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5th May 2023 – Current Affairs

GS 2 : Indian Constitution – historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Centre invokes Article 355 to deal with Manipur situation –

Recently, unrest in the state of Manipur was triggered by a decision of the High Court to pursue a 10-year-old recommendation to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the non-tribal Meitei community.

In view of the prevailing unprecedented burning situation, the Centre has imposed Article 355 in the state, in an effort to control the situation, according to reliable sources.

What is Article 355?

  1. Article 355 of the Indian Constitution is a provision that empowers the Union government to protect every state in India against external aggression and internal disturbances.
  2. It is a provision under Part XVIII of the Constitution, titled “Emergency Provisions”.
  3. It is based on the principle of “duty to protect” enshrined in the Constitution, which makes it mandatory for the Union government to protect every state from external and internal threats.

Restrictions under Article 355 –

Under Article 355, the Union government has the power to issue directions to any state to ensure compliance with the Union’s laws and regulations. However, there are certain restrictions on this power:

  1. The directions can only be given when there is a failure of the state machinery to comply with or give effect to any Union law or regulation.
  2. The directions should be of an urgent nature and may not extend beyond the necessary period for remedying the failure of the state machinery.
  3. The state government should be given an opportunity to submit its views before the issuance of such directions.
  4. The Union government cannot use this power to intervene in the internal affairs of a state unless there is a failure of the state machinery.

Duration of restriction –

  1. The duration of the assistance provided under Article 355 is not specified in the Constitution.
  2. The Union government can withdraw its assistance when the situation is normalized or when the state government requests it to do so.
  3. The duration of the assistance provided under Article 355 is subject to judicial review and can be challenged in court if it violates any fundamental rights or constitutional provisions.

Circumstances of imposition –

Article 355 can be invoked by the President of India in certain circumstances, such as:

  1. When a state fails to comply with or to give effect to any of the directions given by the Union under the Constitution.
  2. When the security of India is threatened by external aggression or internal disturbance.
  3. When there is a threat to the unity and integrity of India due to any violent activities by any group or organization.
  4. When a state requests for assistance from the Union to maintain public order and the Union is satisfied that the situation in the state cannot be controlled by the state’s own forces.
  5. When a state fails to provide adequate protection to minorities, particularly in cases of communal violence.
  6. When a state government fails to ensure that the constitutional machinery is maintained in the state.

Reasonable restrictions –

It is important to note that the use of Article 355 is subject to certain restrictions:

  1. The President cannot use this article on his/her own initiative; it must be done on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
  2. The use of Article 355does not authorize the President to intervene directly in the affairs of the state.
  3. The President can use this article only to give directions to the state government, and not to the state legislature or the judiciary.
  4. The use of Article 355 should be limited in duration and scope, and should not result in the permanent erosion of the state’s autonomy or the violation of its constitutional rights.

Centre stage of the row: Meitei Community –

  1. Manipur is geographically divided into the Imphal Valley and the surrounding hills.
  2. The Imphal Valley is dominated by the non-tribal Meitei community, which accounts for more than 64% of the population.
  3. The hills, which comprise 90% of Manipur’s geographical area, are inhabited by more than 35% recognized tribes, which are largely Christians.
  4. The Meiteis are largely Hindus followed by Muslims, while the 33 recognized tribes are broadly classified into ‘Any Naga tribes’ and ‘Any Kuki tribes.’

Behind the ST status: The Meitei Argument –

  1. The Manipur High Court directed the State government to submit a 10-year-old recommendation for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list.
  2. The ST status is needed to “preserve” the community and “save the ancestral land, tradition, culture, and language” of the Meiteis.
  3. The Meiteis were recognized as a tribe before the merger of the State with the Union of India in 1949.

Tribal groups’ opposition to the ST Status –

  1. Advantaged community:Many tribal groups say the Meiteis have a demographic and political advantage besides being more advanced than them academically and in other aspects.
  2. Benefits at others cost:They feel the ST status to the Meiteis would lead to loss of job opportunities and allow them to acquire land in the hills and push the tribals out.
  3. Already benefited:The language of the Meitei people is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, and many of them have access to benefits associated with the SC, OBC, or EWS status.
  4. Political vendetta:The demand for ST status is a ploy to attenuate the fervent political demands of the Kukis and Nagas, as well as a tacit strategy of the dominant valley dwellers to make inroads into the hill areas of the State.

