In today’s daily current affairs briefing for UPSC aspirants, we explore the latest developments that hold relevance for the upcoming civil services examination. Our focus today includes a critical analysis of recent policy changes, international affairs, and national developments, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Stay informed and stay ahead in your UPSC preparations with our daily current affairs updates, as we provide you with concise, well-researched insights to help you connect the dots between contemporary events and the broader canvas of the civil services syllabus.
Restrictions on the import of electronic devices
Tag: GS-2 Government Policies & Interventions
The Centre has imposed import restrictions on laptops, tablets, and certain classes of computers, marking a change in the government’s policy of unrestricted trade with regard to these goods.
About the Import Restrictions:
- The import of laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers, and ultra-small form factor computers and servers would be restricted, with imports only being allowed for those holding a “valid Licence for Restricted Imports“.
- Companies would be given enough time to apply for licences to import laptops and other devices specified in the list of restrictions.
- The restrictions will not be applicable to Imports under Baggage Rules.
- Further, the restriction will not be applicable for the import of one such specified device purchased via e-commerce portals, through post or courier.
- Exemptions will also be given for 20 such devices per consignment for the purpose of R&D, testing, benchmarking, evaluation, repair, re-export and product development purposes.
- The policy also provides an exemption for the re-import of such devices that have been repaired abroad.
- Finally, the policy gives another exemption for such devices that form an essential part of a “Capital Good”.
Reasons for Imposing Restrictions:
- WTO Rules: India is obligated to its commitment to zero-duty imports under WTO rules. Thus the inability to check the import of electronic goods, which impacts the domestic manufacturing, restrictions were imposed.
- The China factor: India’s overdependence on China with regard to the import of electronic goods such as laptops, computers etc. needed to be reduced. India’s cumulative imports of electronic goods since 2019 shows that China accounts for a whopping 59% of these imports.
- Boost to indigenous manufacturers: A rise in indigenous manufacturing would not only help India reduce its dependence on its diplomatic and business rival but would also help indigenous manufacturers expand their footprint globally.
- The Security factor: The restrictions had been brought in to guard against electronic hardware coming in with in-built security loopholes that may potentially endanger sensitive personal and enterprise data.
Source: Deccan Herald
G20 Principles for Financing Cities of Tomorrow
Tag: GS-3 Inclusive growth, Sustainable development, Resilient Infrastructure
The G-20 members have come out with a report “Financing Cities of Tomorrow” after the third G20 Infrastructure Working Group meeting at Rishikesh. They endorsed the “Principles for Financing Cities of Tomorrow: Inclusive, Resilient and Sustainable”
Key Highlights of the Report:
- Delivering quality urban infrastructure is one of the most pressing challenges for cities in a rapidly urbanising and changing world.
- The ‘G20 Principles on Financing Cities of Tomorrow’ and the “Financing Cities of Tomorrow” report provide guidance and evidence to accelerate quality infrastructure investment in cities.
- Cities have strong potential to better meet current and future urban infrastructure challenges and enhance investment.
- Better urban planning improves the likelihood of raising private capital for inclusive, resilient and sustainable urban investments. Financing of urban infrastructure cannot be achieved without cities leveraging private investment.
- City Governments have a key role in the planning and provision of urban infrastructure, with subnational governments responsible for almost 60% of total public investments in G20 countries. City governments can mobilise funds through:
- Municipal bonds: Ex. Municipal Bond in Vadodara
- Green, social and sustainable bonds: Ex. Green Bond in Mexico City
- Green, social and sustainable loans: Ex. Green and Social Loans from La Banque Postale (France)
- Sustainability-linked bonds: Ex. Sustainability-Linked Bond in the City of Helsingborg (Sweden)
- Catastrophe bonds: Catastrophe Bond in Los Angeles (US)
- Improving City Governments’ access to sustainable finance for quality infrastructure investments can help create more inclusive, resilient and sustainable cities.
- Create an enabling environment for City Governments to access affordable and sustainable finance, in line with national institutional contexts and ensuring fiscal responsibility.
- Ensure that cities have access to sufficient and predictable sources of funding.
