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30-March-2024-Daily-Current-Affairs

March 30 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm

BONDS, BIG MONEY AND AN IMPERFECT DEMOCRACY

TOPIC: (GS2) POLITY AND GOVERNANCE – SOURCE: THE HINDU

Why in news?

The Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench unanimously declared the Electoral Bonds Scheme unconstitutional.

Electoral Bond Scheme Overview:

  • Introduced in 2018 to cleanse political funding in India.
  • Allows companies and individuals to buy bonds from SBI and donate to political parties.
  • Bonds redeemable only by registered political parties.
  • Aimed at bringing transparency to political funding in the country.

Amendments Made to the Scheme (2022):

  • Extended the availability period of electoral bonds during elections.
  • Bonds valid for 15 calendar days from the date of issue.
  • Eligibility restricted to political parties securing at least 1% of votes in the last General Election.

Reasons for Supreme Court’s Decision:

Violation of Right to Information:

  • Scheme infringes upon fundamental right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
  • Anonymity of donations hampers transparency in political funding.
  • Right to information crucial for participatory democracy and government accountability.

Not Proportionally Justified to Curb Black Money:

  • Government failed to adopt least restrictive methods to achieve the scheme’s objective.
  • Examples such as donation cap and Electoral Trusts cited as less restrictive alternatives.
  • Curbing black money not a legitimate purpose to restrict right to information.

Right to Donor Privacy Doesn’t Extend to Contributions:

  • Huge political contributions from corporations not same as those from individuals.
  • Privacy of political affiliation doesn’t cover contributions aimed at influencing policies.

Unlimited Corporate Donations Violate Free and Fair Elections:

  • Amendment permitting unlimited political contributions by companies deemed arbitrary.
  • Removal of cap on corporate donations and disclosure requirements criticized.
  • Corporations’ contributions often aimed at securing benefits, violating fairness in elections.

Amendment to RPA, 1951 Quashed:

  • Amendment exempting electoral bonds from disclosure requirements struck down.
  • Original provision balanced voters’ right to information and donors’ right to privacy effectively.

Other Observations by Supreme Court:

  • SBI ordered to halt issuance of electoral bonds and provide details of past purchases to ECI.
  • Details to include purchase date, purchaser’s name, and bond denomination.
  • ECI to publish this information on its website.
  • Electoral bonds within validity period but not encashed to be returned, with refunds issued to purchasers’ accounts.

This landmark verdict by the Supreme Court highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in political funding, reaffirming the principles of democracy and fair elections.

A BALANCING ACT

TOPIC: (GS3) ECONOMY – SOURCE: THE HINDU

Why in news?

The Centre’s fiscal deficit, has significantly widened in recent months.

About Fiscal Deficit:

  • Fiscal deficit measures the gap between the government’s spending and its revenue, excluding borrowings. It reflects how much the government needs to borrow to cover its expenses, usually shown as a percentage of the nation’s GDP.

Impact of High and Low Fiscal Deficit:

  • A high fiscal deficit can trigger inflation, currency devaluation, and a rise in debt. Conversely, a lower fiscal deficit signals prudent financial management and a robust economy, contributing to overall stability and growth.

Overview of Fiscal Deficit Increase:

  • Fiscal deficit increased sharply from ₹11 lakh crore in January to ₹15 lakh crore by the end of February.
  • This represents a rapid rise from 63.6% to 86.5% of the revised target of ₹17.3 lakh crore within just 29 days.
  • Compared to the previous year, the trajectory of deficit increase is notably steeper, despite last year’s fiscal gap being similar to this year’s goal.

Factors Explaining February Deficit Surge:

  • Centre transferred around ₹2.15 lakh crore to states through tax devolution shares, a significant increase from ₹1.4 lakh crore the previous year.
  • Capital expenditure rose from ₹47,600 crore in January to ₹84,400 crore in February, over four times the expenditure of February 2023.
  • Further rise in capital expenditure to ₹1.4 lakh crore in March is required to meet the government’s ₹10 lakh crore target, though implementation of the Model Code of Conduct for the Lok Sabha polls may affect this.

Implications and Future Targets:

  • Last year’s fiscal deficit stood at 6.4% of GDP, with this year’s original target set at 5.9%.
  • Revised to 5.8% in the interim Budget, the government aims to narrow it to 4.5% of GDP by 2025-26, with a 5.1% target for 2024-25.
  • Centre hopes private investment will drive growth, but challenges such as high inflation, bad monsoon, and uneven consumption demand may hinder this shift.

Revenue Spending and Fiscal Management:

  • Government retains ₹6 lakh crore of spending room for March, with critical ministries still having significant funds available.
  • Some ministries may miss their targets, potentially affecting the full-year deficit number.
  • While tightening fiscal belt is beneficial, persistently missing spending goals compromises outcomes, indicating a need for better planning and reduced borrowing in the future.

