Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 15th December 2023

National News 

1.PM Modi Unveils 7th Edition Of ‘Pariksha Pe Charcha’ 

  • The Minister of Education, Dharmendra Pradhan, has officially announced the commencement of applications for the seventh edition of Pariksha Pe Charcha. This unique initiative aims to foster student engagement and provide a platform for dialogue on various aspects of education. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to interact with participants, including parents and teachers, to address topics ranging from board exams to the aspirations of students. Students can submit their questions to the Prime Minister, with a maximum limit of 500 characters. 
  • Approximately 2050 students, teachers, and parents selected through competitions on MyGov will receive special Pariksha Pe Charcha Kits from the Ministry of Education. This recognition serves as a token of appreciation for their active participation and contribution to the educational discourse. 

2.Defense Minister Flags In ‘Mission Antarctica’ By Himalayan Mountaineering Team 

  • In a momentous event on December 13, 2023, Raksha Rajya Mantri Shri Ajay Bhatt ceremoniously flagged in a team from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, which successfully completed ‘Mission Antarctica.’ 
  • The expedition, initiated in 2021, was led by Group Captain Jai Kishan and comprised three trekkers. The apex of their achievement was the hoisting of the National Flag, an impressive 7,500 sq ft and weighing 75 kilograms, atop Mt Rhenock in Sikkim Himalayas at an astounding altitude of 16,500 feet. 
  • This awe-inspiring event marked the conclusion of the mega roadshow, ‘Mera Yuva Bharat Yatra.’ The Asia Book of Records and India Book of Records acknowledged this remarkable feat, cementing the team’s place in the annals of achievement. 

3.A day after security breach, several changes take effect in Parliament 

  • There were no milling crowds on its grounds, no selfie takers, and no MPs giving sound bites. There was a blanket ban on visitors, except for a group of school students who marched in federal silence accompanied by their teachers and closely guided by the security staff. Wednesday's cacophony was loudly conspicuous by its absence. A series of meetings to review security protocol and rectify loopholes have brought several changes. One of the entrance and exit gates to the new building has now been exclusively reserved for MPs, segregating them from the rest of the crowd. 
  • The media was kept at an arm's length, with security pushing journalists closer to the old building and carefully barricading the MPs' entrance to en- sure that none could come in their way. 
  • The entrance and exit gates for the Parliament staff have also been changed. Many walked around disoriented in the new building, losing their way in the maze-like corridors and asking for directions, "We could enter from the Makar Dwar (the common gate for the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha chambers) and we had memorised our way to our office through it. Now, we have to figure it out once again," one staffer said 
  • Walking out of the Chambers of both Houses to nearly empty lobbies, several MPs appreciated the orderly atmosphere. However, security personnel who are under immense pressure after yesterday's slip-up said that they were overworked, warning that their present strength is not sufficient to allowed to stand for more than a few minutes in the corridors. 
  • The MPs, too, have been told to slow down, with no more sprinting in and out of the gates. A Parliamentary bulletin covers the building's multiple doors, both opening out to the grounds and inside in the lobby and the chambers. 

4.Terror charges invoked in security breach case 

  • A day after a major security breach in the Lok Sabha, the Delhi Police invoked sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, an anti-terror law, against four accused persons. They have also been charged under sections of the Indian Penal Code related to criminal conspiracy, trespass, provoking a riot, and obstructing a public servant in the discharge of functions. 
  • A fifth accused will be presented in court on Friday, while the sixth, who filmed the protest outside Parliament and uploaded the video on social media platforms, was arrested late on Thursday evening. 
  • The Secretary of the Lok Sabha-Seeking custody of the four, the Delhi Police said ariat has suspended eight security personnel for the incident, a senior governmment official said. 

5.Tender for redevelopment of H Parliament security infra was se floated a day before incident 

  • The tender document, The tender, at an estimated cost of ₹35 crore, is to redevelop the reception lounge and other security infrastructure "Redevelopment of reception lounge & other security infrastructure in Parliament Complex, New Delhi '', had an estimated cost of 135 crore and was published on Tuesday. The department invited pre-qualification bids for the project, setting December 22 as the deadline for submission of bids. It states that financial bids will be invited from pre-qualified bidders at a later date. 
  • In view of the high degree of security concerns at the site and the kind of work involved, stringent access-control measures will be exercised for the entry and exit of manpower, material, and construction equipment during project implementation, the document said. 
  • The bidder is advised to visit the site of work, at his own cost, and examine it and its surroundings himself to collect all information that he considers necessary for proper assessment of the prospective assignment," it said. "Reception lounge & other security Infrastructure along with E&M [electrical and mechanical) services required to be executed, work also includes security gadgets, Bulletproof Morchas etc. The contractor shall plan resources accordingly," it added 