Immediate triggers of unrest –

  1. Some tribal groups with vested interests are trying to scuttle Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh’s crusade against drugs.
  2. The anti-drug drive began with destroying poppy fields and the theory that “illegal settlers” from Myanmar — ethnically related to the Kuki-Zomi people of Manipur — are behind clearing forests and government lands to grow opium and cannabis.
  3. The first violent protest on March 10 was against the eviction of the residents of a Kuki village.
  4. The large-scale arson and violence claiming the life of at least one person on May 3 and 4 followed a “tribal solidarity rally” against the reported move to include the Meiteis in the ST list.


GS 2 : Indian Constitution – historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Centre dismantles all Military Cantonment Boards –

The Union government has kicked off a plan to abolish the 62 cantonments around the country as “archaic colonial legacies”. The first cantonment to be renamed a military station is Yol in Himachal Pradesh.

What is the plan?

  1. The plan is to carve out the military areas in all cantonments and convert them into “exclusive military stations” with the Army exercising “absolute control” over them.
  2. The civilian areas, in turn, will be merged with the local municipalities, which will be responsible for their maintenance among other things.
  3. The Army moved away from the concept of cantonments after independence, mainly due to the friction between military and civilian authorities.
  4. But some major cantonments continued to exist. Ex. Pune Cantonment, Agra Cantonment etc.

What are Cantonments?

  1. Cantonments in India are permanent military stations where a group of military personnel are stationed for administrative purposes.
  2. These cantonments are governed by the Cantonments Act, 2006 which provides for municipal administration and control of these areas.
  3. There are 62 cantonments in India which are located in various states across the country.
  4. These areas are maintained by the Defence Estates Organization (DEO) under the Ministry of Defence, and are distinct from military bases or barracks which are temporary locations for military personnel.
  5. Cantonments are generally considered to be areas with better infrastructure and facilities compared to other parts of the country.

Their features –

  1. Cantonment Boards are democratic bodies comprising elected and nominated members.
  2. In terms ofEntry 3 of the Union List(Schedule VII) of the Constitution of India, Urban Self Governance of the Cantonments and the Housing Accommodation therein is the subject matter of the Union.
  3. The Station Commander of the Cantonment is the ex-officio President of the Board, and an officer of the IDES or Defence Estates Organisation is the Chief Executive Officer who is also the Member-Secretary of the Board.
  4. They have equal representation of elected and nominated/ex-officio members to balance official representation with democratic composition.
  5. They maintain ecological balance while providing better civic facilities to the residents.

History of establishments –

  1. The Cantonments Act, 1924 was enacted by the British to regulate the municipal administration of Cantonments.
  2. After India’s independence, the Cantonments Act, 1924, was modified to suit the democratic setup of the country.
  3. The Cantonments Act, 2006, replaced the Cantonments Act, 1924, and aims to provide greater autonomy and accountability to the Cantonment Boards.

Categories –

There are four categories of Cantonments, depending on the size of the population residing inside a Cantonment:

  1. Category I:Cantonments having a population of more than 50,000.
  2. Category II:Cantonments having a population of 10,000 to 50,000.
  3. Category III:Cantonments having a population of less than 10,000.
  4. Category IV:Industrial or training Cantonments, irrespective of their population size.


GS 3 : Indian Economy – Digital payments

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) & Cross border payments –

RBI Deputy Governor T. Rabi Shankar commented on CBDC platforms and their potential impact on cross-border payments during the G20 TechSprint.

About Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) –

  1. CBDC is a central bank-issued digital currency which is backed by some kind of assets in the form of either gold, currency reserves, bonds and other assets, recognised by the central banks as a monetary asset.
  2. The present concept of CBDCs was directly inspired by Bitcoin, but a CBDC is different from virtual currency and cryptocurrency.
  3. Cryptocurrencies are not issued by a state and lack the legal tender status declared by the government.