DISCUSSED ‘PEACE FORMULA’ WITH INDIA, SAYS UKRAINE FOREIGN MINISTER

TOPIC: (GS2) INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS – SOURCE: THE HINDU

Why in news?

The recent discussions between India and Ukraine regarding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine have gained attention. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, visited India and held talks with Indian officials, to discuss a potential “peace formula” for resolving the conflict.

What is Ukraine’s 10-Point Peace Plan:

Announced at a November 2022 summit of the Group of 20 major economies. Focuses on various aspects including radiation and nuclear safety at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

  • Aims to ensure food security by protecting Ukraine’s grain exports.
  • Addresses energy security by imposing price restrictions on Russian energy resources and aiding in restoring Ukraine’s power infrastructure.
  • Calls for the release of all prisoners, including war prisoners and deported children.
  • Stresses the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and withdrawal of Russian troops.
  • Advocates for justice through the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes.
  • Emphasizes environmental protection, including demining efforts and restoring water treatment facilities.
  • Aims to prevent the escalation of conflict and build security architecture in the Euro-Atlantic space.
  • Seeks confirmation of the war’s end through a document signed by all involved parties.

World’s Response to Peace Formula:

  • Russia rejected Ukraine’s peace proposal and asserted its unwillingness to give up any territory it has taken by force.
  • The Western world, led by Washington, has provided substantial support for Ukraine’s military and assistance in demining and fixing power infrastructure.
  • However, the response to Ukraine’s peace plan and proposed peace summit has been more cautious, with nations adopting a wait-and-see approach.

India’s Role and Engagement:

  • India has been actively engaged in discussions with both Ukraine and Russia, as well as other stakeholders, since the beginning of the crisis.
  • National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have had discussions with Ukrainian and Russian counterparts, showing India’s commitment to finding a peaceful resolution.
  • India’s participation in the upcoming Global Peace Summit, proposed to be held in Switzerland, has been encouraged by Ukraine. However, Russia has expressed skepticism about participating in the peace talks led by Switzerland.

Challenges and Prospects:

  • Ukraine’s President presented a 10-point peace plan in 2022 during the G-20 summit, which was immediately rejected by Moscow.
  • The Swiss-backed peace process is seen as a potential avenue for finding a solution to the conflict, although the timing of the summit remains uncertain.
  • Diplomatic efforts are underway to facilitate discussions and negotiations between the conflicting parties, aiming to address concerns from both sides and achieve a peaceful settlement.

Conclusion:

India’s participation and support for initiatives such as the Global Peace Summit demonstrate its commitment to promoting stability and security in the region.

GEM MAY OFFER WORKS CONTRACTS

TOPIC: (GS3) ECONOMY – SOURCE: THE HINDU

Why in news?

GeM, an online platform for public procurement, plans to include work contracts for construction projects.

It seeks approval from the Centre for transparent monitoring of contract progress.

  • GeM will cater to various sectors, including defence, aircraft chartering, and election materials.
  • The upgrade includes a revamped online interface for customization by departments, States, and local bodies.
  • Recent procurement from State Bank of India pushed GeM’s total value beyond ₹4 lakh crore.
  • GeM CEO aims to simplify the tendering process for work contracts and enable online bidding across regions.
  • Proposed features include milestone-linked payments and post-contract management for efficiency.

GeM: Revolutionizing Government Procurement

GeM revolutionizes government procurement by facilitating online purchase of Goods & Services for various government entities. Launched by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India in August 2016, GeM 3.0 debuted on January 26, 2018.

  • GeM 3.0 offers e-bidding, reverse e-auction, and demand aggregation tools to ensure optimal value and enhance transparency.
  • Notably, GeM minimizes human intervention in vendor registration and payment processing, curbing delays and corruption.
  • The platform ensures fairness by providing visibility of all transactions and enables price comparison for quality products.
  • GeM also supports compliance with standards and specifications and encourages innovation by promoting opportunities for startups, MSMEs, women entrepreneurs, and artisans.

With its user-friendly interface and feedback system, GeM aims to streamline government procurement while fostering inclusivity and innovation.

BUTTERFLY CICADA

TOPIC: (GS3) ENVIRONMENT – SOURCE: DOWN TO EARTH

Why in news?

Scientists recently identified a new species of cicada called “Butterfly Cicada” in Meghalaya. The cicada belongs to the genus Becquartina, adding to the seven known species in the genus.

  • This discovery marks the first-ever record of the genus Becquartina in India.
  • The cicada earned its nickname due to its colorful wings and is scientifically named “bicolour” for its two distinct color forms.

        

Features:

  • Found in Garo Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts of Meghalaya, preferring thick forests and native vegetation.
  • Active from April to June, with calling patterns varying between the two districts.
  • Wings feature rich saffron at the basal one-third and matte black with saffron spots at the apical two-thirds.