6.'India's fastest solar-electric boat launched 

  • Taking the cause of eco-friendly maritime transportation, Barracuda, said to be India's fastest solar-electric boat, was launched on Wednesday at the yard of Navalt Solar and Electric Boats, located off Aroor in Alappuzha. 
  • Named after the swift, long fish, Barracuda was designed by Navalt and can be deployed even in the rough seas as a workboat to ferry up to 12 passengers and cargo. The 14-metre-long, 4.4-metre-wide vessel can attain a top speed of 12.5 knots (23 kmph) and has a range of seven hours on a single charge. It has twin 50 kW electric motors, a marine-grade LFP battery, and 6 kW solar power, says a release issued by Navalt. 
  • Sanjay Kumar Singh, general manager, Mazagon Dock Limited, for whom the vessel was built, was among those who were present at the launch. Mazagon Dock will introduce the Barracuda which can navigate through waves as tall as four metres and operates without noise and vibration the eco-friendly vessel at its Mumbai dock. 
  • It is engineered to navi- gate through waves as tall as four metres and operates without noise, vibration and air pollution. 
  • "We would continue to contribute towards a cleaner and quieter ocean, for which such boats would provide affordable substitutes for conventional fossil-fuelled boats," said Sandith Thandasherry, managing director, Navalt Solar and Electric Boats. It won the world's best start-up award in the mobility and transportation category at the Berlin Start-up Energy Transition Awards 2023. The firm that operates from Kochi has also rеceived various prestigious awards, including the Gustave Trouve Awards 

7.Journalists, writers express solidarity with NewsClick founder 

  • Senior journalists, writers, Lawyers, academics, and activists on Thursday expressed solidarity with NewsClick founder and edi for Prabir Purkayastha during a discussion on his book Keeping tip the Good Fight: Front the Emergency to the Present Dity
  • N. Ram, Director, The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited, who attended the event virtually, said the most interesting of thing was the connection that the book drew between the Emergency of 1975-77, during which Mr. Purkayastha was jailed for a year, and what had happened in the present, "a much more serious attack in perhaps darker times”. 
  • He said the most important thing in the book for him was the lesson that today things might look bad for media freedom and for the basic human rights guaranteed in the Constitu hon, "but don't be pessimistic about it. "Maybe short-term pessimism is inevitable, but don't be pessimistic, and this is not contrived or artificially communicated in the book, I think it comes through living the experience," he said. 

8.Tibetan New Year ‘Losar Festival’ started in Ladakh 

  • Tropical Cyclone Jasper in Australia brought heavy rain to the northeast coast. About 40,000 people affected by this had to leave their homes and business establishments lost power. 
  • The cyclone produced strong winds reaching speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, affecting residents of this sparsely populated area. Australia's Meteorological Department has warned that heavy rainfall and strong winds are still 
  • Ladakhi New Year in Ladakh – Losar was celebrated at various places in Kargil especially in Buddhist-majority areas like Zanskar, Wakha Mulbekh and Bod Kharbu. Special prayers were organized on the occasion and people prayed for peace, prosperity and harmony in Ladakh. 
  • Chairman and CEC of Ladakh Hill Autonomous Development Council, Kargil, Dr. Mohammad Jafar Akhun has extended hearty greetings to the people of Kargil, especially the Buddhist community, on the occasion of Losar. 
  • Losar is an important festival of Ladakh starting during the first week of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar. The festival of Losar in Ladakh lasts for 15 days and this Buddhist festival falls on the winter solstice any time between 8th and 30th December. 
  • On the eve of Losar, a procession called Metho is taken out through the streets, markets and lanes, where people chant holy slogans and carry burning torches, believing that the chants and fire will drive away all evil spirits. 
  • Lo means old and Sar means new. Wearing a mask is an essential aspect of the celebration. Namgyal Monastery offers offerings to Goddess Palden Lhamo on the morning of the festival, serving as an example for others to follow. 
  • According to folklore, an oracle had asked Jamyang Namgyal, the then king of Ladakh, to stop fighting the soldiers of Baltistan until the next year. However, the cruel king brought forward the celebration of New Year's Eve (Losar) by a month; Therefore, it was celebrated ahead of schedule. 

9.CEO Tavares Marks A New Era For Stellantis In India

  • In a recent media interaction, Stellantis N.V. CEO Carlos Tavares highlighted the strategic importance of India in the company’s global operations and outlined his vision for the country as part of the Dare Forward 2030 global strategic plan. 
  • The merged companies that formed Stellantis have invested over $1 billion since 2015 to establish a sustainable footprint in India, aligning with the Government of India’s “Make in India” initiative led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
  • Stellantis currently operates three manufacturing plants in Ranjangaon, Hosur and Thiruvallur, an ICT Hub in Hyderabad, a Software Centre in Bengaluru, and two R&D centers in Chennai and Pune. These facilities play a crucial role in contributing to Stellantis’ global software development and sourcing hub for vehicles, components and mobility technologies. 

International News 

10.European Union agrees to open membership negotiations with Ukraine 

  • The European Union decided on Thursday to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. European Council president Charles Michel called it "a clear signal of hope for their people and our continent." 
  • The decision was announced at a summit gathering leaders of the 27 EU countries. 
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the decision as "a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe". 
  • Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted that the European Union should not yet start talks on Ukraine joining the bloc, a line stand-out ahead of an EU summit that comes at a critical 
  • Hungarian PM Orban insisted that the European Union should not yet start talks on Ukraine joining the block time for Kyiv in its war against Russia. Mr. Orban is also blocking giving 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in financial aid for Kyiv from the EU budget, but signalled he could back long-term aid outside the EU budget, opening a door for some form of deal on that front. 
  • Ukraine badly needs support from its Western allies in its nearly two-year fight against Moscow's invasion. Its counter-offensive has failed to make major gains and the Biden administration has so far been unable to get a $60 billion aid package for Kyiv through Congress. 

