Daily Current Affairs for 20th Dec 2023

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The Telecommunication Bill, 2023

Why in the news?

  • The Telecommunications Bill, 2023 which was recently introduced in Lok Sabha seeks to regulate activities related to telecommunication.  It repeals the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.  It also amends the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997.

About the Bill

  • Authorisation for telecom-related activities:  Prior authorisation from the central government will be required to: (i) provide telecommunication services, (ii) establish, operate, maintain, or expand telecommunications networks, or (iii) possess radio equipment.   Existing licences will continue to be valid for the period of their grant, or for five years, where the period is not specified.
  • Assignment of spectrum:  Spectrum will be assigned by auction, except for specified uses, where it will be allocated on an administrative basis.  These include purposes such as: (i) national security and defence, (ii) disaster management, (iii) weather forecasting, (iv) transport, (v) satellite services such as DTH and satellite telephony, and (vi) BSNL, MTNL, and public broadcasting services.  The central government may re-purpose or re-assign any frequency range.  The central government may permit sharing, trading, leasing, and surrender of spectrum.
  • Powers of interception and search:  Messages or a class of messages between two or more persons may be intercepted, monitored, or blocked on certain grounds.  Such actions must be necessary or expedient in the interest of public safety or public emergency, and must be in the interest of specified grounds which include: (i) security of the state, (ii) prevention of incitement of offences, or (iii) public order.  Telecom services may be suspended on similar grounds.  The government may take temporary possession of any telecom infrastructure, network, or services on occurrence of any public emergency or public safety.  An officer authorised by the government may search premises or vehicles for possession of unauthorised telecom network or equipment.
  • Powers to specify standards:  The central government may prescribe standards and assessments for telecom equipment, infrastructure, networks, and services.
  • Right of way:  Facility providers may seek a right of way over public or private property to establish telecom infrastructure.  Right of way must be provided on a non-discriminatory and non-exclusive basis to the extent possible.
  • Protection of users:  The central government may provide for measures to protect users which include: (i) prior consent to receive specified messages such as advertising messages, (ii) creation of Do Not Disturb registers, and (iii) a mechanism to allow users to report malware or specified messages.  Entities providing telecom services must establish an online mechanism for registration and redressal of grievances.
  • Appointments to TRAI:   The Bill amends the TRAI Act to also allow individuals with: (i) at least 30 years of professional experience to serve as the chairperson, and (ii) at least 25 years of professional experience to serve as members.
  • Digital Bharat Nidhi:  The Universal Service Obligation Fund has been established under the 1885 Act to provide for telecom services in underserved areas.  The Bill retains this provision, renames the fund as Digital Bharat Nidhi, and also allows its use for research and development.
  • Offences and penalties:  The Bill specifies various criminal and civil offences.  Providing telecom services without authorisation, or gaining unauthorised access to a telecom network or data, are punishable with imprisonment up to three years, a fine up to two crore rupees, or both.  Breaching terms and conditions of authorisation is punishable with a civil penalty up to five crore rupees.  Possessing unauthorised equipment, or using unauthorised network or service, is punishable with a penalty of up to ten lakh rupees.
  • Adjudication process:  The central government will appoint an adjudicating officer to conduct inquiries and pass orders against civil offences under the Bill.  The officer must be of the rank of joint secretary and above.  Orders of the adjudicating officer may be appealed before the Designated Appeals Committee within 30 days.  Members of this Committee will be officers of the rank of at least Additional Secretary.   Appeals against the orders of the Committee, in connection to breach of terms and conditions, may be filed with TDSAT within 30 days.