About Cicadas:

  • Cicadas belong to the family Cicadidae and are known for their sound-producing abilities.
  • They have two pairs of membranous wings, prominent compound eyes, and three simple eyes.
  • Male cicadas produce loud noises by vibrating membranes near the base of the abdomen.
  • Female cicadas lay eggs in woody plant tissues, typically dropping from the plant after hatching.

Cicadas are diverse, with over 3,000 species known, primarily found in tropical regions like deserts, grasslands, and forests.

 CoViNet:

TOPIC: (GS3) SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – SOURCE: WHO

Why in news?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently launched a new network for coronaviruses, known as CoViNet. It is a network of global laboratories specializing in human, animal, and environmental coronavirus surveillance.

  • Its primary objective is to identify and monitor potentially novel coronaviruses that may emerge in the future.
  • The network integrates animal health and environmental surveillance to provide timely risk assessments, aiding in the formulation of WHO policies and protective measures.

Key Features of CoViNet:

  • CoViNet aims to expand laboratory capacities in low- and middle-income countries to monitor MERS-CoV and other novel coronaviruses.
  • Data generated by CoViNet will inform the work of WHO’s Technical Advisory Groups on Viral Evolution and Vaccine Composition, ensuring global health policies are based on the latest scientific information.
  • Currently, CoViNet comprises 36 laboratories from 21 countries across all six WHO regions.
  • Indian laboratories such as the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology in Pune, and the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute are part of this network.

Key Facts about World Health Organisation:

  • Established in 1948, WHO is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to promoting global health and safety.
  • It consists of 194 member states and operates through the World Health Assembly (WHA), the highest decision-making body.
  • The WHO Secretariat implements policies approved by the WHA, led by the Director-General, supported by a senior management team.
  • Additionally, WHO operates through six regional offices: Africa, the Americas, Southeast Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific.

KERALA KALAMANDALAM LIFTS GENDER RESTRICTIONS FOR MOHINIYATTAM:

TOPIC: (GS3) ART AND CULTURE – SOURCE: PIB

Why in news?

Kerala Kalamandalam, a deemed university for arts and culture, has made a historic decision to allow individuals of all genders to learn Mohiniyattam, an Indian classical dance form.

    

About Mohiniyattam:

  • Mohiniyattam originated in Kerala and has ancient roots dating back to the Sanskrit text ‘Natya Shastra’.
  • Initially performed by Devadasis in temples during the Chera kings’ rule (9th to 12th centuries CE), it gained prominence during the 18th and 19th centuries with princely state patronage.
  • Traditionally a solo dance performed by female artists, Mohiniyattam embodies the graceful and gentle Lasya type of dance.
  • Its themes revolve around love and devotion to deities, particularly Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna.
  • Mohiniyattam combines dancing and singing, with songs typically in Manipravala, a blend of Sanskrit and Malayalam.
  • Hand gestures and subtle facial expressions play a crucial role, with emphasis on graceful body movements.
  • Costumes include white or ivory cream traditional saris adorned with gold-laced brocade.
  • Instruments used during performances include Mridangam, Madhalam, Idakka, flute, Veena, and Kuzhitalam (cymbals).

KALAM-250 ROCKET

TOPIC: (GS3) SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – SOURCE: INDIAN EXPRESS

Why in news?

Skyroot Aerospace, a prominent space-tech company, recently achieved a significant milestone by conducting a successful test firing of the Kalam-250 rocket at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

The Kalam-250 serves as the second stage of the Vikram-1 space launch vehicle and represents a leap forward in India’s space exploration efforts.

About Kalam-250:

  • Stage-2 of the Vikram-1 space launch vehicle.
  • Features a high-strength carbon composite rocket motor and a high-performance Ethylene-Propylene-Diene terpolymers (EPDM) thermal protection system (TPS).
  • Includes a carbon ablative flex nozzle and high-precision electro-mechanical actuators for thrust vector control.
  • Crucial for propelling the launch vehicle from the Earth’s atmosphere into outer space.

Key Facts about Vikram-1 Rocket:

  • Named after Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the father of India’s space programme.
  • Multi-stage launch vehicle capable of placing around 300 kg of payloads in low-earth orbit.
  • Built by Hyderabad-based Skyroot Aerospace, a leading space startup.
  • Features an all-carbon-fibre-bodied design capable of launching multiple satellites into orbit.

Significance of Vikram-1:

  • Utilizes solid-fuel technology and simpler design, enabling rapid assembly and launch capabilities.
  • Requires minimal infrastructure for launch and can be assembled and launched within 24 hours from any site, enhancing flexibility and efficiency in space missions.

Details

Date:
March 30
Time:
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
Event Category: