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Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2023) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Global Buddhist Summit 2023

Context: Recently, the Ministry of Culture in partnership with International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) has organized the 1st Global Buddhist Summit 2023, which aims to enhance cultural and diplomatic relations with other countries.

What is the IBC?

  • IBC is the biggest religious Buddhist confederation.
  • The purpose of this body is to create a role for Buddhism on the global stage so as to help to preserve heritage, share knowledge, and promote values and to represent a united front for Buddhism to enjoy meaningful participation in the global discourse.
  • In November 2011, New Delhi was host to Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC), where the attendees unanimously adopted a resolution to form an international umbrella body – the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC).
  • HQ: Delhi, India.

What is the Global Buddhist Summit 2023?

About:

  • Buddhist monks from various countries took part in the two-day Summit.
  • Eminent scholars, Sangha leaders and Dharma practitioners from all over the world attended the conference.
  • There are 173 international participants comprising 84 Sangha member and 151 Indian delegates comprising 46 Sangha members, 40 nuns and 65 laity from outside Delhi.
  • Theme: Responses to Contemporary Challenges: Philosophy to Praxis.

Sub Themes:

  • Buddha Dhamma and Peace
  • Buddha Dhamma: Environmental Crisis, Health and Sustainability
  • Preservation of Nalanda Buddhist Tradition
  • Buddha Dhamma Pilgrimage, Living heritage and Buddha Relics: a resilient foundation to India’s centuries-old cultural links to countries in South, Southeast and East Asia.

Objectives:

  • The summit aims to discuss today’s pressing global issues and look for answers in the Buddha Dhamma that is based on universal values.
  • The aim is to set up a forum for the lay Buddhist scholars and Dharma Masters.
  • It seeks to delve into Buddha’s message for Peace, Compassion and Harmony with the objective of working towards Universal Peace and Harmony, in accordance with the core values of Dharma and produce a document for further academic research, to study its viability for use as a tool for the conduct of international relations on the global stage.

Significance for India:

  • This global Summit will mark the significance and importance of India in Buddhism, as Buddhism was born in India.
  • This summit will also be a medium to enhance the cultural and diplomatic relationships with other countries, especially with the countries which embrace the Buddhist Ethos.

How can the Buddha’s Teachings help Address today's Global Challenges?

The key teachings of Buddha include the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

Four noble truths:

  • Suffering (dukkha) is the essence of the world.
  • Every suffering has a cause – Samudya.
  • Suffering could be extinguished – Nirodha.
  • It can be achieved by following the Atthanga Magga (Eight-Fold Path).

Noble Eightfold Path:

  • The world is facing the most challenging times of the century due to war, economic crisis, terrorism and climate change, and all these contemporary global challenges can be addressed through the teachings of Lord Buddha.
  • These teachings of Budha can provide solutions to global problems in several ways. For example, the teachings on compassion, non-violence, and interdependence can help address conflicts and promote peaceful coexistence.
  • Teachings on ethical conduct, social responsibility, and generosity can help address issues of inequality and promote social justice.
  • The teachings on mindfulness, simplicity, and non-harming can help address environmental degradation and promote sustainable living.

What is the Role of Buddhism in India’s Soft Power Strategy?

Cultural Diplomacy:

  • One of the ways in which Buddhism has been used in India's soft power strategy is through cultural diplomacy.
  • This involves promoting Indian culture, including Buddhism, through various channels such as art, music, films, literature, and festivals.
  • For example, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has organized several cultural events in Buddhist countries, such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, and Bhutan, to showcase India's cultural heritage and strengthen cultural ties.

Education and Capacity-Building:

  • Another way in which Buddhism can be used in India's soft power strategy is through education and capacity-building.
  • India has established several Buddhist institutions and centers of excellence, such as the Nalanda University and the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, to promote Buddhist studies and research.
  • In 2022, the foundation stone for the Dhamma Dipa International Buddhist University (DDIBU) in Tripura was laid,
  • DDIBU is the first Buddhist-run university in India to offer Buddhist education along with courses in other disciplines of modern education as well.
  • India also offers scholarships and training programs to Buddhist students and monks from other countries, such as Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Nepal, to enhance their knowledge and skills.

