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Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st December 2023) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

The CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023

Context: The recent passage of the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 by the Rajya Sabha marks a pivotal step in revolutionizing India's electoral landscape. 

  • This legislative endeavor aims to set clear guidelines for the appointment process of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (EC), enhancing transparency and aligning with the Supreme Court's directives in response to the Anoop Baranwal v Union of India case, 2023.

Supreme Court Mandate: Paving the Way for Independence

In March 2023, the Supreme Court emphasized the paramount importance of an independent Election Commission of India (ECI) in preserving the integrity of free and fair elections. Addressing a longstanding legislative gap since the Constitution's inception, the SC emphasized the need for a mechanism akin to other autonomous institutions for appointing their heads/members.

Key Rulings & Insights: Redefining the Appointment Process

  • Drawing from the recommendations of esteemed committees such as the Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990) and the Law Commission's 255th report on Electoral Reforms (2015), the SC exercised its authority under Article 142. It mandated the appointment of the CEC and ECs by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, and the Leader of the Opposition or the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha, until parliamentary enactment on the matter.

Exploring the Provisions of the Bill: A Paradigm Shift

Appointment Process:

  • The Bill introduces a robust Selection Committee, including the Prime Minister, a Union Cabinet Minister, and the Leader of Opposition or the largest opposition party's leader in Lok Sabha. A Search Committee, spearheaded by the Cabinet Secretary, will propose a panel of names to this Selection Committee, emphasizing eligibility criteria equivalent to holding or having held a post akin to the Secretary to the central government.

Salary and Conditions:

  • Significantly, the Bill recalibrates the salary and conditions of service of the CEC and ECs to match that of the Cabinet Secretary, shifting from the previous alignment with the salary of a Supreme Court Judge.

Removal Process:

  • While retaining the constitutional provision for the removal of the CEC akin to a Supreme Court Judge, the Bill accentuates that ECs can only be removed based on the CEC's recommendation, bolstering protection for these officials against legal proceedings related to their official duties.

Contemplating Concerns: Addressing Potential Challenges

  • Amidst the celebratory milestones, concerns have been raised regarding potential monopolization within the Selection Committee, a shift from judicial benchmarks to executive control, eligibility criteria limitations, and the lack of parity in the removal process between the CEC and ECs.

Global Perspectives: Insights from Around the World

  • Reflecting on global practices in appointing electoral body members, diverse models from countries like South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States highlight the significance of representation, parliamentary scrutiny, and a balanced power structure in ensuring the impartiality and effectiveness of electoral bodies.

UPSC Civil Services Examination Insights: Understanding Electoral Systems

Questions from the UPSC Civil Services Examination delve into the nuanced aspects of the Election Commission of India, emphasizing the need for aspirants to comprehend the intricacies of India's democratic processes and electoral reforms.

Conclusion: Charting the Future of Electoral Governance

The passage of the CEC and Other ECs Bill, 2023, marks a watershed moment in India's electoral history, ushering in a new era of transparency, accountability, and independence within the Election Commission. While addressing concerns is pivotal, this reform paves the way for a more resilient and robust electoral framework, aligning with global best practices and bolstering the foundations of Indian democracy.

Limitations of CCS and CDR

Context: The recent draft decisions at COP28 in Dubai emphasized the importance of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon-Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies in abating and removing carbon emissions. 

  • However, while these technologies hold promise, they come with inherent limitations and challenges that need to be addressed to effectively combat environmental degradation.

Understanding CCS and CDR

  • Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS): This technology captures carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions at their source, preventing their release into the atmosphere. It's applied in various sectors, including fossil fuel industries and industrial processes like steel and cement production.
  • Carbon-Dioxide Removal (CDR): CDR involves natural methods such as afforestation and technological solutions like direct air capture, mimicking trees' CO₂ absorption abilities. Advanced CDR methods like enhanced rock weathering and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) offer additional means to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere.

The Urgency and Scale of Operation

The IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) highlights the necessity of CCS and CDR technologies to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Projections in AR6 stress the need to sequester 5 billion tonnes of CO₂ by 2040, a scale surpassing India's current annual emissions. Without integrating these technologies, achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius target seems implausible.