- Enhance the use of sustainable financing instruments for infrastructure investments made by City Governments
Source: OECD Library
Sub-Categorisation of OBCs
Tags: GS – 2: Constitutional Bodies
Why in News:
Recently, The Justice G. Rohini Commission for the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBC) caste groups submitted its report to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Justice G. Rohini Commission:
- The commission was set up on 2nd October, 2017 under Article 340 of the Constitution (President’s power to appoint a Commission to investigate the conditions of the backward classes).
- Terms of Reference:
- Examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
- Work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs.
- Take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
- Study the entries in the Central List of OBCs and recommend corrections for repetitions, ambiguities, inconsistencies, and errors in spelling or transcription.
Historical Evolution of Reservation of OBCs in India:
- Kelkar Commission (1953): The first instance of recognizing backward classes beyond the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) on a national level.
- Mandal Commission Report (1980): It estimated that the OBC population constituted 52% and identified 1,257 communities as backward.
- It suggested an increase in the existing quotas from 22.5% to 49.5%, extending the reservation to include OBCs.
- Following these recommendations, the central government implemented the reservation policy, reserving 27% of seats in union civil posts and services for OBCs under Article 16(4).
- It was also enforced in central government educational institutions under Article 15(4).
- In 2008, the Supreme Court directed he central government to exclude the “creamy layer” among the OBCs from benefiting from the reservation policy, ensuring that it reaches the most disadvantaged.
- 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2018: It granted constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
Need for sub-categorisation of OBCs:
- OBCs get 27% reservation in central government jobs and admission to educational institutions. There are more than 2,600 entries in the Central List of OBCs but over the years only a few affluent communities among them have benefited from the quota.
- In 2018, an analysis of data from 1.3 lakh central government jobs and OBC admissions to central higher education institutions revealed that 97% of benefits were availed by just 25% of OBC castes.
- Approximately 37% (983) of OBC communities had no representation in these opportunities, underscoring the necessity for sub-categorization.
- Therefore, there is an argument that a “sub-categorisation” of OBCs — quotas within the 27% quota — is needed in order to ensure “equitable distribution” of the benefits of reservation.
Source: Indian Express
Money Bill and Finance Bill
Tags: GS – 2: Indian Polity (Parliamentary Procedure)
Why in News:
The Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill which was earlier reported as a financial bill, is now categorised as a normal bill by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
- Any bill related to revenue or expenditure is a Financial Bill.
- Financial Bills are of three types – Money Bill (Article 110), Financial Bill I (Article 117(1)), and Financial Bill II (Article 117(3)).
- A money Bill is also a specific type of financial Bill, which must deal only with matters specified in Article 110(1).
- It deals with taxes, regulation of the government’s borrowing of money, and expenditure or receipt of money from the Consolidated Fund of India.
- Article 109 delineates the procedure for the passage of such a Bill and confers an overriding authority on the Lok Sabha in the passage of Money Bills.
- The Speaker of Lok Sabha takes the final call if a bill is a money bill or not. And his decision cannot be challenged in any court of the country.
- All money bills are financial bills, but not all financial bills are money bills.
- Financial Bill I: Article 117 (1)
- It includes not only the subjects stated in Article 110(1) of the Constitution but also other legislative provisions.
- It follows the same parliamentary procedures as any ordinary bill.
- The president may call a joint session of the two Houses if they cannot agree on such a measure.
- When the Bill is presented to the President, he has three options: to approve it, decline to do so, or send it back to the Houses for further consideration.
- Financial bill I is similar to the money bill in two ways – First, both of these bills can only originate in the Lok Sabha and not Rajya Sabha. Second, both the bills can be introduced only on the President’s advice.
- Financial Bill II: Article 117 (3)
- It does not contain any of the items listed in Article 110, but it does contain measures impacting Consolidated Fund of India spending.
- It is regarded as an ordinary bill and is handled in every way by the same parliamentary process as an ordinary bill.
- It can be initiated in either house of the Parliament and the President’s approval is not required. However, the President’s suggestion can be taken during the consideration stage of the bill.
