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Daily Current Affairs – 18th Dec. 2020

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Daily Current Affairs

Given below are the daily current affairs for 18th Dec. 2020. You can take the daily current affairs quiz here for free.

POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

Farmers have constitutional right to continue protest: SC

Context:

The Supreme Court said that the farmers have a constitutional right to continue with their protest as long as their dissent against the controversial agricultural laws did not slip into violence.

Delhi Assembly passes resolution rejecting agricultural laws.

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Details:

  • It said that the court would not interfere with the protests and that the right to protest is part of a fundamental right and can, as a matter of fact, be exercised subject to public order.
  • The court reiterated its suggestion of forming an “impartial and independent committee” of experts in agriculture to hear both the farmers and the Union Government on the laws.

What’s the main issue here?

Experts argue, the three agriculture laws are a clear infringement on the states’ right to legislate.

  1. The main subjects of the three acts are agriculture and market that are essentially state subjects as per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
  2. However, the Central government finagled its way into the legislation by misconstruing its authority on food items, a subject in the Concurrent List, as authority over the subject agriculture.
  3. However, food items and agricultural products are distinct categories as many agricultural products in their raw forms are not food items and vice versa.

What does the Constitution say on this?

Agriculture is in the state list under the Constitution.

But, Entry 33 of the Concurrent List provides Centre and the states powers to control production, supply and distribution of products of any industry, including agriculture.

  1. Usually, when a state wants to amend a Central law made under one of the items in the concurrent list, it needs the clearance of the Centre.
  2. When a state law contradicts a Central law on the same subject, the law passed by Parliament prevails.

Why the Constitution envisaged such an arrangement?

This is an arrangement envisaged as most Parliament laws apply to the whole of India and states amending the Central laws indiscriminately could lead to inconsistencies in different regions on the application of the same law. In matters of trade and commerce, this could especially pose serious problems.

The other option available with the states is:

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To take Centre to the Supreme Court over the validity of these laws.

  1. Article 131 of the Constitution provides exclusive jurisdiction to the Supreme Court to adjudicate matters between the states and the Centre.
  2. Article 254 (2) of the Constitution empowers state governments to pass legislations which negate the Central acts in the matters enumerated under the Concurrent List.
  3. A state legislation passed under Article 254 (2) requires the assent of the President of India.

Three capitals for Andhra Pradesh

Context:

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) national president N. Chandrababu Naidu has challenged Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to hold a referendum on the idea of the three capitals.

Three- capitals:

On July 31 the state government notified the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, and the AP Capital Region Development Authority (Repeal) Act, 2020.

This law paves the way for three capitals for the state.

  1. Amaravati– legislative capital.
  2. Visakhapatnam– executive capital.
  3. Kurnool– judicial capital.

Need for three capitals:

  1. The government says it is against building one mega capital while neglecting other parts of the state. Three capitals ensure equal development of different regions of the state.
  2. Decentralisation has been the central theme in recommendations of all major committees that were set up to suggest a suitable location for the capital of Andhra Pradesh. These include Justice B N Srikrishna Committee, K Sivaramakrishnan Committee, G N Rao Committee etc.

Why implementing this idea will be difficult?

  1. Coordination and logistics fear: Coordinating between seats of legislature and executive in separate cities will be easier said than done, and with the government offering no specifics of a plan, officers and common people alike fear a logistics nightmare.
  2. Time and costs of travel: Executive capital Visakhapatnam is 700 km from judicial capital Kurnool, and 400 km from legislative capital Amaravati. The Amaravati-Kurnool distance is 370 km. The time and costs of travel will be significant.

Which other Indian states have multiple capitals?

  1. Maharashtra has two capitals– Mumbai and Nagpur (which holds the winter session of the state assembly).
  2. Himachal Pradesh has capitals at Shimla and Dharamshala (winter).

Recommendations on Reservation

Why in News

Recently, an eight-member committee, appointed by the government for suggesting measures for effective implementation of reservation in students admissions and faculty recruitment in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), has come out with its recommendations.

Key Points

  • About the Committee:
    • It was chaired by IIT Delhi’s Director and had representatives of secretaries of the departments of Social Justice and Empowerment, Tribal Affairs, Department of Personnel and Training, Persons with Disabilities, among others.
    • Its report was submitted to the Ministry of Education in June 2020 and has been made available under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
  • Recommendations:
    • Being established and recognised as institutions of national importance, IITs should be added to the list of “Institutions of Excellence” mentioned in the Schedule to the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Teachers’ Cadre) Act, 2019 (CEI Act).
    • Section 4 of the Act exempts “institutions of excellence, research institutions, institutions of national and strategic importance” mentioned in the Schedule and “minority institutions” from providing reservation.
    • Currently, many research institutes like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Brain Research Centre, Space Physics Laboratory, etc. are included under Section 4 of the act, but not the IITs.
    • If granting full exemption from reservations was not possible, the committee recommended that the implementation of reservation policies for all categories including Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) be restricted just to Assistant Professor Grade I and Grade II and not for levels above.
    • Vacancies not filled in a particular year due to non-availability, be de-reserved in the subsequent year.
    • Conduct of special recruitment drives to attract candidates from reserved categories.
    • To address diversity issues, the report argued that a “system emphasising targeted goals over a period of time” and not “specific quotas” be followed so that IITs can “compete with other top institutions in the world in terms of excellence, output, research and teaching.”
    • The panel proposes a two-year Research Assistantship for students from reserved categories aspiring to join PhD programmes.
    • It highlighted that the enrollment of reserved category students in the PhD programme is low and needs to be addressed, which is severely limiting the number of reserved category candidates available to be hired as faculty in the IIT system.

