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Current Affairs 11 November 2023

  1. Electoral Trusts Scheme
  2. UGC Allows Top 500 Global Universities to Set Up Campuses in India
  3. QS World University Rankings: Asia 2024
  4. Agricultural Trade Trends: April-September 2023
  5. Central Bureau of Investigation
  6. What are Auroras?


The Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on the challenge to the central government’s Electoral Bonds Scheme. This scheme, introduced in 2018, is under scrutiny, and the court is examining the issues raised in connection with electoral funding. Before the Electoral Bonds Scheme, the Electoral Trusts Scheme was introduced in 2013.


GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Electoral Trusts Scheme (2013): An Overview
  2. What are Electoral Bonds?
  3. Distinguishing Electoral Trust Scheme (ETS) from Electoral Bonds Scheme (EBS)

Electoral Trusts Scheme (2013): An Overview

  • The Electoral Trusts Scheme was introduced in 2013 by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
  • Electoral Trusts are trusts established by companies with the primary purpose of distributing contributions received from other companies and individuals to political parties.
Eligibility and Renewal:
  • Only companies registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, are eligible to apply for approval as Electoral Trusts.
  • Electoral Trusts must apply for renewal every three financial years.
Approval Process:
  • The scheme outlines the procedure for granting approval to electoral trusts to receive voluntary contributions and distribute them to political parties.
  • Provisions related to electoral trusts are governed by the Income-tax Act, 1961, and Income Tax Rules-1962.
Contributions to Electoral Trusts:
  • Electoral Trusts can receive contributions from Indian citizens, registered Indian companies, firms, Hindu undivided families, or resident associations.
  • They are prohibited from accepting contributions from non-Indian citizens, foreign entities, or other registered electoral trusts.
Distribution Mechanism:
  • For administrative expenses, electoral trusts can allocate a maximum of 5% of the total funds collected in a financial year.
  • The remaining 95% of the total income must be distributed to eligible political parties registered under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
Bookkeeping Requirements:
  • Electoral trusts are mandated to maintain detailed books of accounts, including information on receipts, distribution, and a list of donors and receivers.
Audit Procedures:
  • Electoral trusts are required to undergo an audit of their accounts by a qualified accountant, with the audit report submitted to the Commissioner of Income-tax or the Director of Income-tax.

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • An electoral bond is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from select branches of State Bank of India.
  • The citizen or corporate can then donate the same to any eligible political party of his/her choice.
  • The bonds are similar to bank notes that are payable to the bearer on demand and are free of interest.
  • An individual or party will be allowed to purchase these bonds digitally or through cheque.

Distinguishing Electoral Trust Scheme (ETS) from Electoral Bonds Scheme (EBS)

Transparency in Functioning:
  • ETS: ETS operates with transparency, disclosing both contributors and beneficiaries.
  • EBS: EBS lacks transparency due to donor anonymity, making it challenging to trace the origin of contributions.
Reporting Mechanism:
  • ETS: Adheres to a robust reporting system, submitting detailed annual contribution reports to the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • EBS: Introduces a significant lack of transparency, given the anonymous nature of donors.
Financial Trends (2013-14 to 2021-22):
  • Political Funding through ETS: Totaling Rs 1,631 crore between 2013-14 and 2021-22.
  • Political Funding through EBS: Significantly higher at Rs 9,208 crore during the same period.
Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Report:
  • A single political party secured 72% of total donations facilitated by ETS in 2021-22.
  • The same party received 57% of funding through EBS from 2013-14 to 2021-22.
  • Over 55% of political party funding came through EBS according to the ADR report.

-Source: The Hindu


The University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued regulations permitting foreign universities ranked among the world’s top 500 to establish branch campuses in India. This initiative aligns with the objectives of the National Education Policy 2020, aiming to provide a legislative framework for the presence of leading global universities in the country. The guidelines were formalized after the draft norms for foreign universities were released by the UGC, inviting public feedback.


GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Aspects of UGC Regulations for Foreign University Campuses in India
  2. University Grants Commission (UGC)

Key Aspects of UGC Regulations for Foreign University Campuses in India

Collaborative Ventures:

  • Two or more foreign universities can collaborate to establish campuses in India.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Each participating institution must meet individual eligibility criteria.

Multiple Campuses:

  • Each foreign university has the opportunity to set up more than one campus in the country.

International Faculty Commitment:

  • International faculty appointed for Indian campuses must commit to staying in the country for a minimum of one semester.

Extended Processing Time:

  • The time for the standing committee to process applications has been extended from 45 to 60 days.

Committee Recommendations:

  • Recommendations of the committee must be presented before the UGC within the revised 60-day timeframe.

Autonomy for Foreign Universities:

  • Foreign universities can decide their admission process, fee structure, and repatriate funds to their parent campuses.

Restrictions on Learning Centers:

  • Foreign universities are prohibited from opening learning centers, study centers, or franchises without prior commission approval.

Program Approval:

  • Approval is mandatory before initiating any new program on Indian campuses.

Online Learning Restrictions:

  • Programs cannot be offered online or in Open and Distance Learning modes under these regulations.
  • Lectures in online mode are allowed but should not exceed 10% of the program requirements.

Exemptions and Fees:

  • Foreign universities are exempt from paying annual fees to the UGC, except for a one-time application fee.

Funding and Scholarships:

  • The establishment of campuses should be funded using the foreign universities’ own infrastructure, land, and resources.
  • Foreign universities are encouraged to provide full or partial merit-based and need-based scholarships and fee concessions to Indian students.

University Grants Commission (UGC):


  • Founded on 28th December 1953.
  • Attained statutory status through an Act of Parliament in 1956.


  • Responsible for coordinating, determining, and maintaining standards in teaching, examination, and research in university education.

Regulatory Functions:

  • Regulates the recognition of various educational entities, including fake universities, autonomous colleges, deemed-to-be universities, and distance education institutions.


  • The UGC’s central office is situated in New Delhi.

-Source: Indian Express


Recently, the global higher education think-tank Quacquarelli Symonds has released the QS Asia University Rankings: Asia 2024, including 148 universities from India in the comprehensive list of 856 universities across Asia.


GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. QS World University Rankings
  2. Key Highlights of the QS World University Rankings: Asia 2024

QS World University Rankings:

  • The QS World University Rankings are annual rankings released by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).
  • These rankings aim to evaluate and compare the performance and quality of universities worldwide.
  • The methodology used by QS takes into account various indicators, including academic reputation, faculty-student ratio, employer reputation, sustainability, employment outcomes, international research network, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio, and international student ratio.
  • In addition to the overall rankings, QS also provides rankings by subject, region, student city, business school, and sustainability, catering to specific areas of interest and focus.

Key Highlights of the QS World University Rankings: Asia 2024

Top Ranking Universities:
  • Peking University (China) secured the top position.
  • University of Hong Kong (Hongkong) and National University of Singapore (NUS) (Singapore) followed closely.
Indian Universities’ Performance:
  • IIT Bombay maintains its top position in India, ranking 40th in Asia.
  • Seven Indian institutions are in the top 100 in Asia, including five IITs, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Delhi University.
  • Growing visibility of Indian universities in international rankings indicates the expansion of India’s higher education landscape and its global research contributions.
India Surpasses China:
  • India has surpassed China in the number of universities featured, with 37 new entries compared to China’s seven.
India’s Strengths and Challenges:
  • Strong performance in research output and a faculty with significant PhD qualifications.
  • Challenges include lagging behind in academic and employer reputation compared to the regional average.
  • India’s research output has seen a remarkable 60% increase from 2018 to 2022, surpassing the global average.
  • While India is narrowing the gap with China in research output, there is still progress needed in reputation metrics.

