 'Zhuque-2 Y-3' from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's Gansu province on December 9, 2023 Is. 
  • Zhuke-2 Y-3, the third landscape test rocket under the Zhuke-2 mission. Methane-liquid oxygen rockets are considered to be less polluting, safe, cheap and suitable propellant for reusable rockets. 
  • Earlier, Chinese company Landscape had become the world's first company to successfully launch a methane-liquid oxygen rocket in the second attempt, without satellites, in July 2023, ahead of US rivals including Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin. 
  • Landscape said the three satellites reached a 460-km (285-mile) sun-synchronous orbit, without giving details about their type and overall weight. 
  • The Beijing-based company said Zhuke-2 is capable of placing a total of 1.5 metric tons of payload into a 500 km (300 mi) orbit, which Landscape plans to increase to 4 tons in advanced versions. 
  • Chinese commercial space companies have increasingly moved into the sector since 2014, when the government allowed private investment in the industry. Landscape said it plans to deliver about three launches to customers in 2024 and double that in 2025. 
  • Other Chinese startups such as Orienspace and Galactic Energy have also launched or placed satellites in orbit in the coming months. 

Ranks and Reports 

25.74% Indians could not afford healthy diet in 2021: report 

  • More than 3 of Indians could not afford a healthy diet in 2021, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday. 
  • In 2020, the percentage was 76.2 
  • In Pakistan, the figure was 82.2% and in Bangla desh, 66.1% of the popula tion faced difficulties in finding healthy food. 
  • Rising food costs, if not matched by rising income, would lead to more people being unable to afford a healthy diet, the report, "Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutri- tion 2023: Statistics and Trends", said. 
  • "If food costs rise at the same time incomes fall, a compounding effect occurs that can result in even more people unable to af ford healthy diets," it said. 
  • The FAO report is a glimpse of the progress in meeting Sustainable Development Goals and World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets. It said that during the pan- demic and the "5Fs" crisis -food, feed, fuel, fertilizer, and finance the Asia Pacific region witnessed har- rowing statistics. 
  • "Even to date, the re- gion is still suffering from some protracted effects. The latest statistics indicate that the region, with 370.7 million undernour ished people, continues to represent half of the global total. Similarly, the Asia and the Pacific region ac- counts for half of the world's severe food inse curity, with more women than men being food inse- cure. Prevalence rates on stunting, wasting and overweight among children un der 5 years of age, as well 
  • Asia where the lowest prevalence of severe food in- security was observed. Compared with the world, Southern Asia had higher percentages for both mod- erate or severe and severe food insecurity since 2015," the report said. 
  • It said that 31.7% of children in India under the age of five showed stunted growth. "Stunted growth and development are the result of poor maternal health and nutrition, in- adequate infant and young child feeding practices, and repeated infections interacting with a variety of other factors over a sus tained period," it said. 
  • as anaemia among women of reproductive age, are still off the marks in terms of World Health Assembly global nutrition targets," the report said. 
  • 16% undernourished It said that 16.6% of the country's population was undernourished. "The im- pacts of undernourishment extend beyond health and nutritional well.
  • The reports said the Asia Pacific region witnessed harrowing crisis during the pandemic. 
  • The region, according to the report, had a lower prevalence of both moder ate or severe and severe food insecurity when com pared with the world pre- valence since 2015. 
  • "Southern Asia showed higher prevalence of sev ere food insecurity com- pared with the other sub- regions, and it is in Eastern being to include economic and social costs," it said. 
  • For wasting (low weight for height), India recorded the highest rate in the re- gion, with 18.7% children under five facing this major health problem. 
  • "Reducing and maintaining childhood wasting to less than 5% is the WHA global nutrition target," the report noted, adding that 2.8% of children below five were overweight, another health risk. 
  • It said that 53% of wo men aged between 15 to 49 in India had anaemia, which was the largest pre- valence rate in the region in 2019. "It (anaemia) impairs health and well-being in women and increases the risk for adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes," the report warned. It also said that 1.6% of adults in the country were obese. 
  • On exclusive breastfeeding among infants in the age group of 0-5 months, India had improved the prevalence with a percentage of 63.7%, which is higher than the world prevalence of 47.7%. India had the highest prevalence of low birth weight in the region (27.4%), followed by Bangladesh and Nepal. 

