- CURRENT AFFAIRS – 13/01/2024
- SC refuses to stay law on CEC, EC selection
- Karnataka govt. launches ‘Yuva Nidhi’ scheme
- Census records 27% increase in water birds at Kaziranga
- A case diary for the Indian police
- Atal Setu, India’s longest sea bridge, inaugurated
- Science Ministry team visits Hawaii to take stock of international telescope project
CURRENT AFFAIRS – 13/01/2024
SC refuses to stay law on CEC, EC selection
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Supreme Court has dismissed a request for an interim stay on a recently enacted law that removes the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the panel responsible for selecting the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
- A two-judge bench, presided over by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, issued a notice in response to a plea filed by Congress leaders Jaya Thakur and Sanjay NarayanraoMeshram.
- However, the court declined to grant an interim stay.
- Petitioners’ Argument:
- Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, representing the petitioners, argued that the new law violated the concept of the separation of powers.
- He referred to a crucial Constitution bench ruling from March 2, 2023, which mandated the involvement of the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India in the appointment process for CEC and ECs.
- It was contended that the legislation contradicted a 2023 Supreme Court five-judge bench ruling that had limited the government’s authority to appoint the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs).
- The Article 324(2) of the Constitution was highlighted, which specifies that the President, with the advice of the Council of Ministers, appoints the CEC and ECs until Parliament enacts a law outlining the criteria for selection, conditions of service, and tenure.
- The plea emphasized that the Supreme Court, in the past, had asserted that its issued “mandamus” cannot be overruled by the legislature, and the separation of powers is a fundamental aspect of the Constitution.
The Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023
- Key Provisions:
- Appointment Process:
- The President will appoint the CEC and ECs based on the recommendation of a Selection Committee.
- The Selection Committee will comprise the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of Opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
- The recommendations of the Selection Committee will remain valid even during Committee vacancies, ensuring a streamlined appointment process.
- Search Committee Involvement:
- A Search Committee, headed by the Cabinet Secretary, will propose a panel of names to the Selection Committee, enhancing the selection process.
- Eligibility Criteria:
- Eligibility for the CEC and ECs positions includes holding or having held a post equivalent to the Secretary to the central government, setting specific qualifications for potential candidates.
- Salary and Conditions of Service:
- The salary and conditions of service for the CEC and ECs will now be equivalent to that of the Cabinet Secretary.
- This represents a departure from the 1991 Act, where the remuneration was comparable to that of a Supreme Court Judge.
- Comparison with Previous Legislation:
- The new Bill replaces the 1991 Act, highlighting changes in the salary structure, eligibility criteria, and the overall appointment process, reflecting a modernized approach to the functioning of the Election Commission.
- Appointment Process:
Evolution of Election Commission Appointment Process
- Constitutional Framework:
- Article 324 of the Constitution establishes the composition of the Election Commission, comprising the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and a designated number of Election Commissioners (ECs) determined by the President.
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) is entrusted with the responsibility of electoral roll preparation and the conduct of elections for various offices, including Parliament, State Legislatures, and the President/Vice-President.
- 1991 Act and Executive Appointment:
- In 1991, Parliament passed the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, setting the salary of the CEC and ECs at the level of a Supreme Court judge.
- However, it did not address the appointment process, leaving it to be determined by the President.
- Supreme Court’s Intervention – March 2023:
- In March 2023, the Supreme Court, while examining the appointment process of the CEC and ECs, declared that their appointment should not be solely under Executive control.
- The Court emphasized the need for the Election Commission’s independence from executive influence and mandated a selection process until Parliament enacted a law.
- The Supreme Court directed that the President appoint the CEC and ECs based on the recommendations of a Selection Committee.
- This committee, crucially, comprises the Prime Minister, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.
- The aim was to introduce a balanced and independent decision-making process for these key appointments.
- Introduction of the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service And Term of Office) Bill, 2023:
- Responding to the Supreme Court’s directives, the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service And Term of Office) Bill, 2023, was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 10, 2023.