The big debate over allocation and auction of spectrum

  • The Telecommunications Bill, 2023 has opened the door for administrative allocation of spectrum for satellite broadband services, with India set to follow the global norm in how such spectrum is assigned to entities. This could be a big win for Bharti Airtel’s OneWeb, Elon Musk’s Starlink, and Amazon’s Kuiper.
  • The assignment of spectrum – whether through an auction or administrative means – for satellite communications was at the heart of a debate between the government and a divided industry, with the telecom department even asking the telecom regulator TRAI for modalities around auctioning satellite spectrum.
  • While Reliance Jio had earlier called for auctioning of the spectrum rather than allocating it administratively, OneWeb had “strongly recommended” the government take the administrative allocation route and charge a fee for it “in order to promote investment and make sure competitive prices are available to the market at the end”.
  • Musk’s Starlink had recommended that the regulatory framework imposes nominal charges as spectrum use charges to ensure affordable access to services.
  • This also comes in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in the 2G case, which held that the allocation of 2G spectrum by the Congress-led UPA government was illegal and an arbitrary exercise of power, as it went on to cancel more than a hundred telecom licences allotted to companies. Since the judgement, government allocation of spectrum for most commercial purposes had become a no-go area given the discretionary nature of such decisions, with it being reserved for such as Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT).
  • However, the satellite spectrum story is a little different. Unlike terrestrial spectrum which is used for mobile communications, by its very nature, satellite spectrum has no national territorial limits and is international in character. It is therefore coordinated and managed by the UN agency, International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
  • The industry welcomed the proposal to allocate spectrum. “By allocating the spectrum by the administrative method for satcom, India could align itself with international standards, promote global cooperation and also help drive innovation, create opportunities for startups, and strengthen the country’s position in the global satellite market.
  • It is understood that the government’s decision in the Telecommunications Bill to allow for the allocation of satellite spectrum came because there is “no precedent” of auctioning such airwaves globally. The pricing of this spectrum and the methodology of allocation will be decided by the TRAI.

An issue of regulation of Internet services

  • Unlike a 2022 draft, which had expressly mentioned online communication services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram as telecommunication services, experts, and a section of the government believe that the current Bill’s definition of such services — while whittled down — has been kept wide open to potentially regulate online platforms as well.
  • As per the new Bill, telecom services and networks will need authorisation from the government, unless it decides to exempt certain entities in public interest.
  • In the new Bill, the definition of telecommunication has been kept as: “transmission, emission or reception of any messages, by wire, radio, optical or other electro-magnetic systems, whether or not such messages have been subjected to rearrangement, computation or other processes by any means in the course of their transmission, emission or reception”. And ‘messages’ has been further defined as “any sign, signal, writing, text, image, sound, video, data stream, intelligence or information sent through telecommunication”.
  • While a section of the industry and civil society is concerned over fears that the current definition could be interpreted in a way to potentially open the door for the telecom department to regulate online platforms, the Allocation of Business Rules could stand in the way of that since the telecom department’s remit is limited to regulating the ‘carrier’ layer, that is telecom services, under those rules.
  • At least one industry body has called for further consultation to iron out the definitions. To be sure, the telecom department had released a consultation paper on what a law for the sector should look like back in July 2022, with a first draft of the Bill released for consultation in September of that year.
  • However, others believe that the definitions do conclusively exclude online platforms. “The Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha now excludes email, internet-based communication services, broadcasting services, machine to machine communication services and over-the-top (OTT) communication services, as suggested by IAMAI,” the industry body said in a statement.



G20 trade policy

Why in the news?

  • According to WTO Trade Monitoring Report at a time when global goods trade is already slowing in the backdrop of rising interest rates and geo-political conflicts, trade measures introduced by G20 economies that account for 85 per cent of global economic output have turned more restrictive in recent months.

About the report

  • This comes as India’s goods exports have been under pressure for the better part of the year due to weak demand from the western countries. Demand slowdown in China, battling a major property sector crisis, has also contributed to the slowdown.
  • “For the first time since 2015, the monthly average of 9.8 new trade restrictions introduced by G20 economies during the review period outpaced that of trade-facilitating measures (8.8).
  • In addition, the longstanding stockpile of G20 import restrictions in force showed no sign of any meaningful roll back of existing measures.
  • G20 economies introduced more trade-restrictive than trade-facilitating measures on goods between mid-May and mid-October 2023. However, the value of traded merchandise covered by facilitating measures continued to exceed that covered by restrictions.
  • By mid-October 2023, $2,287 billion worth of traded goods, representing 11.8 per cent of G20 imports, were affected by import restrictions implemented by G20 economies since 2009.
  • The trade monitoring report stated that the export restrictions have become more prominent since 2020, with a series of measures introduced first in the context of COVID-19 and more recently of the war in Ukraine and the food security crisis.
  • “Although some of these export restrictions have been rolled back, as of mid-October 2023, 75 export restrictions on food, feed and fertilizers were still in place globally.
  • The WTO’s latest forecast released last month had estimated merchandise trade volume growth of 0.8 per cent in 2023 down from the previous estimate of 1.7 per cent and 3.3 per cent in 2024.
  • In the first half of 2023, the volume of world merchandise trade was down 0.5 per cent year-on-year, as high inflation and rising interest rates weighed on trade and output in advanced economies, and as property market strains prevented a stronger post-pandemic recovery in China.