26.Myanmar Surpasses Afghanistan As World's Leading Opium Source In 2023: UN Report 

  • Myanmar has emerged as the world's largest source of opium in 2023, surpassing Afghanistan, according to a new report by the United Nations. This shift is attributed to a third consecutive year of expanding cultivation fueled by Myanmar's civil war and a significant decline in opium cultivation in Afghanistan. 
  • The shift resulted in a substantial increase in earnings for Myanmar farmers, with opium poppy farming yielding about 75% higher profits. The average price of opium poppies has risen to approximately $355 per kilogram. The cultivation area has expanded by 18% year-on-year, reaching 

Indian polity 

27.Shah introduces redrafted criminal Bills in Lok Sabha 

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday introduced three redrafted Bills in the Lok Sabha to replace the existing British-era criminal laws after withdrawing the three Bills that were introduced in August. 
  • The new Bills incorporate the changes recommended by a parliamentary committee, the Minister said. He said the reintroduced Bills had changes in only five sections. 
  • "Grammatical and language errors have been corrected. The Bills were examined at length by the standing committee and it was necessary to include the suggestions. There are no major changes. Had we continued with the old Bills, several official amendments would have had to be made, so we decided to introduce new punishment. Damage to monetary stability of India by way of Bills instead. Adequate time, 48 hours, has been given to members to study the Bills...We do not want to pass such important pieces of legislation in a hurry," Mr. Shah said. 
  • The Minister said the Bills would be taken up for discussion on Thursday. Speaker Om Birla said 12 hours would be allotted for discussion. 
  • Under the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita Bill (BNSS), 2023 that seeks to replace the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the definition of terrorist act has been expanded to include "economic security" and "damage or destruction of any property in India or in a foreign country used or intended to be used for the defence of India'', The Bill retains death penalty as caveat that an officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) shall decide whether to register the case under this Sanhita or under the UAPA. production or smuggling or circulation of counterfeit Indian paper currency, coin or of any other material has also been added as a terrorist offence. 
  • The Bill in its earlier form, which was introduced in Parliament on August 11, had for the first time defined terrorism in the general law through a specific legislation the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 already. 
  • In cases of rape, printing or publishing of any matter relating to court proceedings without per mission has been made a punishable offence with imprisonment for two years. The judgments of the High Courts and the Supreme Court have been exempted. The earlier Bill had made the publishing of names of rape victims a punishable offence. The Bill replaces "mental illness" with "unsound mind". 
  • Causing harm to the mental health of a woman has been included as a crime under Section 85 of the Bill, which pertains to cruelty by husband or the relative of the husband. The Bill for the first time defines cruelty against a woman as "any wilful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) phy of the woman; or harassment of the woman where such harassment is demand". The minimum sentence of seven years imprisonment for mob lynching has been dropped and replaced with imprisonment for life, while the maximum punishment remains death. 
  • The Bill defines a "child" as any person below the age of 18. Two other criminal codes the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 and the Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 that seek to the replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, respectively were also introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11. They will now be replaced with the Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023 and the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita Bill, 2023. 

28.Lok Sabha passes Bills for women's quota in J&K, Puducherry 

  • The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed two Bills to extend the provisions of the Constitution (106th Amendment) Act, which grants 33% reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies, to the Union Territories of Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir. The debate in the House was, however, dominated by the Supreme Court's verdict on Monday on Article 370. 
  • Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai introduced the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Second Amendment) Bill and the Government of Union Territories (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha. 
  • "Provisions for providing reservation for women in the Legislative Assembly of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are also required to be made by Parliament by amending the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019," said the Bill. The provisions for providing reservation for women in the Puducherry Assembly also need to be made by Parliament, the statement read.
  • National Conference's Hasnain Masoodi pointed out that while there was talk of representation, Jammu and Kashmir had no MLA since the last six years and that "four officers" were running the Union Territory. 