Challenges of CCS and CDR

Rebound Emissions Concerns

  • CCS and CDR might inadvertently encourage continued emissions, potentially prolonging reliance on fossil fuels instead of transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Fossil Fuel Dependency

  • In some cases, CCS has facilitated more oil extraction by injecting captured CO₂ into oil fields, possibly extending dependence on fossil fuels.

Land Equity Concerns

  • CDR methods requiring land, especially in the Global South, can impact land rights, biodiversity, and compete with vital agricultural practices, posing a threat to food security.

Technological and Financial Hurdles

  • Scaling up CCS and CDR technologies presents challenges like high costs, inadequate infrastructure, and the necessity for substantial innovation.

The Way Forward

  • Addressing these challenges mandates a comprehensive approach. This includes technological advancements, policy frameworks discouraging fossil fuel reliance, and responsible deployment strategies aligned with broader climate goals. Emphasizing CCS and CDR as transitional solutions while focusing on renewable energy adoption, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices is crucial.

Conclusion

  • While CCS and CDR offer potential in mitigating climate change, their limitations necessitate careful integration within a holistic climate strategy. Acknowledging these limitations and working collaboratively to overcome them will be pivotal in securing a sustainable future for our planet.

Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit

Context: The convergence of nations, ideologies, and advancements in technology often marks the dawn of a new era. The recent inauguration of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit by the Prime Minister of India stands as a testament to this transformative synergy.

Inauguration and India's Leadership Role

India, as the lead chair of GPAI in 2024, took the helm by inaugurating the summit, heralding an era of AI diplomacy. The alliance comprises 28 countries, with the European Union formally adopting the 'New Delhi Declaration' proposed by GPAI.

Key Highlights of the Summit

The Prime Minister highlighted the groundbreaking initiatives, including the AIRAWAT initiative, emphasizing concerns regarding the potential misuse of deep fake technology. Notably, the summit showcased YUVAi, an initiative encouraging AI innovation among young minds, fostering their solutions for societal challenges.

Four Pillars of Discussion

The summit's sessions revolved around four key themes: Responsible AI, Data Governance, Future of Work, and Innovation & Commercialization. These discussions set the stage for comprehensive explorations, diving deep into the ethical, societal, and economic aspects of AI.

Delhi Declaration of GPAI

The 'New Delhi Declaration' of GPAI outlines a comprehensive framework advocating for the ethical deployment of AI. Emphasizing human dignity, democratic values, and inclusiveness, it also stresses the alignment of AI with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and global challenges.

Understanding AI, AIRAWAT, DeepFake, and YUVAi

AI, an umbrella term for human-like machine intelligence, finds applications across diverse sectors. AIRAWAT, a cloud computing platform, aims to bolster India's AI capabilities across sectors like education, health, and agriculture. On the other hand, DeepFake technology utilizes AI to manipulate audiovisual content, raising concerns about its potential misuse. Meanwhile, YUVAi seeks to empower young students in AI's ethical and innovative usage.

Conclusion

The GPAI Summit stands as a beacon, steering nations towards a future where AI is harnessed ethically and inclusively. India's leadership and the 'New Delhi Declaration' underscore the commitment to democratic values and responsible AI. The summit's outcomes aim to shape a global AI landscape that prioritizes societal well-being and progress.

Persistence of Synchronized Extreme Rainfall in Changing Climates

Context: The dynamics of rainfall patterns, especially during the Indian Summer Monsoon, have been undergoing significant alterations due to the impact of global warming.

  • A recent study published by Advancing Earth and Space Sciences (AGU) titled "Geographical Trapping of Synchronous Extremes Amidst Increasing Variability of Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall" sheds light on the persistent nature of synchronized extreme rainfall events and their geographical concentration in Central India (CI). 
  • This article delves into the implications, factors affecting the Indian monsoon, and the relevance of these findings in forecasting.