Comparison of Money Bill and Financial Bills:
|Aspect||Money Bills||Financial Bills|
|Introduction||Can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha||Can be introduced in either of the houses.|
|President’s Recommendation||President’s recommendation is must for introduction.||Necessary for Category I at the introduction stage and for Category II at the consideration stage.|
|Role of Rajya Sabha||Rajya Sabha can only provide recommendations. (Article 117)||Rajya Sabha can fully participate, including amendments and discussions.|
|Nature of RS Recommendations||Incorporating recommendations is not mandatory in case of Money Bill.||Rajya Sabha’s recommendations to be included in Financial Bills.|
|Matters Covered||Deals exclusively with matters listed in Article 110(1) of the Constitution.||Deals with matters listed in Article 110(1) and can include other financial provisions.|
|Certification||Certified by the Speaker as a Money Bill.||No Certification is required. It is treated as ordinary bill.|
|In case of disagreement||In case of disagreements, the decision of Lok Sabha prevails.||Requires agreement of both Houses for passage.|
|President’s Role||President’s recommendation is essential for the introduction||President’s recommendation is required if the Bill involves expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India.|
Source: Indian Express
Vivad se Vishwas 2.0
Tags: GS-II: Government policies
Union government launches Vivad se Vishwas 2.0 scheme to settle contractual disputes
About Vivad se Vishwas 2.0:
- Ministry of Finance has recently launched the “Vivad se Vishwas 2” scheme to resolve contractual disputes involving the Government of India and government undertakings.
- The scheme was announced in the budget 2022-2023 and covers disputes up to 30 September 2022.
- Key features:
- It offers a voluntary settlement scheme with standardized terms for disputes where an arbitral award is under legal challenge.
- It applies to all domestic contractual disputes involving the government and the deadline for submitting claims under the scheme is 31 October 2023.
- Contractors will be offered settlement amounts up to 85% of the net amount awarded or upheld by the court for awards passed on or before 30 April 2023.
- For arbitral awards passed on or before 31 January 2023, the settlement amount offered will be up to 65% of the net amount awarded.
- The government e-marketplace (GeM) will have a dedicated web-page for the scheme’s implementation where eligible claims will be processed to ensure a smooth and transparent process.
- Contractors with non-GeM contracts of the Ministry of Railways may register their claims on the IREPS platform (www.ireps.gov.in).
- Overall, the scheme will go a long way in ensuring transparency in government contract process and will help promote ease of doing business.
Maharatna and Navratna category
Tags: GS-II: Government Policies
Government upgrades public sector undertakings Oil companies giving them more flexibility to take decisions on large investments within India and abroad.
About Maharatna and Navratna Category
- The Ministry of Finance has recently upgraded Oil India to the Maharatna category of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs).
- Maharatna Category:
- The Maharatna category was introduced on May 19, 2010, to empower CPSEs to expand operations and emerge as global giants.
- CPSEs with Maharatna status have greater autonomy in decision-making, especially concerning large investments within India and abroad.
- Some key CPSEs with Maharatna status include BHEL, Indian Oil, ONGC, BPCL, HPCL, and SAIL.
- Criteria for Maharatna status include:
- The CPSE should have Navratna status with significant global presence or international operations.
- It should be listed on the Indian stock exchange with a minimum prescribed public shareholding under SEBI regulations.
- It should have an average annual net profit exceeding Rs 2,500 crore during the last three years
- Navratna Category:
- The Navratna category is another classification for CPSEs in India which gives more financial and operational autonomy compared to other CPSEs.
- They are allowed to undertake capital expenditure without any monetary ceiling for purchasing new items or replacements.
- Navratna CPSEs can enter into technology joint ventures or strategic alliances and obtain technology and know-how through purchase or other arrangements.
- They have the authority to raise debt from domestic and international capital markets, subject to RBI/Department of Economic Affairs approval.
- These CPSEs can also establish financial joint ventures and wholly-owned subsidiaries in India or abroad within an investment ceiling of Rs 1,000 crore.