- This legislative proposal seeks to repeal the 1991 Act and comprehensively addresses the appointment process, along with defining the conditions of service for the CEC and ECs.
Karnataka govt. launches ‘Yuva Nidhi’ scheme
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy CM D.K. Shivakumar inaugurated the Yuva Nidhi scheme, the fifth electoral promise of the Congress in Karnataka.
- The initiative aims to provide financial assistance to educated unemployed youth in the state.
- The scheme was launched in Shivamogga on January 12.
- The event coincided with the birth anniversary of youth icon Swami Vivekananda.
- Scheme Details:
- The Yuva Nidhi scheme targets graduates and diploma holders who are yet to secure employment.
- Eligible beneficiaries can receive financial aid for a maximum of two years.
- Training opportunities will be provided to registered graduates and diploma holders through the skill connect portal of the State Government.
- Financial Assistance:
- Degree holders are promised ₹3,000 per month, while diploma holders are entitled to ₹1,500 per month.
- The aid is available for those who have been unemployed for the past six months and are not pursuing higher studies.
- The financial support will be provided for a maximum duration of two years.
- Implementation and Eligibility:
- The scheme is applicable only to graduates and diploma holders domiciled in Karnataka.
- The unemployment allowance will continue until the beneficiary secures employment or for a maximum of two years.
- Applications for the Yuva Nidhi scheme, can be submitted through various channels, including Karnataka One, Grama One, BapujiSeva Kendra, or the Seva Sindhu portals.
- Eligible applicants are required to possess documents such as Aadhaar card, bank passbook, ration card, and academic certificates like SSLC, PUC, degree, or diploma.
- Financial Allocations and Future Projections:
- The State Government has allocated ₹250 crore for the Yuva Nidhi scheme in the current year.
- Future funding projections indicate an increase to ₹1,200 crore in 2025 and a sustained annual budget of ₹1,500 crore from 2026 onwards.
- Congress’ Five Guarantees:
- The Yuva Nidhi scheme marks the fulfillment of the Congress party’s last electoral guarantee among the five promised before the Assembly elections in May 2023.
- Previous guarantees include Shakti (free rides for women in non-luxury government buses), Anna Bhagya (10 kg rice for BPL families), GruhaJyoti (free electricity up to 200 units for households), and Gruha Lakshmi (₹2,000 per month for women heads of families with APL/BPL ration cards).
About Swami Vivekananda
- Swami Vivekananda, originally named Narendra NathDatta, was born on January 12, 1863, in Kolkata, India.
- He belonged to a Bengali family with a strong spiritual inclination.
- Vivekananda’s spiritual journey was profoundly influenced by his association with the mystic saint Ramakrishna Paramahansa.
- Ramakrishna’s emphasis on direct experience of God and the universality of religions left a lasting impact on Vivekananda’s philosophy.
- World’s Parliament of Religions (1893):
- Swami Vivekananda gained international recognition for his eloquent and impactful speech at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.
- He spoke about the universality of religion, tolerance, and the need for understanding among different faiths.
- Establishment of Ramakrishna Mission:
- Swami Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, with a focus on social service, education, and spiritual upliftment.
- The mission aimed at serving humanity as a way of serving God, emphasizing the importance of selfless action.
- Philosophical Contributions:
- Vivekananda propagated the teachings of Vedanta and Yoga as practical paths to spiritual realization.
- He emphasized the unity of all religions and the universality of spiritual truths.
- Swami Vivekananda is regarded as a key figure in the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world.
- His teachings have left an enduring impact on India’s cultural and spiritual landscape, inspiring many individuals to strive for excellence and spiritual growth.
- Passing Away:
- Swami Vivekananda left his physical form on July 4, 1902, at the young age of 39.
- “Arise, awake, and stop not until the goal is reached.”
- “All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark.”
Census records 27% increase in water birds at Kaziranga
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
The Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, renowned as a safe haven for the greater one-horned rhinoceros, has witnessed a notable surge in the number of resident and winter migratory waterbirds.