Lumpy skin disease

Why in news?

  • Expressing doubts over the figures of cattle deaths by Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD), a Parliamentary Standing Committee has said that there was a gap or mismatch in the data relating to number of cattle affected as furnished by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) and the ground reality.

About the Report

  • The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Food Processing noted that the country faced a devastating outbreak of the disease in 2021-22 resulting in large scale death and emaciation of cattle.
  • The Committee, however, expresses doubt on the data relating to death of the cattle in the country as a result of the Lumpy Skin Disease and also noted with anguish that there was a gap/mismatch in data relating to number of cattle affected and died as furnished by the Department and the actual ground realities.
  • “The Committee are of considered view that the data regarding infection, mortality, recovery of cattle from LSD should have been accurate as it would not have only helped in understanding the gravity of the situation, but would also have helped in controlling and containing the disease and its further spread.
  • The Committee, therefore, recommends the department to ensure proper compilation of data relating to spread of infection and mortality of cattle from LSD so that cases of the infection and mortality do not remain unreported and underreported.
  • According to the report, “The Committee noted that the country battled the devastating Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) outbreak among cattle in 2021-22, which killed and emaciated large number of cattle, hurting milk production and farm income.”

About Lumpy skin diseases

  • It is an acute to chronic, highly infectious viral disease that affects cattle.
  • Causative Agent: It is caused by the lumpy skin disease virus (LSDV), which belongs to the genus capripoxvirus, a part of the poxviridae family (smallpox and monkeypox viruses are also a part of the same family). 
  • LSDV is not a zoonotic virus, meaning the disease cannot spread to humans.


  • LSD affects the lymph nodes of the infected animal, causing the nodes to enlarge and appear like lumps on the skin, which is where it derives its name from. 
  • The cutaneous nodules, 2–5 cm in diameter, appear on the infected cattle’s head, neck, limbs, udder, genitalia, and perineum.
  • The nodules may later turn into ulcers and eventually develop scabs over the skin. 
  • The other symptoms include high fever, sharp drop in milk yield, discharge from the eyes and nose, salivation, loss of appetite, depression, damaged hides, emaciation (thinness or weakness) of animals, infertility and abortions.


  • By blood-feeding insects, such as certain species of flies and mosquitoes, or ticks;
  • By the movement of affected animals;
  • By contaminated equipment;
  • Directly from animal to animal in some cases;


  • It has no direct antiviral treatment.
  • Instead, the infected animals receive supportive care, which involves the use of antibiotics, painkillers, and wound care sprays to treat symptoms.
  • As there’s no treatment, vaccines are used to control disease transmission.

Lumpy skin diseases in India

  • The first outbreak of LSD was reported in Odisha in September 2019, which in subsequent years acquired pandemic scale. As on October 30, 2.87 lakh animals were affected and 22,313 animals died during year 2023.



Volcano erupts in Iceland

Why in news?

  • Recently lava from a large volcanic eruption in Iceland appeared to flow away from the only town in the area; offering hope that homes and lives would be spared.

About eruption

  • Located between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates, among the largest on the planet, Iceland is a seismic and volcanic hot spot because the two plates move in opposite directions.
  • The eruption opened a 4 km (2.5 mile) fissure from which lava fountains emerged. But at its southernmost point the crack was still 3 km away from Grindavik.
  • The eruption is taking place north of the watershed, so lava does not flow towards Grindavik.