Hurdles in Cross-Border Payments –

  1. Fragmented and truncated data formats:Lack of standardization in data formats creates inefficiencies in cross-border payments. Fragmented and truncated data formats create additional costs and delays in the processing of transactions.
  2. Complex processing of compliance checks:Cross-border payments require compliance with different regulatory frameworks in different jurisdictions. Compliance checks can be complex and time-consuming, causing delays and additional costs.
  3. Limited operating hours:Traditional banking systems have limited operating hours, which can cause delays in cross-border payments. International time zone differences also contribute to these challenges.
  4. Legacy technology platforms:Traditional banking systems still rely on legacy technology platforms, which can be slow and outdated. This can lead to inefficiencies and delays in cross-border payments.
  5. Long transaction chains:Cross-border payments often involve multiple intermediaries, which can lead to long transaction chains. Each intermediary adds additional costs and can increase the time it takes for a transaction to be completed.
  6. Funding costs:Cross-border payments require funding in multiple currencies, which can lead to additional costs. Exchange rate fluctuations can also impact the cost of cross-border payments.
  7. Weak competition:The lack of competition in the cross-border payments industry can contribute to inefficiencies and high costs. The dominance of a few large players can limit innovation and hinder the development of more efficient solutions.

Potential benefits with CBDC –

  1. Less intermediaries:CBDC can reduce the need for multiple intermediaries in cross-border payments, leading to a faster and more efficient process.
  2. Enhanced efficiency:It can increase the speed and efficiency of cross-border payments by reducing processing times and delays.
  3. Enhanced integration:It can enable better integration between different payment systems, reducing fragmentation and increasing interoperability.
  4. Enhanced technical compatibility:It can be designed to work with existing payment infrastructure, making it easier to adopt and integrate into the current system.
  5. Enhanced safety:It can provide enhanced security measures that can help mitigate the risk of fraud and cyber-attacks in cross-border payments.
  6. Mitigation of cross-currency risks:CBDC can help mitigate risks associated with cross-border and cross-currency transactions, such as exchange rate fluctuations, currency conversion fees, and transaction processing delays.


GS 2 : International Relations – Important International Institutions & agencies

Washington Declaration –

The context is the recent visit of the South Korean President to the US to commemorate the 70th anniversary of US-South Korea bilateral relations. During the visit, the two countries signed the “Washington Declaration” as a nuclear deterrence strategy against North Korea’s regional aggression.

Washington Declaration: Key Terms –

  1. Nuke deployment by US:According to the declaration, an American nuclear ballistic submarine would be deployed in the Korean peninsula.
  2. Intel mechanism:A nuclear consultative group would be formed to formulate principles of joint response tactics, and South Korea would receive Intel from the US regarding nuclear advancements.
  3. Joint training:The US will strengthen South Korea’s nuclear deterrence capabilities through joint military training programs and an annual intergovernmental simulation.
  4. Deterrence creation:The declaration reaffirmed theNon-Proliferation Treaty implying that South Korea would not venture into the creation of its own independent nuclear capabilities and would instead focus on deterrence measures through an alliance-based approach.

Implications of the treaty –

  1. Big power politics:While the existence of the agreement is based on the security needs of South Korea, the policy reflects big power politics where the interests of the larger power (US) takes precedence.
  2. US proprietorship over the nukes:The US is the only ‘sole authority’ to use the nuclear arsenal of the US in the event of a nuclear confrontation.
  3. Maintaining stability:The assurance that the US and its nuclear weapons would protect its allies by being responsible for maintaining stability in the region aligns with the larger goal of non-proliferation.

US Stance on South Korea’s Nuclear Capabilities –

  1. Fouled the SK nuclear program:South Korea’s nuclear development programme supported by former president Park Chung Hee was hindered due to US pressure.
  2. Strategic arms reduction:The US withdrew one hundred nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s as part of their “Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” to make North Korea unarm itself.
  3. Renewed interest after North Korea’s Rise:The Nuclear Posture Review 2022 reflects a shift in the US narrative where it is now concerned about the progressing nuclear capacities of North Korea.

Regional and domestic responses –

  1. China:It said it undermines the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the strategic interests of other countries.
  2. North Korea:Kim Jong-Un’s sister warned that the declaration would only result in making peace and security of North-East Asia and the world be exposed to more serious danger.

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) –

The NPT is an international treaty signed in 1968 that aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Key facts about the NPT include:

  1. Members:There are currently 191 parties to the treaty, including the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the US, Russia, China, France, and the UK).
  2. Three main pillars:Non-proliferation, Disarmament and Peaceful use of nuclear energy.
  3. Non-nuclear-weapon states:They are parties to the treaty agree not to acquire nuclear weapons and to accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on their nuclear activities.
  4. Nuclear-weapon states:They are the parties to the treaty agree not to transfer nuclear weapons or technology to non-nuclear-weapon states.
  5. 5 year review:The treaty is reviewed every five years at a conference of parties, with the most recent review conference taking place in 2015.
  6. Criticisms:NPT has been criticized for not doing enough to promote disarmament, and for perpetuating a system of haves and have-nots in which certain states have nuclear weapons while others do not. However, proponents argue that the treaty has helped to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to promote peaceful use of nuclear energy.