29.Indian Parliament Face Security breach 'intruders throw smoke bombs' at MPS 

  • Two unidentified individuals entered the chambers of the lower house of India's parliament, allegedly throwing smoke bombs, marking a significant security lapse. This incident occurred on the 22nd anniversary of a 2001 terrorist attack on parliament that resulted in casualties. 
  • The two people entered the area where lawmakers were seated during the zero hour, releasing smoke canisters and filling the space with yellow smoke. The two persons detained for the protest outside the Parliament are identified as-identified as Neelam (42) and Amol Shinde (25). 

Summit and confrence News 

30.Youth For Unnati And Vikas With Al (YUVAi) At GPAI Summit 2023 

  • YUVAI-Youth for Unnati and Vikas with Al," a collaborative initiative of the National e-YUVAi-Youth for Unnati and Vikas with Al," a collaborative initiative of the National e- Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, and Intel India, is poised to take center stage at the upcoming Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit. 
  • This groundbreaking program, designed to impart essential Al skills to the youth, is gaining recognition for its innovative approach and commitment to building a future-ready workforce. YUVAI is a transformative initiative aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of Al among school students from class 8 to 12 nationwide. 
  • The program's primary goal is to equip these students with essential Al skills, empowering them to become human centric designers and users of artificial intelligence. YUVAi stands as a beacon, guiding the next generation towards responsible and impactful Al usage to address societal challenges. 

31.India Postpones Quad Summit Meeting Amidst Strained Relations And Scheduling Issues. 

  • India has decided to defer the Quad summit meeting, originally scheduled for January 2024, citing scheduling conflicts for certain Quad partners. The summit involves the participation of India, Australia, the US, and Japan. 
  • Initially anticipated as the chief guest for India's Donublic Dow collaboration Initially anticipated as the chief guest for India's Republic Day celebrations, US President Joe Biden is unlikely to attend the Quad Summit due to the rescheduling. New dates for the summit in 2024 are being explored to accommodate all Quad partners. 
  • The Quad, comprising Australia, India, Japan, and the US, is a diplomatic partnership committed to fostering an open, stable, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Beyond its cooperative goals, the Quad is also viewed as a strategic effort by these nations to counterbalance China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. 

32.PM Modi Launches Al Summit At Bharat Mandapam In New Delhi 

  • The annual Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit commenced at Bharat Mandapam in New Delhi on December 12, emphasising crucial discussions on Al safety and development challenges. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his inaugural address, stressed the importance of addressing ethical, economic, and social aspects to build trust in Al. All policymakers and industry experts were engaged in discussions, covering a broad spectrum of topics. 
  • Prime Minister Modi raised critical questions about Al's impact on employment, global education curriculum, and the need for standardised Al standards. He addressed concerns related 
  • Prime Minister Modi raised critical questions about Al's impact on employment, global education curriculum, and the need for standardised Al standards. He addressed concerns related to the misuse of Al, invoking the idea of watermarking Al products to distinguish generated content. 

33.Modi kicks off global AI summit 

  • The annual Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence (GPAD) Summit kicked off in New Delhi's Bharat Mandapam on Tuesday, with discussions on Al issues like safety and development challenges. 
  • "Trust on Al will grow only when related ethical, economic and social aspects are addressed," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while inaugurating the three-day event. As many as 29 countries, from North and South America, Europe and Asia are part of the summit; China is not a member. The previous summit was held in Osaka, Japan. In 2024, India will be lead chair of the grouping. 
  • Mr. Modi also raised other pertinent issues surrounding the Al debate. "Can we establish an institutional mechanism that ensures resilient employment? Can we bring a standardised global Al education curriculum? Can we set standards to prepare people for an Al-driven future?" he asked. 
  • The Prime Minister also invoked watermarking of Al products, an apparent reference to suggestions that imagery generated by Al applications be distinguished as such. Al-generated images have been used in illicit ways such as creating 'deepface' clips of celebrities, and by firms seeking to save costs by creating photorealistic images for advertisements. 
  • Discussions throughout the day featured Al policymakers and industry officials presenting their views and expertise. Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Monday that issues related to farming and healthcare would be discussed thoroughly at the summit.
  • Mr. Modi also pointed to the dangers of terrorists getting access to Al tools, as well as the potential for increased cybersecurity and data theft incidents. He called for visibility into the algorithms that go into creating Al models. "There is no doubt that Al is transformative but it is up to us to make it more and more

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