Winter session of Parliament

Why in News

The government has recently decided to cancel the Winter session of Parliament, citing fears over a surge in cases due to covid-19 pandemic.

Key Points

  • Sessions of Parliament:
    • The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution.
    • The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the Government. The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs which is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
    • India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar. By convention (i.e. not provided by the Constitution), Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.

      • The longest, Budget Session (1st session), starts towards the end of January, and concludes by the end of April or first week of May. The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
      • The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
      • Winter Session (3rd session), is held from November to December.
  • Summoning of Parliament:
    • Summoning is the process of calling all members of the Parliament to meet. The President summons each House of the Parliament from time to time. The gap between two sessions of the Parliament cannot exceed 6 months, which means the Parliament meets at least two times in one year.
  • Adjournment:
    • Adjournment terminates the sitting of the House which meets again at the time appointed for the next sitting. The postponement may be for a specified time such as hours, days or weeks. If the meeting is terminated without any definite time/ date fixed for the next meeting, it is called Adjournment sine die.
  • Prorogation:
    • Prorogation is the end of a session. A prorogation puts an end to a session. The time between the Prorogation and reassembly is called Recess. Prorogation is the end of session and not the dissolution of the house (in case of Lok Sabha, as Rajya Sabha does not dissolve).
  • Quorum:
    • Quorum refers to the minimum number of the members required to be present for conducting a meeting of the house. The Constitution has fixed one-tenth strength as quorum for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Thus, to conduct a sitting of Lok Sabha, there should be at least 55 members present while to conduct a sitting of Rajya Sabha, there should be at least 25 members present.

ECONOMY

Govt. plans $60-bn investment to bolster gas infrastructure

Context:

Petroleum Minister said that the government had planned a $60-billion investment for creating gas infrastructure in the country till 2024, including for pipelines, LNG terminals and CGD (city gas distribution) networks.

Details:

  • It was pointed out that the Centre aims to increase gas’s share in the energy mix by 6% to 15% by 2030.
  • The coverage of city gas distribution (CGD) projects is being expanded to 232 geographical areas spread over 400 districts.
  • This would have the potential to cover about 53% of the country’s geography and 70% of the population.
  • In 2020, India was able to fully fill all petroleum reserves with a capacity of 5.33 million tonnes (MT) constructed at Visakhapatnam, Mangaluru and Padur.
  • The government has also started the process of establishing another 6.5 MT commercial-cum-strategic petroleum storage facilities at Chandikol and Padur under a public-private partnership.

Note:

  • India’s first automated national-level gas trading platform was unveiled in June 2020 to promote and sustain an efficient and robust gas market and foster gas trading in the country.

Advance corporate tax inflows jump 49% in Q3

What’s in News?

Advance corporate tax collections rose by 49 per cent, while advance personal income tax declined by 5.6 per cent in the third instalment of advance taxes that were due in December 2020.

  • The rise in advance corporate tax payments has come mainly on the back of a low base effect due to lower advance tax paid by companies in December 2019 following a cut in the corporate tax rate announced in September 2019.
  • The government in September 2019 had announced a cut in the corporate tax rate, wherein corporate tax for existing companies was reduced to 22 per cent from 30 per cent, and to 15 per cent from 25 per cent for new manufacturing firms incorporated after October 1, 2019, and starting operations before March 31, 2023.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

ISRO launches satellite for communications (CMS-01)

Context:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully placed India’s 42nd communications satellite, CMS-01, into a transfer orbit.

Details:

  • CMS-01 was carried on board the PSLV-C50, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
  • It is PSLV’s (India’s workhorse launch vehicle) 52nd mission.
  • It was configured in its ‘XL’ version with six strap-on motors.
  • The satellite has been placed into a precise geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). It will be placed into its specified slot in the geosynchronous orbit after a series of manoeuvres.

CMS-01:

  • CMS-01 is a communications satellite.
  • It is envisaged for providing services in extended C Band of the frequency spectrum.
  • Its coverage will include the Indian mainland and the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands.
  • It is expected to have a life of over seven years.

Note:

  • ISRO chairperson said that PSLV-C51 would be a special mission for ISRO and the entire country as the vehicle would carry the country’s first private-sector satellite under the space reforms programme announced by the Indian government.
  • The first satellite, from Pixxel India named ‘Anand’, will be launched on board the PSLV-C51.
  • Two more satellites, ‘Satish Sat’ from Space Kidz India and ‘Unity Sat’ from a consortium of universities will also be launched.
  • He asserted that the PSLV-C51 launch will mark a new era of space reforms in India.