- The recent waterbird census, conducted with citizen scientist participation, revealed a 27% increase in bird population.
- The fifth waterbird census took place from January 9-10 across the 1,302 sq. km wildlife preserve.
- The census identified a total of 84,839 birds, marking an increase of 18,063 compared to the previous survey in 2021-22.
- Kaziranga has now positioned itself among the top five habitats for waterbirds in the country.
- The census was conducted simultaneously across 115 waterbodies within three divisions of the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve: Eastern Assam Wildlife, Nagaon Wildlife, and Biswanath Wildlife.
- The recorded increase in waterbird population emphasizes the ecological health and significance of Kaziranga National Park.
- Kaziranga National Park, renowned for its distinctive terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, stands as one of the world’s best-protected areas.
- Home to the iconic Big Five mammals — rhino, tiger, elephant, Asiatic water buffalo, and eastern swamp deer — the park is equally celebrated for its avian diversity, sustaining over 500 bird species.
- Rich Avian Biodiversity:
- More than 50% of Kaziranga’s landmass, dominated by grasslands, is interspersed with waterbodies, locally known as “bells.”
- The park’s unique ecological features led to its recognition by the Bombay Natural History Society and BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area.
- Key wetlands like Kaziranga-HukumaBeel and JoysagarDoloni showcased substantial bird presence, emphasizing their conservation importance.
- Prominent wetlands adjacent to the tiger reserve included GonakBeel, SahalaBeel, and SisubariBeel, each recording significant bird populations.
- Key Bird Species:
- Kaziranga hosts a diverse avian population, including the Bengal florican, swamp francolin, various raptors, vultures, and waterfowl.
- Notable species observed during the census included Baer’s pochard, Baikal teal, greater scaup, gull-billed tern, greater white-fronted goose, great crested grebe, Pallas’s gull, black stork, black-headed gull, and cotton pygmy goose.
- Historical Census Data:
- The first census in 2018 recorded 10,412 waterfowl belonging to 80 species.
- In 2020, the second count documented 34,284 birds across 98 species.
- The latest census in 2023 revealed an impressive count of 93,491 birds belonging to 112 species, showcasing the thriving avian biodiversity.
Kaziranga National Park: An Overview
- Formation and UNESCO Recognition:
- Location: Situated in Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam, India.
- Significance: Hosts two-thirds of the world’s Indian rhinoceroses.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site: Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its exceptional biodiversity.
- Historical Background:
- Kaziranga’s conservation journey dates back to 1904 when Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston, visited the area and recognized the urgent need to protect the diminishing population of the single-horned rhinoceros, for which the region was renowned.
- Failing to spot a single rhinoceros during her visit, she successfully convinced her husband, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, the Viceroy of India, to take immediate measures for their preservation.
- In response to this plea, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was officially created on June 1, 1905, covering an initial area of 232 km2.
- Over the subsequent three years, the reserve’s expanse was expanded by an additional 152 km2, reaching the banks of the Brahmaputra River.
- Designation Changes and Conservation Measures (1908-1950):
- In 1908, recognizing the importance of protecting its diverse flora and fauna, Kaziranga was designated a “Reserve Forest.”
- The area underwent successive changes in nomenclature, evolving into the “Kaziranga Game Sanctuary” in 1916.
- In 1950, P.D. Stracey, a prominent forest conservationist, initiated a change in nomenclature, renaming the sanctuary the “Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary.”
- This adjustment aimed to dissociate the name from any hunting connotations, emphasizing the sanctuary’s commitment to wildlife preservation.
- National Park Designation (1968-1974):
- The evolution of Kaziranga continued with the passage of the Assam National Park Act in 1968, officially declaring Kaziranga a designated national park.
- This legislative move underscored the park’s heightened status and commitment to comprehensive conservation strategies.