GS 2 : India & Its Neighbourhood – Relations

India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) –

The India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signifies a deep, fraternal, and strategically important relationship between the two countries that goes beyond just economic cooperation. The success of the agreement in stimulating economic growth and providing investment opportunities has unlocked new possibilities for multi-sectoral collaboration and partnerships.

Background: India-UAE relationship –

  1. Historical ties:The India-UAE relationship has been shaped by centuries of cultural and economic engagement on the Indian Ocean’s network of exchange. The two countries share historical ties that go back to pre-modern times, with Arab traders having visited the west coast of India since the fourth century AD.
  2. India’s third-largest trading partner:The UAE emerged as India’s third-largest trading partner, highlighting the two countries’ positive outlook towards economic cooperation.
  3. Trade partnership strengthened with oil: The India-UAE partnership was forged first on the trade of traditional items, and then strengthened with oil. It found a formal dimension after the creation of the UAE Federation in 1971, and then accelerated in the 1990s when a liberalised India embraced the opportunity to export to the UAE and markets beyond.
  4. Relationship is today more than an economic partnership:It speaks to the Emirates’s deep, fraternal, and strategically important relationship with India, reinforcing the UAE’s position as a key partner in India’s foreign policy. The two countries share strong cultural and people-to-people ties, with a significant Indian diaspora in the UAE.
  5. Key partner in India’s development agenda:The UAE has been a key partner in India’s development agenda, including investments in the oil and gas sector, renewable energy, and infrastructure. The UAE has also been supportive of India’s efforts in combating terrorism and enhancing security cooperation.

India- UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) –

  1. The India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is a bilateral trade agreement that aims to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.
  2. The CEPA covers a wide range of subjects, including trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, and competition policy.
  3. The CEPA has been in the making for several years, with negotiations starting in 2017 and the agreement finally coming into force on May 1, 2022. The agreement builds on the decades of mutual enterprise between the two countries, with the UAE emerging as India’s third-largest trading partner.

How India- UAE (CEPA) benefits both the countries?

  1. Increased trade:The CEPA is expected to significantly increase trade volumes between India and the UAE, with the potential to create new investment opportunities and increase business partnerships. This will help both countries to diversify their trade relationships beyond their traditional trading partners.
  2. Diversified trade:The CEPA covers a wide range of subjects, including trade in goods, trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, and competition policy, allowing for a more diversified trade relationship between the two countries.
  3. Access to new markets:The CEPA is inspiring innovators and investors, catalysing SMEs, startups, and India Inc to make decisive inroads into new markets, particularly the Emirati market, and from there to the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. This will benefit both countries in terms of access to new markets and opportunities.
  4. Support for entrepreneurship:The CEPA provides support for startups in both India and the UAE, enabling them to explore growth and diversification into each other’s markets, as well as other markets in the region and beyond. The India-UAE Startup Bridge will also enable them to attract investment from venture capitalists and angel investors.
  5. Addressing developmental challenges: The CEPA provides a trade lens to tackle issues such as energy and food security, agriculture, and sustainability, making it a strategic catalyst in addressing vital developmental challenges.

Way ahead?

  1. Looking ahead, the India-UAE CEPA presents a unique opportunity to further deepen economic and strategic ties between the two countries. Some of the key steps that can be taken to build on the success of the CEPA include:
  2. Strengthening infrastructure:India and the UAE can collaborate to strengthen infrastructure, including ports, airports, and logistics networks, to facilitate the movement of goods and people between the two countries.
  3. Enhancing cooperation in emerging sectors: The two countries can explore cooperation in emerging sectors such as renewable energy, artificial intelligence, and fintech, among others, to promote innovation and economic growth.
  4. Promoting investment: Both India and the UAE can take steps to promote investment in each other’s markets, including through the creation of investment promotion agencies, bilateral investment treaties, and other measures.
  5. Strengthening cultural ties:Cultural exchanges and people-to-people contacts can be further enhanced to deepen the historical and cultural ties between the two countries.
  6. Addressing developmental challenges: The CEPA provides a platform for addressing key developmental challenges faced by both countries, such as energy and food security, sustainability, and agriculture. Further efforts can be made to leverage this platform to achieve meaningful progress in these areas.