11.COP28-many a slippery slope ahead 

  • From the outset, fossil fuels, responsible for around 75% of all greenhouse gases and about 90% of global carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions, took centre stage at COP28, astonishingly for the first time ever in climate COPs. Anxieties about the influence of the oil industry and supporting governments had already been swirling around, with the COP being held in the Gulf. The COP28 President, Sultan Al Jaber, a United Arab Emirates Minister and head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), one of the world's largest oil and gas producers, further set the cat among the pigeons by claiming in an interview that "there was no science" that called for cutting back on fossil fuels to tackle climate change. Journalists and activists had also noted that fossil fuel companies had been steadily increasing their presence at the COPs, often even as members of official country delegations, giving them access to the main negotiation rooms. Their numbers had shot up to 2,000 at Dubai, larger than any country's delegation. 
  • On the positive side, all three successive global stocktake draft texts echoed the GST input findings that the 1.5°C target would require "deep, rapid and sustained" reduction in global emissions of 43% by 2030 and 60% by 2035 relative to 2019 levels, reaching net-zero CO: by 2050, with global emissions expected to peak around 2020 or latest by 2025. 
  • This draft also did not take the issue of financial support by developed countries further, causing much anguish to climate vulnerable countries. 
  • The draft did express concern that the earlier commitment of $100 billion per year by 2020, however inadequate, had not been met. It repeated the global stocktake reports estimation that developing countries needed about $5.8-$5.9 trillion for the pre-2030 period, with adaptation alone requiring $215-$387 billion per year and clean energy transition requiring about $4.3 trillion per year, both until 2030. Yet, no fresh targets were mentioned in the draft, not even for the new Loss and Damage fund formally set up on the first day and gathering pledges for a meagre $470 million. 
  • The COP28 Declaration has left almost all the problems where they were before. Other than recording a decision to "transition away" from fossil fuels, which countries were already doing in practice, and noting the broad global target for higher emissions reduction to achieve the 15°C goal, nothing much of substance has been gained at COP28. A road map towards new targets in 2025 was not drawn up. Financial assistance was not scaled up. 
  • The Global Goal on Adaptation was left half-baked. A number of other documents were not finalised or approved. On the other hand, the fossil fuel industry went back happy, as did the developed countries which successfully dealt yet another blow against international equity, and have again escaped putting serious funds on the table. 

12.Urgent need to control use of e-cigarettes, says WHO 

  • E-cigarettes as consumer products are not shown to be effective for quitting tobacco use at the population level. Instead, alarming evidence has emerged on adverse population health effects, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. II added there is an urgent need to control e-cigarettes to protect children, as well as non-smokers and minimise health harms to the population. 
  • "Children are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-ciga rettes and may get hooked to nicotine," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement, while urging countries to implement strict measures to prevent uptake to protect citizens, especially children and young people. The WHO said that e-cigarettes have been allowed on the open market and aggressively marketed to young people. Thirty-four countries have banned the sale of e-cigarettes, 88 countries have no minimum age at which e-cigarettes can be bought and 74 countries have no regulations in place for these harmful products. In India, the possession of e-cigarettes and similar devices is a violation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarette Act, 2019, according to the Union Health Ministry. 
  • Even brief exposure to e-cigarette content on social media can be associated with increased intention to use these products, as well as more positive attitudes towards e-cigarette. Studies consistently show that young people who use e-cigarettes are almost three times more likely to use cigarettes later in life, the WHO said. 
  • According to data, children in the age group of 13-15 years are using e-cigarettes at rates higher than that among adults in all WHO regions. In Canada, the rates of e-cigarette use among 16 to 19-year-olds has doubled between 2017 and 2022, and in the UK.. the manber of young users has tripled in the past three years 
  • The world organisation noted that e-cigarettes with nicotine are highly addictive and are harmful to health. While long term health effects are not fully understood, it has been established that they generate toxic substances, some of which are known to cause cancer and some that increase the risk of heart and lung disorders. It can also affect brain development and lead to learning disorders for young people. Foetal exposure to e-cigarettes can adversely affect the development of the foetus in pregnant wo men. Exposure to emissions from e-cigarettes also poses risks to bystanders. 
  • The WHO has said that urgent measures are necessary to prevent uptake of e-cigarettes and counter nicotine addiction alongside a comprehensive approach to tobacco control, and in light of national circumstances. 

13.U.S. House launches Republican impeachment a inquiry against Joe Biden 

  • The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to formalise an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, escalating Republicans' battle with Democrats ahead of the 2024 election in a movie Mr. Biden himself slammed as a "baseless'' stunt. 
  • Republicans, seizing on Mr. Biden's son Hunter's controversial international dealings, have yet to provide evidence of corruption by the President, and the Democraticled Senate would be unlikely to convict him even if the inquiry did lead to an actual impeachment trial. 
  • Regardless, the procedure guarantees Republicans a new, high-profile platform to attack Mr. Biden as he campaigns for re-election and to distract from the federal criminal trials facing his almost certain challenger Donald Trump. 
  • Conservatives accuse Mr. Biden's son Hunter is trading on the family name during his business dealings in Ukraine and China. 