Bilateral Exchanges and Initiatives:

  • In terms of bilateral relations, India has sought to deepen its ties with Buddhist countries, such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Bhutan, through various initiatives.
  • India has signed several agreements with Sri Lanka, such as the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPA), to boost economic cooperation.
    • India has also provided assistance to Buddhist countries for the restoration and preservation of their cultural heritage sites, such as the Bagan temples in Myanmar and the Stupa in Nepal.
  • India and Mongolia also renewed the Cultural Exchange Program until 2023 under which 10 dedicated ICCR scholarships for studying ‘Tibetan Buddhism’ have been allocated for Mongolians to study in specialized institutes of CIBS, Leh and CUTS, Varanasi.

Translocation of Elephants

Context: The Supreme Court recently dismissed the Kerala government's appeal against the order of the Kerala HC directing the relocation of Arikomban (Wild Elephant), the "rice tusker" of Munnar, to the Parambikulam tiger reserve.

What are the Arguments in Favour of Elephant Translocation?

  • The Kerala High Court highlighted that the availability of natural food and water resources in the relocation site would deter the elephant from foraging in human settlements.
  • The court also emphasised that the elephant will be radio-collared, and its movements monitored by forest/wildlife officials, which would effectively remove the surprise element of any conflict situation.

What are the Arguments Against Elephant Translocation?

  • India’s first radio-telemetry study of a translocated problem elephant was conducted in 2006 on a large male shifted from the cropland of West Midnapore in South Bengal to the Mahananda Sanctuary in Darjeeling district.
  • Almost immediately, the elephant started damaging houses and raiding crops in villages and Army areas.
  • A study on translocated problem Asian elephants was conducted in 2012, in which a team of biologists monitored 12 male elephants translocated 16 times to different national parks in Sri Lanka.
  • The study found: Translocation caused wider propagation and intensification of human-elephant conflict, and increased elephant mortality.
  • Vinayaga, a bull that gained notoriety as a crop raider, was translocated from Coimbatore to the Mudumalai-Bandipur landscape in December 2018.
  • It soon started using gaps in the elephant-proof trench to raid crops, until he was driven back.

Elephant

About:

  • Elephant is the Natural Heritage Animal of India.
  • Elephants are considered a "Keystone Species" as they play a critical role in maintaining the balance and health of forest ecosystems.
  • They are known for their exceptional intelligence, boasting the largest brain size of any land animal.

Significance in Ecosystem:

  • Elephants are very important grazers and browsers, eating vast amounts of vegetation every day, spreading seeds around as they go.
  • They also help shape the often-thick vegetation of the Asian landscape.
  • For example, in forests, elephants create clearings and gaps in the trees that let sunlight in to reach new seedlings, helping plants grow and the forest to regenerate naturally.
  • Elephants will also dig for water when there is not any surface water – opening water access for other creatures as well as themselves.

Elephants in India:

  • India has the largest number of wild Asian Elephants, estimated at 29,964 according to the 2017 census by Project Elephant.
  • It is about 60% of the species’ global population.
  • Karnataka has the highest number of elephants, followed by Assam and Kerala.

Conservation Status:

  • Convention of the Migratory species (CMS): Appendix I
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species:
  • Asian Elephant- Endangered
  • African Forest Elephant- Critically Endangered
  • African Savanna Elephant- Endangered

Other Conservative Efforts:

India:

  • Project Elephant was initiated by the Indian government in 1992 to safeguard elephants and their natural habitat in India.
  • There are also 33 elephant reserves in India aimed at conservation efforts.

Worldwide

  • World Elephant Day: It is observed annually on August 12th to raise awareness about the urgent need to protect and conserve elephants.
  • The day was established in 2012 to highlight the critical plight of both Asian and African elephants.
  • Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme: It is an international collaboration that measures the levels, trends and causes of elephant mortality, thereby providing an information base to support international decision-making related to conservation of elephants in Asia and Africa.