Flight disruption unlikely

  • The eruption is happening about 30 km from Reykjavik. Keflavik international airport is somewhat nearer but remains open and closer still is the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa popular with tourists. It has been largely closed since the current seismic activity was detected.
  • The current location of the eruption looked to be fortunate with most of the lava flowing into an area where there was little infrastructure. But that could still change.
  • If little to no volcanic ash is lofted into the atmosphere, there may be no impact to aviation.




Parliament attack: suspension of Members of Parliament

Why in news?

  • There was major security breach on the 22nd anniversary of the attack on parliament, two people jumped inside the Lok sabha chamber from the visitors’ gallery.
  • It was followed by opposition members suspended for disrupting proceedings and protest.
  • The opposition members, who had moved notices to take up the matter as adjournment motions, continued their protest after Rajyasabha and loksabha didn’t accepted the notices.
  • On 18th November 78 MPs were suspended which increased the mark of suspended MPs to 92.
  • Suspension continues on 19th December as 49 more Lok sabha MPs were suspended for unruly behaviour.
  • Suspension increased the no of suspended lawmakers from both the houses to 141, which is highest till today.

Why there is protest?

  • The protesting opposition MPs were demanding a statement from home minister Amit shah on last week security breach in the Lok sabha, which led to the arrest of six people.

What happened on 19th December?

  • Despite suspension and adjournment, three bills were passed and three key criminal law reforms bills were taken up for consideration.
  • Only 44 members belonging to the INDIA parties remain in the Lok sabha.

New record set in the suspension of MP:

  • During this ongoing winter session 95 Mps from the Lok sabha and 46 Mps from the Rajyasabha have been suspended.
  • This is the highest number of MPs suspended in single session in the history of Parliament.
  • The highest number of Mps suspended from the loksabha was previously 63 on March 15, 1989.
  • It was during Rajiv Gandhi tenure as a prime minister.
  • The reason during previous suspension was was demand that the government discuss thakkar commission report on assassination of Indira Gandhi.
  • During current suspension the state wise from Loksabha tally is highest from Tamilnadu as 29 MPs suspended from Tamilnadu , 16 from Kerala and 14 from westbengal . The only MP from puducherry is also suspended.
  • From Rajyasabha the highest number of MP suspended is from the West Bengal, seven from Kerala and five from Tamilnadu.
  • Within parties, the maximum suspension in Loksabha is from congress as 38 , sixteen from the Dravidra Munnetra kazhagam (DMK) , 13 from All India trinmool congress.
  • In rajyasbha amomg parties, maximum suspension is from congress which is 18, 8 from AITC and 5 from DMK.



Gyanvapi mosque: Place of worship act 1991

Why in news?

  • Allahabad HC says Gyanvapi title suit not barred by Places of Worship Act rejects plea of Muslim side.
  • On august 4, the supreme court of India directed the Archaeological survey of India (ASI) to conduct a detailed non –invasive survey of the Gyanvyapi mosque.
  • Regarding this the Allahabad high court gave the order that Place of Worship act 1991 is not an absolute bar.
  • It mentions that the litigants approaching court to define the religious character of any place of worship or to seek their right as to a place of worship opens a Pandora box.

History of the mosque:

  • It is a belief that Gyanvapi mosque wasbuilt in 1969 by the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb by demolishing the ancient vishweshwar temple .
  • In a book named Alamgiri ,it is also mentioned that Aurangzeb had demolished the temple in 1669 by ordering Governor Abul Hassan.
  • The hindu side claim that the entire area including the Gyanvapi mosque site belonged to temple of Swayambhu Lord Adi Visheswar since satyayug.
  • The case of Gyanvapi is in court since 1991.

What is place of worship act, 1991?

  • Under section 3 of the place of Worship act, 1991, it is prohibited to convert a place of worship ,even its clause ,into a place of worship of a different religious denominations or different class of same religious denominations.
  • However if the change in the nature of the place of worship has occurred after the cut off date of August 15,1947 ,legal action can be initiated in the case.

Recent Development:

  • The Bench of Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal rejected a plea filed by the Anjuman Intezamia masjid committee, which had challenged the suits filed by the Hindu petitioners that such suits are prohibited by the place of worship act.
  • Court spoke about non defined religious character word and it could only be decided by the facts and circumstances of each and every case.

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