State News 

14.Pune Surpasses China, Clinches Guinness World Record For Largest Reading Activity 

  • In a momentous occasion for India, Pune has etched its name in the prestigious ‘Guinness World Record‘ books by hosting the largest reading activity in collaboration, surpassing China’s previous record. The previous record, held by China, stood at 2,884 simultaneous readers. 
  • On December 14th, 2023, from 8-10 am at SP College, a remarkable total of 3,066 parents gathered to read aloud to their children, creating a magical atmosphere and leaving an indelible mark in history. 
  • This extraordinary feat was orchestrated by the National Book Trust as part of the Pune Book Festival, where parents immersed themselves in reading aloud from the book “नि सर्गा चा नाश करू नाका” by Kshipra Shahane for an exhilarating three minutes. 

15.Chhattisgarh clears proposal for building c 18 lakh rural homes 

  • In its first Cabinet meeting held on Thursday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Chhattisgarh cleared the proposal of implementing the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for over 18 lakh poor families in rural areas. 
  • "In our first Cabinet meeting, the only decision taken was providing 18 lakh poor people [homes under] the PM Awas Yojana. A decision has been taken, and soon, this will be implemented. We are doing the needful," Mr. Sai said. Later, a government media statement pegged the press conference. 
  • Honorable Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh the number of sanctioned houses at 18,12,743. 
  • Bonus to farmers On another pre-election promise of paying outstanding bonus to paddy farmers, he reiterated his earlier announcement that the said bonus will be given on December 25, the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

16.New marine amphipod species ‘Demorchestia alanensis’ discovered in Chilka Lake, Odisha 

  • Researchers at Berhampur University, Odisha, have discovered a new species of marine amphipod ‘Demorchestia alanensis’ – a shrimp-like crustacea of the genus Demorachestia – in the state's Chilka Lake on the east coast of India. 
  • Sheshdev Patro, Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Sciences, Berhampur University, said the new species was named Demorachestia alanensis after global expert Professor Alan Myers of University College Cork, Ireland, who has made significant contributions to global marine amphipod studies. 
  • The characteristics of the newly discovered crustacean were described in the article titled A new species of amphipod of the genus Demorchestia (Centicaudata, Talitridae) from Chilika Lagoon, east coast India, in the online edition of the journal Zootaxa dated December 11, 2023. 
  • The new species is white in color and has 13 pairs of legs. While three pairs are used for swimming in water, eight pairs are used for walking on land. 
  • Amphipods are an important group in marine ecosystems and play a vital role in the marine food chain. The Talitridae family was considered to be one of the oldest groups of amphipods, and was believed to have existed on the planet since the Jurassic era. 
  • It is divided into four subfamilies: Talytriinae, Fluoresorchaestinae, Pseudochestoidinae, and Plateorchaestinae. In India the Talitridae family is represented only by Talitrina and Fluoresorchestina. 

17.Bihar Business Summit 2023: Massive Investment Inflows Of Rs 50,530 Crore Through MoUs 

  • Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) worth an impressive Rs 50,530 crore have been successfully inked with approximately 300 companies, reflecting a resounding success for Bihar. These agreements span diverse sectors, underlining the state’s appeal to investors. 
  • Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a key participant in the summit, took a significant step towards bolstering Bihar’s economic landscape. He unveiled the Bihar Logistics Policy 2023, with a vision to establish world-class infrastructure for both industrial and social advancement. 
  • The Adani Group, a major player in the investment surge, has declared an additional investment of Rs 8,700 crore in Bihar. The commitment extends across sectors such as cement manufacturing, logistics, and agro-industry. Pranav Adani, Director of Adani Enterprises, highlighted the group’s existing investment of Rs 850 crore in the state. 

Defence News 

18.Indian Navy To Recommission Maldives-Gifted, Decommissioned Ship 

  •  The Indian Navy is set to re-induct a refurbished 22-year-old fast attack craft, INS Tarmugli, in a ceremonial commissioning ceremony at the naval dockyard in Visakhapatnam. 
  • This event marks a significant milestone, as INS Tarmugli returns to active service more than seventeen years after being gifted to the Maldives and subsequently returned to India in May of the current year. 
  • “The ship has a unique distinction of having served under the flag of two nations with three names during her distinguished service till date.” Originally commissioned in the Indian Navy as INS Tillanchang, a Trinkat Class ship, it served actively until 2006. 

Business News 

19.Directorate General Of Civil Aviation Grants Licence For Ayodhya Airport 

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has granted an aerodrome license for the Ayodhya Airport, paving the way for its inaugural flight on December 30. 
  • Developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at a cost of ₹350 crore, the airport is strategically timed for inauguration ahead of the upcoming Ram Mandir inauguration in Ayodhya. 
  • The airport features a state-of-the-art passenger terminal building capable of accommodating up to 500 passengers during peak hours.The runway is designed to accommodate narrowbody flights, including the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737s. 
  • Equipped with ILS, the airport facilitates flight operations at night and in low-visibility conditions, enhancing overall operational efficiency. IndiGo, a prominent budget carrier, has announced its inaugural flight from Delhi to Ayodhya on December 30. 