Way Forward

Relocation Impact Assessment:

  • It is important to carefully consider the specific circumstances and characteristics of each problem elephant and its potential relocation site.
  • Thorough research and analysis should be conducted to assess the availability of natural food and water resources, habitat suitability, and potential risks and challenges of translocation.

Monitoring and Management:

  • Proper monitoring and management plans should also be in place, including post-relocation monitoring and measures to mitigate any potential conflicts.
  • While translocation of problem elephants may be considered as a strategy to mitigate human-elephant conflicts, it should be approached with caution and based on sound scientific research, community engagement, and comprehensive management plans to minimise potential risks and ensure the well-being of both elephants and local communities.

Alternative to Translocation of Elephants:

  • Capturing and transforming wild elephants with the help of 'kunkis'(a trained elephant used to capture wild ones) presents a promising approach for translocation.
  • This method can offer several benefits, including increased safety during capture operations, reduced stress on translocated elephants due to familiarization with trained 'kunkis', and improved success rates of translocation efforts.

UDAN 5.0 Scheme

Context: Recently, the government has launched the fifth round of the Regional Connectivity Scheme – UDAN (UDAN 5.0).

What is UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) Scheme?

About:

  • The scheme was launched by the Ministry of Civil Aviation for regional airport development and regional connectivity enhancement.
  • It is a part of the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016.
  • The scheme is applicable for a period of 10 years.

Objectives:

  • Improve the air connectivity to remote and regional areas of India.
  • Development of remote areas and enhancing trade and commerce and tourism expansion.
  • Enable common people to access air travel with affordable rates.
  • Employment creation in the aviation sector.

Key Features:

  • Under the scheme, airlines have to cap airfares for 50% of the total seats at Rs. 2,500 per hour of flight.
  • This would be achieved through:
  • A financial stimulus in the form of concessions from Central and State governments and airport operators and
  • Viability Gap Funding (VGF) – A government grant provided to the airlines to bridge the gap between the cost of operations and expected revenue.
  • Regional Connectivity Fund (RCF) was created to meet the viability gap funding requirements under the scheme.
  • The partner State Governments (other than UTs and NER states where contribution will be 10%) would contribute a 20% share to this fund.

Previous Phases of the Scheme:

  • Phase 1 was launched in 2017, with the objective of connecting underserved and unserved airports in the country.
  • Phase 2 was launched in 2018, with the aim of expanding air connectivity to more remote and inaccessible parts of the country.
  • Phase 3 was launched in November 2018, with the focus on enhancing air connectivity to hilly and remote regions of the country.
  • Phase 4 of the UDAN scheme was launched in December 2019, with a focus on connecting islands and other remote areas of the country.

Key Features of UDAN 5.0:

  • It focuses on Category-2 (20-80 seats) and Category-3 (>80 seats) aircrafts.
  • There is no restriction on the distance between the origin and the destination of the flight.
  • VGF to be provided will be capped at 600 km stage length for both Priority and Non-Priority areas; earlier capped at 500 km.
  • No predetermined routes would be offered; only Network and Individual Route Proposal proposed by airlines will be considered.
  • The same route would not be awarded to a single airline more than once, whether in different networks or in the same network.
  • Exclusivity of operation provided to an airline will be withdrawn if the average quarterly Passenger Load Factor (PLF) is higher than 75% for four continuous quarters.
  • This has been done to prevent exploitation of the monopoly on a route.
  • Airlines would be required to commence operations within 4 months of the award of the route; earlier this deadline was 6 months.
  • Novation process for routes from one operator to another has been simplified and incentivized.
  • Novation - The process of substituting an existing contract with a replacement contract, where the contracting parties reach a consensus.

What are Achievements under UDAN Scheme?

(As per the data released in Aug 2022 by the Ministry of Civil Aviation)

  • The scheme has also been able to provide a fair amount of air connectivity to Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities at affordable airfares and has transformed the way travelling was done earlier.
  • The number of operational airports has gone up to 141 from 74 in 2014.
  • 68 underserved/unserved destinations which include 58 Airports, 8 Heliports & 2 Water Aerodromes have been connected under UDAN scheme.
  • With 425 new routes initiated, UDAN has provided air connectivity to more than 29 States/ UTs across the country.
  • More than one crore passengers have availed the benefits of this scheme.