- The park’s official recognition as a national park by the central government followed on February 11, 1974, encompassing a sprawling area of 430 km2.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site (1985):
- Kaziranga’s unparalleled biodiversity and commitment to conservation garnered global recognition in 1985 when it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A case diary for the Indian police
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
In the first week of January, a significant three-day conference in Jaipur brought together high-ranking police officers, specifically at the Director General of Police level, from across India.
- The conference served as both a comprehensive stocktaking exercise and a valuable learning experience.
- The agenda predominantly focused on contemporary issues in Information Technology, reflecting the evolving landscape of law enforcement.
- Challenges in Public Perception:
- Despite the emphasis on efficient policing, a stark reality remains—the police force is yet to gain the trust and confidence of a significant portion of the populace.
- The public image of the police continues to be dismal, leading to a situation where citizens hesitate to seek help from a police station unless faced with extreme distress.
- This underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift in how law enforcement is perceived and experienced by the public.
- Even after seven decades of India’s Independence, there exists a gap in having a guardian organization that effectively reaches out to the most vulnerable members of the community.
- Despite well-intentioned efforts by the executive, the reputation of police forces has not seen substantial improvement.
- Police commissions, while making some observations, have not been able to bring about significant changes in this regard.
- Advancements and Challenges in Policing: A Technology Perspective
- Acknowledging the strides made by the police force in embracing technology, it’s evident that a more technology-savvy approach has emerged.
- The credit is attributed, in part, to a higher proportion of educated personnel in the lower echelons of the force.
- However, the primary driver for many opting for a career in the police force appears to be the pervasive unemployment issue in India.
- While the influx of educated individuals into the force is a positive development, concerns arise about whether those entering as constables or sub-inspectors will have ample opportunities to showcase their talents.
- The spotlight, it seems, is predominantly on officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS), leaving lower ranks with limited chances to demonstrate their capabilities.
- Disparity in Recognition:
- A noteworthy distinction from global practices is observed, where recruits typically start at the lowest rank and progress through the ranks based on merit.
- In contrast, the dominance of attention and glory by IPS officers contributes to a lack of visibility for the achievements of lower-ranked personnel.
- This disparity prompts a call for a structural overhaul to bridge the gap between higher and lower ranks, aiming to enhance overall policing quality.
- Need for Knowledge, Integrity, and Empathy:
- Criticism against the IPS stems from the argument that the focus on IPS officers sidelines the importance of the lower ranks.
- To elevate the image of India’s police force, there’s a call for a holistic approach that integrates knowledge and integrity.
- Genuine empathy for the common man is deemed crucial for a positive transformation.
- Restructuring for Holistic Improvement:
- Proposing a major restructuring, the emphasis is on narrowing the hierarchical gap and fostering a culture where knowledge, integrity, and empathy are blended.
- The transformative goal involves a sincere effort by senior police officers to instill a sense of continuous learning among the constabulary.
- Recommendation for Leadership Involvement:
- A call is made for top-ranking officers, including Director Generals of Police (DGPs) and their immediate subordinates, to allocate dedicated time daily for educating the ranks.
- The envisioned approach involves expanding knowledge horizons and teaching practical applications for the benefit of the common man.
- The proposal advocates for a more engaged and inclusive leadership model to foster continuous learning and improvement within the police force.
- Policing Challenges: Navigating the Political Landscape
- The perennial concern of the politicisation of the police force looms large in discussions about law enforcement.
- The challenge of shielding policemen from undue political influence remains a central point of contention.
- This intricate problem is deeply intertwined with the democratic governance system, presenting a complex conundrum for effective policing.
- The issue of how to safeguard police personnel from succumbing to political whims takes center stage in debates.
- Negotiating the delicate balance of adhering to legal and ethical standards while dealing with potentially illegal demands from grassroots politicians poses a significant challenge.
- The reluctance or inability to tactfully refuse unlawful requests is identified as a recurring aspect of policing discussions.
- Inherent Challenge of Independence:
- The quest for maintaining the independence and operational autonomy of the police force is acknowledged as an ongoing challenge.