20.ADB Allocates $200M To Improve Sanitation In 100 Cities And Boost Waste Management 

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has taken a significant stride in fostering sustainable urban development by approving a USD 200 million loan to bolster the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission-Urban 2.0. 
  • This initiative, committed to making all cities garbage-free by 2026, aims to introduce international best practices, integrate new technologies, and adopt climate- and disaster-resilient approaches in municipal solid waste management. 
  • This ambitious undertaking seeks to engage the private sector, strengthen women’s participation in sanitation and service delivery, and enhance waste management facilities in 100 cities across eight states. 

Economy News 

21.Tamil Nadu’s FDI Landscape: With $10 B In 4 Years, Ranks Fourth 

  • Tamil Nadu has witnessed a cumulative Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow of nearly $10 billion in the past four years (October 2019 to September 2023). However, the state’s FDI for the fiscal year 2022-23 stood at $2.17 billion, a decrease from the previous year’s $3 billion. 
  • Ongoing FDI reforms across various sectors, including Defence, Pension, Financial Services, Asset Reconstruction Companies, Broadcasting, Pharmaceuticals, Single Brand Retail Trading, Construction & Development, and Civil Aviation, showcase the government’s commitment to an attractive and investor-friendly destination. 

22.Net New Women EPFO Subscribers Surge To 28.69 Lakh In FY23: Parliament Update 

  • In a recent update to the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Labour & Employment Rameshwar Teli revealed a noteworthy surge in net new women subscribers for the Employees’ Provident Fund of India (EPFO). 
  • The data reflects the extent of job creation and increased coverage of social security benefits for the organized/semi-organized sector workforce. According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), the estimated female unemployment rate (UR) dropped to 2.9% in 2022-23 from 4.2% in 2019-20. 

23.Robust Growth In Net Direct Tax Collection: At Rs 10.6 Trillion, Rises 23.4% In Apr-Nov 

  • In the first eight months of the current fiscal year, net direct tax collection has witnessed a substantial surge, reaching Rs 10.64 trillion. This marks a remarkable 23.4% increase compared to the corresponding period last year. 
  • The Ministry of Finance reported that this collection represents 58.34% of the Budget Estimates (BE) for the fiscal year. 
  • For the entire fiscal year, the government anticipates collecting Rs 18.23 trillion through direct taxes (including personal income tax and corporate tax) and Rs 15.38 trillion from indirect taxes (comprising GST, customs, and excise). 
  • A senior finance ministry official revealed earlier in the week that the government is likely to adhere to the budgeted estimate, maintaining a total tax collection target of Rs 33.61 trillion for the current fiscal in the revised estimates. 

24.ADB Revises India’s Growth Projection To 6.7% For FY24 

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has adjusted India’s growth projection for the current financial year, FY24, from 6.3% to a more optimistic 6.7%, citing a robust second-quarter performance that exceeded expectations.
  • The second quarter witnessed a higher-than-anticipated GDP growth of 7.6%, propelling the overall growth for the first half (April-September) to an impressive 7.7%, as revealed in the Asian Development Outlook December 2023. 
  • For the next financial year, FY25, ADB maintains its growth forecast for India at 6.7%. Inflation forecasts remain steady at 5.5% for the current financial year, aligning with the RBI’s projection of 5.4% for FY24. 

25.Wholesale Inflation Bounces Back: Climbs To 0.26% In November After Seven Months Of Deflation 

  • After seven consecutive months of deflation, India’s wholesale prices rebounded, recording a growth of 0.26% in November, compared to the -0.52% rate observed in October. 
  • Prices of primary articles witnessed a significant rise of 4.8% in November, up from 1.8% in October. In contrast, fuel and power prices were 4.6% lower than the same period last year. 
  • The Commerce and Industry Ministry attributes this upturn primarily to increased prices in various sectors, including food articles, minerals, machinery & equipment, computer, electronics & optical products, motor vehicles, other transport equipment, and other manufactured goods. 

26.India’s Logistics Cost 7.8-8.9% Of GDP, Shows Govt Survey 

  • India’s logistics cost for the fiscal year 2021-22 has been revealed to be in the range of 7.8-8.9% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a government survey. This figure is notably lower than previous private survey estimates, which suggested a cost exceeding 10%. 
  • The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) conducted the survey, tasked by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). The World Bank has reviewed the methodology, acknowledging its appropriateness as a baseline with potential for future refinement. 
  • The report aims to establish a framework for credible logistics cost estimates, facilitating data-based planning and policymaking. The present government estimates suggest India’s logistics cost stands at 13-14% of GDP, indicating a notable variance from the survey results. 