- Some important Navratna status companies include:
- Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Coal India Limited (CIL), GAIL (India) Limited
- Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) etc.,
- Overall, the status upgrade reflects the government’s acknowledgment of the CPSE’s achievements and potential for further growth and contribution to the economy.
Source: Hindu Business Line
Tags: General Studies –2 Government Policies & Interventions
Why in news?
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is implementing an umbrella scheme namely PM Young Achievers Scholarship Award Scheme for Vibrant India (PM –YASASVI) for OBC and others.
- This is an umbrella Scheme formulated for OBC, EBC and DNT Students by clubbing the existing Scholarship Schemes and Hostel Scheme.
- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India has formulated the scheme.
- It aims to award scholarships to eligible candidates belonging to Other Backward Class (OBC), Economically Backward Class (EBC), and De-Notified, Nomadic & Semi Nomadic Tribes (DNT/SNT) categories.
- National Testing Agency has been entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the YASASVI ENTRANCE TEST.
- Students of Class IX will be provided with financial benefit of Rs.75,000 per year.
- Students of Class XI will be provided with financial benefit of Rs.1,25,000 per year.
- A candidate must fall in one of the following categories: OBC/ EBC/ DNT SAR/ NT/ SNT.
- Students studying in Class IX and Class XI identified Schools across India.
- The yearly income of the applicant’s parents should not exceed Rs.2.5 lakh.
- The award of scholarships is at two levels:
- For students who are studying in Class IX
- For students who are studying in Class XI
- There are five sub-Schemes under the Scheme.
- Pre-Matric Scholarship for OBC, EBC and DNT Students
- Post-Matric Scholarship for OBC, EBC and DNT Students.
- Top Class School Education for OBC, EBC and DNT Students
- Top Class College Education for OBC, EBC and DNT Students
- Construction of Hostel for OBC Boys and Girls.
Source: PM Modi Yojana
Aadi Perukku 2023
Tags: General Studies –1 Art & Culture
Why in news?
Recently, Tamil Nadu celebrated the Aadi Perukku 2023 festival.
- Aadi Perukku is a significant festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu to express gratitude for the monsoon season and the life-sustaining properties of water.
- Aadi Perukku, is also known as Pathinettam Perukku.
- Falling on the 18th day of the Aadi month in the Tamil Calendar, this festival marks the onset of the monsoon season, which brings increased water levels to the rivers and benefits sowing and vegetation.
- It is considered the ideal time to sow, plant seeds and take up other forms of vegetation.
- During Aadi Perukku, people gather near the banks of rivers, especially the Kaveri River, to perform rituals and offer prayers.
- On this auspicious day, Mother nature is worshipped in the form of Amman deities.
Source: The Times of India
Tags: General Studies –3 Infrastructure
Why in news?
Recently, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has launched a new app called ‘Rajmargyatra’ in a bid to improve user experience on highways and create a ‘citizen-centric unified mobile application’.
- Rajmargyatra is a user-friendly app that will help provide travellers with comprehensive information about India’s highways and also offer them an efficient grievance redressal mechanism.
- This application is currently available in Hindi and English and can be downloaded via the Google Play Store and iOS App Store.
- Comprehensive Highway Information:
- It serves as a one-stop repository of essential information for National Highway users.
- The app will allow users to get real-time weather conditions, details of nearby toll plazas, petrol pumps, hospitals, hotels and other essential services and timely traffic alerts.
- Hassle-Free Complaint Redressal:
- The app comes equipped with an inbuilt complaint redressal and escalation mechanism.
- The registered complaints will be handled in a time-bound manner, with system-generated escalations to higher authorities in case of any delays.
- FASTag services:
- NHAI’s new app has integrated its services with various banking portals to make it convenient for users to recharge their FASTags, avail monthly passes and get other FASTag related services on a single platform.
- Safe driving features:
- The Rajmargyatra app comes with over-speeding notifications and a built-in voice assistant to encourage safe driving behavior.
- Comprehensive Highway Information:
Tags: General Studies – 3 Science and Technology
Why in news?
Recently, Union Minister said NIDHI (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations) program under DST has various components to support innovations, startups, and startup incubation ecosystem in the country.