- The intertwining of political dynamics with policing functions complicates the realization of an independent and impartial law enforcement system.
- While aspirations for an independent and autonomous police force persist, the current political landscape suggests that achieving this objective is akin to pursuing a pipe dream.
- The intricacies of the broader political framework need substantial changes for meaningful progress in ensuring the independence of the police force.
- Criticizing the police solely for adhering to political directives is deemed a disingenuous perspective, recognizing the broader systemic challenges at play.
Atal Setu, India’s longest sea bridge, inaugurated
(General Studies- Paper II)
Source : TH
The Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), officially named the Atal Bihari Vajpayee SewriNhavaSheva Atal Setu, is set to open for public commute.
- Representing India’s longest sea bridge, the MTHL spans 21.8 km, with a significant portion of 16.5 km extending over the sea.
- Atal Setu will reduce thetwohour journey betweenMumbai and Navi Mumbaito a 20minute ride.
- The sea bridge is anticipated to witness the daily movement of over 70,000 vehicles, marking a significant milestone in enhancing connectivity in the region.
- In conjunction with the MTHL inauguration, the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for diverse development projects valued at more than ₹12,700 crore in Navi Mumbai.
- The sectors covered include road and rail connectivity, drinking water, gems and jewellery, and women empowerment.
Science Ministry team visits Hawaii to take stock of international telescope project
(General Studies- Paper III)
Source : TH
A recent development in the global scientific community signals renewed optimism for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project.
- An official delegation from the Department of Science and Technology visited Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano on the island of Hawai’i, to address challenges facing the ambitious endeavor.
- The TMT is envisioned as a collaborative effort involving institutions from the U.S., Japan, China, Canada, and India, with Indian participation receiving approval from the Union Cabinet in 2014.
- The TMT, designed with a 30-meter diameter primary-mirror optical and infrared telescope, aims to facilitate ground-breaking observations into deep space.
- However, the project has encountered substantial hurdles.
- Mauna Kea, already hosting multiple telescopes and considered by some measures as the tallest mountain globally, has become a focal point of local opposition.
- Critics argue that building additional telescopes infringes upon religious and cultural customs, and previous projects have faced backlash for not adequately addressing the concerns of the local community.
- Despite obtaining permits for TMT construction, the Supreme Court of Hawaii invalidated them in 2015.
- Although permissions were reinstated in 2018, actual construction is yet to commence due to persistent opposition from the local community.
- The complex situation reflects the ongoing tension between scientific advancements and the need to respect and address the cultural and religious sensitivities of the regions where such projects are proposed.
- The visit by the Department of Science and Technology suggests a concerted effort to navigate and resolve these challenges, emphasizing the global importance of the TMT project in advancing our understanding of the universe.
- Exploring Alternatives:
- Amidst challenges faced by the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project on Mauna Kea, an alternate site is being considered for the construction of the ambitious telescope.
- The Observatoriodel Roque de losMuchachos (ORM) on La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands is being viewed as a potential alternative.
- The Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), in 2020 expressed India’s clear stance on preferring an alternate site for the TMT project if all necessary procedures and permits could be secured.
- India’s Contribution:
- India plays a pivotal role in the TMT project, anticipating a substantial contribution valued at $200 million.
- This contribution encompasses hardware such as segment support assemblies, actuators, edge sensors, segment polishing, and coating.
- Additionally, India will provide crucial instruments, including first light instruments, and contribute significantly to the software aspects, including observatory software and telescope control systems.
- Out of the 492 precisely polished mirrors required for the telescope, India is set to contribute 83.
About Mauna Kea
- Mauna Kea is an inactive volcano located on the Big Island of Hawai’i in the United States.
- Standing at an impressive elevation of approximately 4,207 meters (13,803 feet) above sea level, and when measured from its base at the ocean floor, it surpasses even Mount Everest, making it, by some measures, the tallest mountain on Earth.