Examining Rainfall Trends in India

  • Consistent Spatial Concentration: Despite the heightened variability in Indian Summer Monsoon Rainfall (ISMR) over the past century, synchronous extreme rainfall events have consistently concentrated within a specific geographical region, primarily in Central India. This corridor has remarkably remained unchanged from 1901 to 2019, revealing a stable pattern despite overall increased variability.
  • Network Cohesiveness: Central India displays a persistent network of highly interconnected extreme rainfall hubs, emphasizing the stable synchronization of extreme events in this region over the long term.
  • Correlation with Climatic Patterns: Indian rainfall events are correlated with El Niño Southern Oscillations (ENSO), showcasing more synchronization during strong El Niño periods and less during La Niña conditions. However, this correlation holds true only about 60% of the time.

Implications for Predictability

  • Understanding the persistent nature of extreme rainfall synchronization in Central India provides crucial insights for predicting synchronous extremes. This knowledge can significantly aid in developing effective adaptation strategies and risk management during the monsoon season.

Factors Affecting the Indian Monsoon

  • Himalayan Mountains: These mountains play a pivotal role in the formation of monsoon winds, acting as a barrier that draws warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean due to a pressure gradient created during the summer months.
  • Thar Desert: Acting as a rain shadow area for the Bay of Bengal branch of the monsoon, the Thar Desert receives very little rainfall, affecting agriculture and the local economy. However, it contributes to heavy rainfall in nearby regions due to the moisture-laden winds it draws from the Indian Ocean.
  • Indian Ocean: The warm and moist air from the Indian Ocean interacts with the low-pressure system over the Indian subcontinent, resulting in the formation of monsoon winds.

Implications on Forecasting and Risk Mitigation

  • The study challenges the belief that stationary elements in climate systems no longer exist due to global warming. It emphasizes the need to understand corridor dynamics and synchronization within existing models for more accurate predictions, offering opportunities for risk reduction strategies across sectors like agriculture, water management, and public health.

Conclusion

  • The persistent synchronization of extreme rainfall events in Central India amidst changing climates underscores the importance of further research into the dynamics of these events. It not only enhances our understanding of the Indian monsoon but also presents an opportunity to refine forecasting models and mitigate risks associated with extreme weather events.
  • The findings from this study unlock new avenues for leveraging India's modeling capacity and computational resources to improve forecasting accuracy, ultimately reducing the impacts of extreme rainfall events on various sectors of the economy.
The document Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st December 2023) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly.
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FAQs on Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st December 2023) Part - 1 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023?
Ans. The CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023 is a bill that aims to establish guidelines for the appointment, conditions of service, and term of office for the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) in India.
2. How does the Supreme Court mandate pave the way for independence?
Ans. The Supreme Court mandate ensures that the appointment, conditions of service, and term of office for the CEC and ECs are in line with the principles of independence and impartiality. This helps to prevent any undue influence or interference in the functioning of the Election Commission, promoting transparency and accountability.
3. What are the limitations of CCS and CDR?
Ans. CCS (Central Civil Services) and CDR (Central Deputation Reserve) are schemes that regulate the appointment and tenure of officers in the Indian bureaucracy. However, these schemes have certain limitations, such as limited flexibility in the appointment process and the possibility of political interference. The CEC and Other ECs Bill, 2023 aims to address these limitations and provide a more robust framework for the appointment and functioning of the CEC and ECs.
4. What is the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit?
Ans. The Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit is an international gathering where policymakers, experts, and stakeholders from around the world come together to discuss and collaborate on various aspects of artificial intelligence. The summit focuses on promoting responsible and ethical AI development, addressing challenges, and fostering cooperation among participating countries.
5. How does synchronized extreme rainfall persist in changing climates?
Ans. Synchronized extreme rainfall refers to the occurrence of heavy rainfall events in multiple regions at the same time. In changing climates, factors such as increased atmospheric moisture and altered weather patterns can contribute to the persistence of synchronized extreme rainfall. Climate change can intensify these events, leading to more frequent and severe rainfall, posing challenges for water management, flood control, and infrastructure planning.
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