- The National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI) program was initiated in 2016 as a comprehensive framework by the Department of Science & Technology’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship division.
- NIDHI primary objective is to foster the growth of startups by identifying, supporting, and amplifying innovative endeavors.
- The program’s core stakeholders encompass various arms of the central government, state governments, academic and research institutions, mentors, financial entities, angel investors, venture capitalists, and private sectors.
- Funding for the program is channeled through the National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB).
Key Elements of the NIDHI Program:
- NIDHI-PRAYAS (Promoting and Accelerating Young and Aspiring Innovators and Startups): This initiative operates at the Proof-of-Concept level, providing both mentorship and financial backing to innovators to translate their ideas into functional prototypes.
- NIDHI Entrepreneurs-In-Residence (EIR) Program: The program extends fellowships to students who are inclined towards entrepreneurship. This facilitates their immersion in the startup ecosystem.
- NIDHI Seed Support Program: This component ensures that startups receive essential early-stage seed funding, enabling them to initiate their ventures.
- NIDHI Accelerator Program: Designed to expedite startups’ preparedness for investment, the accelerator program is a structured fast-track process spanning 3-6 months. It aids in propelling startup ideas to higher levels.
Source: PIB Gov.
Tags: General Studies – 3 Environment
Why in news?
Recently, Gang inspired by ‘Pushpa’ smuggle red sanders.
- Pterocarpus santalinus, a tree species native to India, is characterized by its exclusivity to the Eastern Ghats region within the country.
- This particular species thrives solely within a delimited expanse of forests located in Andhra Pradesh.
- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorized the Red Sanders (or Red Sandalwood) into the ‘endangered’ category in its Red List.
- Illicit practice of tree felling to facilitate smuggling, forest fires, the impact of cattle grazing, and other human-induced threats.
- Red Sanders trees are renowned for their vibrant coloration and valued medicinal properties. Their allure extends beyond India, as there is substantial demand for them throughout Asia, particularly in countries like China and Japan.
- This demand stems from their application in cosmetics and medicinal formulations. Moreover, the timber derived from Red Sanders is sought-after for the creation of furniture, intricate woodwork, and musical instruments.
Source: New Indian Express
Tags: General Studies – 1 History
Why in news?
Recently, Panel for allowing ASI to carry out an inspection of Puri temple treasury during 2024 rath yatra.
- During the upcoming 2024 rath yatra, the Jagannath Temple Management Committee has put forth a recommendation to permit the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct an inspection of the Ratna Bhandar, which is the treasury of the 12th-century Jagannath Temple situated in Puri.
- This decision carries considerable weight as it comes in response to mounting pressure directed at the Odisha government to unlock the treasury. Inside the Ratna Bhandar, there is believed to be a collection of valuable jewelry and precious gemstones.
- Positioned along the eastern coastline of Odisha, the Jagannath Temple in Puri holds immense significance. It stands as a prominent Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple’s construction was initiated by King Indradyumna of Avanti, reflecting the distinctive Kalinga architectural style. This construction endeavor reached completion in the year 1161 CE.
- The origins of the temple can be traced back to the 12th century, attributed to the efforts of King Anatavarman Chodaganga Deva from the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
- Recognized as the ‘Yamanika Tirtha,‘ the Jagannath Puri temple holds a distinctive significance in Hindu beliefs. This designation stems from the notion that the presence of Lord Jagannath in Puri neutralizes the dominion of ‘Yama,’ the deity associated with death.
- Once referred to as the “White Pagoda,” this temple holds a prominent place within the Char Dham pilgrimages, which encompass Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri, and Rameswaram.
- The temple features four entryways: the primary entrance, known as the Eastern ‘Singhdwara,‘ is adorned with a pair of reclining lions; the Southern ‘Ashwadwara’; the Western ‘Vyaghra Dwara’; and the Northern ‘Hastidwara.‘ Each gate boasts intricate carvings corresponding to distinct divine forms.
- At the temple’s threshold stands the Aruna stambha, also recognized as the sun pillar, originally located at the Sun Temple in Konark.
Source: The Hindu
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