-Source: Indian Express


Recent data from the Department of Commerce reveals a decline in India’s agricultural exports, registering USD 23.6 billion in April-September 2023, down from USD 26.7 billion in the same period in 2022. Concurrently, agricultural imports also decreased from USD 19.3 billion to USD 16.2 billion, leading to a slight reduction in the agricultural trade surplus.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Factors Contributing to Decline in Agricultural Exports (April-September 2023)
  2. Impact of Global Prices on India’s Agricultural Exports
  3. Consequences of Declining International Prices for Indian Agriculture

Factors Contributing to Decline in Agricultural Exports (April-September 2023)

Government Restrictions:

  • Bans and restrictions on key commodities like wheat, rice, and sugar.
  • Prohibition of broken rice exports in September 2022.
  • Imposition of a 20% duty on white non-basmati grain shipments.
  • Complete ban on exports of white non-basmati rice in July 2023.

Sugar Export Policy Changes:

  • Shifting sugar exports from the “free” to the “restricted” category.
  • Introducing caps on the total quantity of sugar that can be exported annually.

Global Price Softening:

  • Decline in global prices following the peak reached after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Impact on Trade Surplus:

  • Resulting in a notable decrease in India’s agricultural trade surplus during April-September 2023.

Impact of Global Prices on India’s Agricultural Exports

Correlation with UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index (FFPI):

  • Strong correlation between India’s agricultural exports and global price trends.
  • Notable changes in the FFPI influence the value of India’s agricultural trade.

Historical Trends:

  • Agricultural exports in India closely follow FFPI fluctuations.
  • Decline from USD 43.3 billion in 2013-14 to USD 35.6 billion in 2019-20 aligning with FFPI drop (from 119.1 to 96.5 points).
  • Subsequent rise in exports as FFPI reached unprecedented levels in 2022-23.

Expectations for 2023-24:

  • Anticipated decrease in the value of both agricultural exports and imports in India.
  • Despite the easing of supply disruptions from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

FAO’s Projections:

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) supply and demand brief for 2023-24 projects global ending cereal stocks.

Consequences of Declining International Prices for Indian Agriculture

Cost Competitiveness Impact:

  • Lower international prices reduce the cost competitiveness of India’s agricultural exports.
  • Increased vulnerability of Indian farmers to imports.

Sector-specific Challenges:

  • Cotton Sector:
    • Cotton exports from India witness a significant decline.
    • Imports surge by 2.5 times from 2021-22 to 2022-23.
  • Edible Oils Sector:
    • India’s edible oil imports more than double between 2019-20 and 2022-23.
    • Surge attributed to soaring global prices post the war in Ukraine.

Continued Imports Despite Price Collapse:

  • Prices of crude palm, soybean, and sunflower oil collapse globally.
  • Imports continue at a low 5.5% duty, contributing to trade challenges.

Government Priorities and Impact on Agriculture:

  • Government’s focus on controlling food inflation, especially before national elections.
  • Prioritization of consumer interests over producers’ concerns.
  • Unhindered imports of edible oil and pulses, coupled with export restrictions on cereals, sugar, and onions.

Impact on GDP Growth:

  • Neglecting concerns of manufacturers and producers negatively impacts GDP growth.

-Source: Indian Express


The Central Government recently told the Supreme Court that the CBI is an “independent body” and the Centre has “no superintendence or control over it.


GS-II: Polity and Constitution, Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
  2. Functions of CBI
  3. Challenges of CBI

Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was set up in 1963 after the recommendation of Santhanam committee under Ministry of Home affairs and was later transferred to the Ministry of Personnel and now it enjoys the status of an attached office.
  • Now, the CBI comes under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
  • The CBI derives its powers from the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, however, it is NOT a Statutory Body.
  • CBI is the apex anti-corruption body in the country – Along with being the main investigating agency of the Central Government it also provides assistance to the Central Vigilance Commission and Lokpal.
  • The CBI is required to obtain the prior approval of the Central Government before conducting any inquiry or investigation.
  • The CBI is also the nodal police agency in India which coordinates investigations on behalf of Interpol Member countries.
  • The CBI’s conviction rate is as high as 65 to 70% and it is comparable to the best investigation agencies in the world.
  • The CBI is headed by a Director and he is assisted by a special director or an additional director. It has joint directors, deputy inspector generals, superintendents of police.