27.India’s Light Vehicle Market Outpaces Global Top 10, Exceeding Pre-Pandemic Levels 

  • According to S&P Global Mobility forecasts, India is set to witness a remarkable 36% growth in its light vehicle market in 2023, reaching 4.8 million units—a testament to the country’s resilience and quick recovery in the post-pandemic era. This remarkable achievement places India ahead of all other major players in the industry. 
  • India’s domestic passenger vehicle sales have been on a consistent upward trajectory, buoyed by positive macro-economic factors. Monthly advances since FY22 have been impressive, with November 2023 dispatches reaching an all-time high of 334,000 units. 
  • The positive trend observed in 2023 is expected to extend into 2024, with China and India projected to be the only growth markets. S&P Global forecasts global auto sales to reach approximately 88 to 88.5 million units next year, a challenging prospect given the estimated end-of-year total of 86 million units globally. 

Appointment News 

28.Rajya Sabha passes bill related to appointment and tenure of Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners

  • Rajya Sabha has passed the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service and Tenure) Bill 2023. It was presented by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal. 
  • This Bill will replace the Election Commission (Conditions of Service and Functions of Election Commissioners) Act, 1991. It deals with the appointment, salary and removal of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners. 
  • According to the provisions of the Bill, the Chief Election Commissioner and other Commissioners will be appointed on the recommendation of the Selection Committee. This committee will include the Prime Minister, a Union Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha or the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. 
  • Further a search committee, headed by the Law Minister, will propose a panel of names to the selection committee, with the eligibility criteria requiring the candidates to hold a post equivalent to a Secretary to the Central Government. 
  • According to the new Bill, courts are prohibited from considering civil or criminal proceedings against a present or ex-CEC or EC for acts done or words spoken in the discharge of official duty or function. 
  • The new bill retains their status equal to that of Supreme Court judges. If the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners give any order while on duty, the court cannot take any action against them. 
  • The bill directly contradicts the March 2023 direction by the Supreme Court Constitution bench led by Justice KM Joseph that the Election Commission should be selected by a panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Justice of India (CJI). 
  • If this bill is passed then it will render ineffective the Supreme Court's direction. In an effort to keep the Supreme Court away from the selection process, the new bill removes the Chief Justice of India from the selection committee. 

Banking News 

29.Stalin seeks moratorium on loan repayments in the wake of Michaung 

  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Thursday wrote a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, urging her to direct all financial institutions to provide a three month moratorium on rеpayment of monthly instalments of all term loans availed of by families and business units in the Cyclone Michaung-affected districts of Chennai, Tiruvallur, Kanchipuram and Chengalpattu. 
  • In the letter, Mr. Stalin appealed to her to facilitate a deferment of three months on the repayment of interest on working capital facilities sanctioned in the form of cash credit or overdraft. 
  • He said 37 lakh families in the four districts bore the brunt of relentless rain, which caused significant disruption in their livelihoods and damage to their properties. While the State government was able to restore normalcy in their daily lives, the impact on their livelihood lingered, the Chief Minister said. 
  • "Small businessmen, traders and MSMEs impacted by the floods are yet to return to their regular economic activities," he said, stressing the urgent need to mitigate the burden of immediate debt servicing by relaxing repayment schedules. 
  • The CM urged the Union Minister to direct all commercial banks, cooperative banks, all-India financial institutions and non-banking financial companies to issue a moratorium for three months from December 1, 2023 to February 29, 2024. 

Award News 

30.Activist Ali Abu Awwad and pianist Daniel Barenboim win Indira Gandhi Peace Prize 

  • Classical pianist Daniel Barenboim and peace activist Ali Abu Awwad have been named the winners of the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2023 for their efforts in bringing together the youth and people of Israel and the Arab world for a non-violent resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The international jury, headed by former Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, observed that Mr. Barenboim and Mr. Awwad have fostered meaningful, mutual social and cultural understanding, and peaceful public cooperation through the tools of music, dialogue, and people's participation. Mr. Barenbolm is an Argentine born classical pianist and conductor, renowned for performing with and directing some of the leading orchestras in the world. He is also known for his relentless endeavour in using music to foster harmony in West Asia. 
  • Mr. Awwad is a Palestinian peace activist who has been working tirelessly with the people of Palestine and Israel for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict. Born in 1972 he was raised in a politically active refugee family. Unable to meet each other while in prison for three years, he and his mother undertook a 17-day hunger strike, which resulted in achieving permission for a visit. 
  • In 2014, Mr. Awwad co founded a local Palestinian-Israeli initiative called Roots, promoting understanding, non violence and transformation. "His peace-building efforts led to the creation of a Palestinian non violence movement called Taghyeer which was launched by more than 3,000 Palestinians across the West Bank in September 2016. 

31.Antim Panghal Named UWW Rising Star Of The Year 

  • Indian wrestler Antim Panghal has been named the Rising Star of the Year among women by the United World Wrestling (UWW), the sport’s global governing body. 
  • The 19-year-old dynamo, competing in the 53 kg category, has had a remarkable season that has not only garnered accolades but has also overshadowed senior stalwart Vinesh Phogat in the same weight class. 
  • Hailing from Haryana, Antim Panghal has etched her name in history as the only two-time junior world champion for India, a testament to her exceptional skill and dedication to the sport. Her achievements in the junior category have laid a strong foundation for her rapid rise in the senior ranks. 