Indian scientists develop high-performance hybrid super capacitors with novel electrode material

Context:

Scientists have developed a low-cost super capacitor device with excellent capacitive retention with a novel electrode material they have synthesized, which can pave the way for the next generation high power-high energy storage devices.

What is a Super capacitor?

  • A super capacitor is a high-capacity capacitor with a capacitance value much higher than other capacitors, but with lower voltage limits, that bridges the gap between electrolytic capacitors and rechargeable batteries.
  • A capacitor is a device that stores electrical energy in an electric field.
  • It typically stores 10 to 100 times more energy per unit volume or mass than electrolytic capacitors, and can accept and deliver charge much faster than batteries.
  • The super capacitor is a next-generation energy storage device that has received extensive research attention owing to advantages such as high power density, long durability, and ultrafast charging characteristic as compared to conventional capacitors and lithium-ion batteries (LIB).
  • Among the four main components of a super capacitor – electrode, electrolyte, separator, and the current collector, the first two are the pivotal components, which directly determine the electrochemical behaviour of the super capacitors.
  • The fabrication cost of electrode materials, as well as electrolytes, should be reduced because these two components account for a major portion of the device manufacturing cost.
  • Super capacitors with high capacitance and excellent capacitive retention developed from low-cost fabrication techniques are the need of the hour, considering their potential utility in the commercial market.

The Study:

  • Scientists have developed a facile, scalable, and cost-effective electrochemical route to synthesize electrodes made of nickel cobaltite containing nanosheet structures with incorporated oxygen vacancies as an active material, for hybrid super capacitors.
  • These electrodes have been found to have excellent electrochemical performance.
  • The team comprised of scientists from the International Advanced Research Center for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India in collaboration with IIT Hyderabad.

MISCELLANEOUS

India ranks 111 out of 162 nations in Human freedom index

Context:

The Human Freedom Index 2020, a worldwide ranking of civil, economic and personal freedom, was released recently.

  1. The index was published by American think tank Cato Institute and Fraser Institute in Canada.
  2. It takes into account 76 indicators of personal, civil, and economic freedoms to rank 162 countries from 2008 to 2018.

India’s performance:

  1. It placed India at the 111th spot out of 162 countries.
  2. India ranked 94 on the index in 2019.
  3. India is ahead of China and Bangladesh, which ranked 129 and 139 on the 2020 index respectively.

Global Performances:

  1. New Zealand, Switzerland and Hong Kong bagged the first three spots.
  2. However, Hong Kong’s rank is expected to decline in the future, because of China’s “aggressive interventions” in the region in 2019 and 2020.
  3. War-torn Syria ranked the last on the list.
  4. The world has seen a notable decline in personal freedom since 2008.
  5. The report continues to find a strong, positive relationship between freedom and prosperity, but also finds that here is an unequal distribution of freedom in the world.

India’s performances in various other indices:

India has dropped on several global freedom indexes.

  1. Democracy watchdog Freedom House’s report in October showed that internet freedom in India declined for a third straight year in 2019-’20.
  2. The Global Economic Freedom Index 2020 released in September showed India drop 26 spots from 79 to 105.
  3. The World Press Freedom Index, which was released in April, saw India slip two places. India ranked 142 on the index comprising of 180 countries and territories.
  1. The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link was made functional from December 17.
  2. It is the 5th rail link between India and Bangladesh.
  3. This rail link was operational till 1965. This was part of the broad gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during partition. However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan.
  4. After the partition in 1947, seven rail links were operational between India and the then East Pakistan (up to 1965).
  5. Presently, there are four operational rail links between India and Bangladesh. They are Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)-Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh).”

Yogasana is now a sport

  1. The Central government has decided to promote yogasana as a competitive sport.
  2. The National Board of Promotion and Development of Yoga and Naturopathy in 2019 recommended that yogasana be recognised as a competitive sport.
  3. An exhaustive document containing rules, regulations and syllabus for yogasana competitions had been prepared.
  4. Implications: State and national and world championships in yogasana are proposed in 2021. A pilot national individual yogasana sports championship (virtual mode) is proposed for February 2021.

India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol

Context:

The 35th edition of India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT).

About IND-INDO CORPAT:

  • The IND-INDO CORPAT is being conducted between the navies of India and Indonesia.
  • To reinforce maritime links, the two navies have been carrying out CORPATs along their International Maritime Boundary Line since 2002, with the aim of ensuring the safety and security of shipping and international trade in the region.
  • CORPATs build up understanding and interoperability between navies and facilitate the institution of measures to prevent and suppress Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU) fishing, drug trafficking, maritime terrorism, armed robbery and piracy.
  • The Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kulish is participating in this CORPAT, along with P8I Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA).
  • INS Kulish is an indigenously built missile corvette.

Background:

As part of the Government of India’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with countries in the Indian Ocean Region for coordinated patrols, cooperation in EEZ surveillance, passage exercises and bilateral/multilateral exercises, towards enhancing regional maritime security.


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