CBI has following divisions

  • Anti-Corruption Division
  • Economic Offences Division
  • Special Crimes Division
  • Policy and International Police Cooperation Division
  • Administration Division
  • Directorate of Prosecution
  • Central Forensic Science Laboratory

How does the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) function in India?

Provision of Prior Permission:
  • The CBI is required to obtain prior approval from the Central Government before conducting an inquiry or investigation into an offense committed by officers of the rank of joint secretary and above in the Central Government and its authorities.
  • The Supreme Court, in 2014, declared Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which provided protection to joint secretary and above officers from facing preliminary inquiries by the CBI in corruption cases, as invalid and violative of Article 14.
General Consent Principle for CBI:
  • The state government can grant consent to the CBI on a case-specific basis or through a “general” consent.
  • General consent is usually given by states to facilitate seamless investigation of corruption cases involving central government employees within their states.
  • This consent is considered implicit, allowing the CBI to initiate investigations assuming consent has already been given.
  • Without general consent, the CBI would need to seek permission from the state government for each individual case, even for minor actions.

Challenges of CBI

  • The CBI has been dubbed a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice” by the Supreme Court of India due to excessive political influence in its operations. It has frequently been utilised by the government to conceal misdeeds, keep coalition allies in line, and keep political opponents at away. It has been accused of massive delays in concluding investigations, such as in its investigation into high-ranking Jain dignitaries in the Jain hawala diaries case [in the 1990s].
  • Loss of Credibility: Improving the agency’s image has been one of the most difficult challenges so far, as the agency has been chastised for its mishandling of several high-profile cases, including the Bofors scandal, the Hawala scandal, the Sant Singh Chatwal case, the Bhopal gas tragedy, and the 2008 Noida double murder case (Aarushi Talwar).
  • Lack of Accountability: CBI is exempt from the Right to Information Act, which means it is not accountable to the public.
  • Acute staff shortage: One of the key causes of the shortfall is the government’s mishandling of the CBI’s employees, which includes an inefficient and inexplicably biassed recruitment policy that was utilised to bring in favoured officials, possibly to the organization’s damage.
  • Limited Authority: Members of the CBI’s investigative powers and jurisdiction are subject to the consent of the State Government, restricting the scope of the CBI’s inquiry.
  • Restricted Access: Obtaining prior authorisation from the Central Government to initiate an inquiry or probe into Central Government workers at the level of Joint Secretary and above is a major impediment to tackling corruption at the highest levels of government.

-Source: The Hindu


NASA recently shared an incredible picture of an aurora captured from the International Space Station.


GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Formation of Auroras
  2. Carbon Dioxide Aurora

Formation of Auroras:

  • Auroras are formed when charged particles ejected from the sun’s corona create solar wind, which interacts with Earth’s ionosphere.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, they are called the northern lights or aurora borealis, while in the Southern Hemisphere, they are known as the southern lights or aurora australis.
  • The asymmetry of auroras between hemispheres is influenced by the interference between the sun’s magnetic field and Earth’s magnetic field.
  • The commonly observed green and red auroras occur between 100 to 250 kilometers above the planet’s surface due to the excited state of atomic oxygen.

Carbon Dioxide Aurora:

  • When charged particles collide with Earth’s atmosphere, they interact with various atoms and molecules, including carbon dioxide.
  • Carbon dioxide, known for its role as a greenhouse gas in the lower atmosphere, also exists in trace amounts in the upper atmosphere.
  • Around 90 kilometers above Earth, carbon dioxide molecules become excited during an aurora, leading to the emission of infrared radiation.
  • This results in a higher presence of infrared radiation in the atmosphere compared to typical levels.

-Source: Indian express

December 2023