32.Prof. Savita Ladage Honored With Nyholm Prize For Chemistry Education Excellence 

  • Professor Savita Ladage from Mumbai’s Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, has been awarded the prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry’s Nyholm Prize for Education. 
  • Professor Ladage’s tireless advocacy for the significance of chemical education has earned her this esteemed award. She has played a pivotal role in mentoring chemistry educators and spearheading impactful teacher and student programs that have significantly contributed to the enhancement of chemistry education in the country. 
  • In addition to the honor, Professor Savita Ladage will be bestowed with £5,000, a medal, and a certificate as part of the Nyholm Prize. This acknowledgment reflects not only her personal achievements but also the broader impact of her work on the field of chemistry education. 

Science and technology News 

33.IIT Madras develops ‘AMRIT Technology’ to remove arsenic and metal ions from water 

  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Madras has developed a technology called 'AMRIT' (Arsenic and Metal Removal by Indian Technology) to remove arsenic and metal ions from water. 
  • The technology uses nano-scale iron oxy-hydroxide, which selectively removes arsenic when passed through water. This water purifier has been developed for both household and community levels. 
  • Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. Fresh evidence indicates a possible link between the onset of diabetes, high blood pressure and reproductive disorders due to consumption of contaminated water. 
  • Exposure in utero and early childhood has been linked to negative effects on cognitive development and increased deaths in young adults. 
  • Moreover, the technology has been recommended by the erstwhile 'Standing Committee' of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation to examine the best technologies related to water and sanitation. 
  • Functional Tap Connection (FHTC) to every rural household by the year 2024 under Jal Jeevan Mission of the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti providing regular access to adequate quantity of water of prescribed quality. 

Ranks and Reports News 

34.Shah Rukh Khan Tops UKs List Of World’s Top 50 Asian Celebrities Post Success Of Pathaan And Jawan 

  • As 2023 draws to a close, Shah Rukh Khan is poised to achieve a remarkable feat as the first leading man from the modern era to deliver three massive Bollywood blockbuster hits in a single calendar year. 
  • While Shah Rukh Khan claimed the top position, the talented and popular actress Alia Bhatt secured the second spot on the list. Her stellar performances and widespread acclaim contribute to her standing as one of the leading actors in the industry. The recognition reaffirms her status as a powerhouse performer in Bollywood. 
  • Securing the fourth place on the prestigious list is Diljit Dosanjh, celebrated as the biggest Punjabi star. Dosanjh’s noteworthy achievement includes a performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California, adding a unique flavor to his already illustrious career. 

35.Zepto Founders Top Hurun India’s List Of ‘Top 100 Under 30’ 

  • The recently unveiled Hurun India Top 100 Under 30 List 2023 has showcased inspiring success stories of young entrepreneurs making waves in various industries. 
  •  Kaivalya Vohra (21) and Aadit Palicha (22), the founders of the Quick Commerce app Zepto, have claimed the top spots. Zepto’s commitment to delivering a diverse array of products within minutes has garnered attention, making it the first Indian unicorn of 2023 with a valuation of $1.4 billion. 
  • At a close second is Neelakantha Bhanu Prakash (24), founder of Bhanzu. Beyond his entrepreneurial endeavors, he is globally recognized as the world’s fastest human calculator. His research initiative has positively impacted over 2 million students in India. 

36.India’s E-Retail Market Estimated To Cross USD 160 Billion By 2028: Report 

  • The e-retail market in India is poised for substantial growth, with a report by Bain & Company in collaboration with Flipkart projecting a surge past the USD 160 billion mark by 2028. 
  • The report highlights key factors contributing to this growth, including affordable data, improved logistics, fintech infrastructure and a robust digital consumer ecosystem. 
  • As of 2023, the e-retail market in India is expected to be in the range of USD 57-USD 60 billion, with an annual shopper base of approximately 240 million. 
  • This represents a significant annual addition of USD 8-12 billion since 2020. Despite this growth, online spending in India currently constitutes only 5-6% of total retail spending, indicating substantial headroom for expansion compared to the US (23-24%) and China (35%). 

Sports News 

37.Vijay Amritraj And Leander Paes Inducted Into International Tennis Hall Of Fame 

  • In a historic moment for Indian tennis, legends Vijay Amritraj and Leander Paes have etched their names into the annals of the sport as the first Asian men to be inducted into the esteemed International Tennis Hall of Fame. This achievement elevates India to the 28th nation represented in this prestigious institution. 
  • Leander Paes, an 18-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles, secures his place in the Player category. Renowned as one of the greatest doubles players in history, Paes achieved the No. 1 ranking in doubles and boasts an impressive tally of 8 doubles titles and 10 mixed doubles titles. 
  • Vijay Amritraj, a tennis icon and successful broadcaster, has been honored in the Contributor category. Amritraj’s leadership in India’s Davis Cup history is noteworthy, having guided the team to its only two Finals appearances in 1974 and 1987. 

38.BCCI Decides To Retire MS Dhoni’s Iconic No.7 Jersey 

  • In a move echoing the tribute to cricket legends, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to retire the iconic No.7 jersey worn by former captain MS Dhoni. This decision follows the precedent set by Sachin Tendulkar’s No.10, retired in 2017. Going forward, no other Indian cricketer will sport the No.7 jersey. 
  • Dhoni’s last appearance in the Indian jersey, marked by the No.7, was in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. The decision to retire the jersey adds a poignant touch to his illustrious career. 
  • The retirement of MS Dhoni’s No.7 jersey stands as a symbolic gesture, honoring the exceptional contribution of a cricketing legend whose leadership and prowess left an indelible mark on the sport in India. 

Agreement News 

39.HCCB Signs MoU With Gujarat Government For ₹3,000-Cr Juice & Aerated Beverages Facility In Rajkot 

  • Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) has inked a significant Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Gujarat, indicating a massive investment of Rs.3000 crore. This strategic move showcases HCCB’s dedication to establishing a cutting-edge manufacturing facility for juices and aerated beverages in Rajkot by 2026. 
  • The MoU reflects HCCB’s commitment to building a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, underscoring its focus on quality and innovation. The proposed facility in Rajkot is poised to become a key player in the production of a diverse range of beverages, contributing to the company’s extensive product portfolio. 
  • With over 60 different products spanning seven categories, HCCB’s fresh investment is expected to create a substantial industrial footprint. This venture is not only a boon for the company but also a catalyst for considerable economic and social growth in the region. 

40.DAE And IDRS Labs Collaborate On Aktocyte Tablets For Cancer 

  • In a landmark collaboration, scientists from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Bengaluru-based IDRS Labs have united their expertise to develop Aktocyte tablets for the treatment of pelvic cancer. 
  • The tablets, designed as an adjuvant to cancer radiotherapy, regenerative nutraceutical, immunomodulator, and antioxidant, mark a significant advancement in cancer care, according to a statement from the DAE. 
  • The primary aim of this collaborative effort is to minimize the side effects of radiotherapy, a crucial aspect of cancer treatment. By developing Aktocyte tablets as an adjuvant to cancer radiotherapy, the researchers aim to enhance the treatment’s efficacy while reducing its adverse effects. 

Summit and Conference News 

41.COP28 concludes: Highlights from the largest global climate summit 

  •  The two-week-long COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), concluded on December 13 with member nations engaging in extended talks on the final text. In the closing plenary, COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber highlighted the summit’s achievements, emphasizing a robust action plan aimed at limiting global warming to the targeted 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial times set in the 2015 Paris deal. 
  • The most significant achievement of COP28 is the historic agreement to begin reducing global consumption of fossil fuels. Unlike previous COP texts that focused on coal, COP28 marked the first time a global commitment was made to transition away from oil and gas, fundamental components of the global economy for decades. The Global Stocktake (GST) text outlines a just, orderly, and equitable transition, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. 

Indian polity News 

42.HC says UAPA allows grant of bail to even foreigners in exceptional circumstances 

  • A special court for National Investigation Agency (NIA) cases cannot cancel bail granted to a person, who was accused of attempting to establish Islamic rule in India through unlawful means, just because he was subsequently suspected to be a Sri Lankan national, the Madras High Court has held. 
  • A Division Bench of Justices S.S. Sundar and Sunder Mohan allowed an appeal and set aside a bail cancellation order passed by the special court, which had observed that Section 43D(7) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, does not permit grant of bail to a foreigner. 
  • However, the Bench said that Section 43D(7) states that no bail should be granted to a person accused of an offence punish- able under the UAPA if he was not an Indian citizen. 
  • The Division Bench sets aside a bail cancellation order passed by a special court for NIA cases and had entered the country illegally, barring exceptional circumstances and for reasons to be recorded in writing. Therefore, "it is not as if that there is no discretion given to the court. The court can grant bail even to a person who is not a citizen under extraordinary circumstances," the Bench said, adding that in the instant case, the appellant Mohamed Rifas, alias Mohamed Rigbas, was only suspected to be a foreign national 

43.Follow CBI manual on seizure of electronic devices: SC to agencies 

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Centre to adhere to directives in the CBI Manual to protect the Integrity of personal data stored in electronic devices seized during searches conducted, especially, on members of the academia and media. 
  • senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan and advocate Prasanna S., for petitioners, said the CBI Manual may not extensively protect the corruption of data or malicious implanting of files in confiscated devices. Ms. Ramakrish nan said the manual only mandated the sharing of the "hash value" or the unique electronic fingerprint of the data in a seized device. 
  • "But you're getting something now. Till today you didn't even get a hash value. If they follow the CBI Manual, you will get at least the minimum, the hash value," Justice Dhulia told Ms. Ramakrishnan. 
  • The court said the procedure under the CBI Manual would be followed till the Centre brings out new guidelines in six weeks. The Centre said meetings are underway on the framing of the guidelines. Some of the existing materials being considered include the CBI Manual itself, suggestions from the petitioners in the case and the Karnataka Cyber Crime Investigation Manual. Mr. Raju said the guidelines would take a maximum of three months to finalise. The court listed the case on February 6. 
  • The academics have contended that the seizure of their personal digital devices amounted to a violation of their right to privacy and they run the risk of losing their life's work when police carry off their computers and drives after a raid. The case resonates with issues raised by recent Delhi Police raids on journalists and activists in the NewsClick case. 
  • The Union Home Ministry, however, maintained that while laptops, computers and mobiles were commonly used in contemporary society, criminals also "use these devices in the facilitation of their unlawful activities".

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