Logistics Performance Index 2023

Context: India has climbed six places on the World Bank's Logistic Performance Index (LPI) 2023, now ranking 38th in the 139 countries index.

  • This is a significant improvement from its previous ranking of 44th in 2018 and 54th in 2014.
  • Earlier, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry released the Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) Report 2022.

What is LPI?

  • The LPI is an interactive benchmarking tool developed by the World Bank Group.
  • It helps countries identify the challenges and opportunities they face in their performance of trade logistics and what they can do to improve their performance.
  • It measures the ease of establishing reliable supply chain connections and the structural factors that make it possible. The LPI considers 6 parameters to evaluate logistics performance, namely:
    • Customs performance
    • Infrastructure quality
    • Ease of arranging shipments
    • Logistics services quality
    • Consignment tracking and tracing
    • Timeliness of shipments
  • The LPI was reported by the World Bank every two years from 2010 to 2018 with a break in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a restructuring of the index methodology, eventually came out in 2023.
    • LPI 2023 allows for comparison across 139 countries and for the first time, LPI 2023 measures the speed of trade with indicators derived from big datasets tracking shipments.

What Aspects Led to India's Improved Logistics Performance?

Policy Interventions:

  • PM Gati Shakti Initiative: In October 2021, government announced the PM Gati Shakti initiative, a National Master Plan for multimodal connectivity.
    • This initiative aims to reduce logistics costs and boost the economy by 2024-25.
  • National Logistics Policy (NLP): The PM launched the National Logistics Policy (NLP) in 2022 to ensure quick last-mile delivery, end transport-related challenges, save time and money for the manufacturing sector and ensure desired speed in the logistics sector.
  • These policy interventions are fructifying, which can be seen in India's jump in LPI and its other parameters.

Infrastructure Improvements:

  • According to the LPI report, India's rank moved up five places in the infrastructure score from 52nd in 2018 to 47th in 2023.
  • The government has invested in trade-related soft and hard infrastructure, connecting port gateways on both coasts to the major economic centers located in the interior regions of the country.
    • This investment has paid off, with India climbing to the 22nd spot for international shipments in 2023 from 44th in 2018.

Technology's Role:

  • Technology has been a critical component of India's logistics performance improvement efforts.
  • Under a public-private partnership, the government has implemented a supply chain visibility platform, which has contributed to remarkable reductions in delays.
  • NICDC Logistics Data Services Limited applies radio frequency identification tags to containers and offers consignees end-to-end tracking of their supply chain.
  • The report also states that emerging economies like India are leapfrogging advanced countries due to modernization and digitalization.

Reduced Dwell Time:

  • Dwell time is how long a vessel spends at a specific port or terminal. It may also refer to the amount of time that a container or cargo spends at a port or terminal before being loaded onto a vessel or after being unloaded from a vessel.
    • India's very low dwell time (2.6 days) is one example of how the country has improved its logistics performance.
  • According to the report, the average dwell time for containers between May and October 2022 was 3 days for India and Singapore, much better than in some of the industrialized countries.
    • The dwell time for the U.S. was 7 days and for Germany, it was 10 days.
  • With the introduction of cargo tracking, dwell time in the eastern port of Visakhapatnam fell from 32.4 days in 2015 to 5.3 days in 2019.

Armenian Genocide

Context: April 24, 1915 marks the beginning of what came to be known as the Armenian genocide. It is when the Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey) initiated the detainment of Armenian intellectuals and leaders in Constantinople.

What is Genocide?

Origin:

  • The word ‘genocide’ was first coined by Polish lawyer Raphäel Lemkin in 1944 in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.

About:

  • As per UN, Genocide is the intentional and systematic destruction of a particular ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.
  • This destruction can occur through a variety of means, including mass killing, forced relocation, and the imposition of harsh living conditions that result in widespread death.

Conditions:

UN says a crime of genocide includes two main elements:

  • Mental Element: The intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.
  • Physical Element: It includes the following five acts, enumerated exhaustively:
    • Killing members of the group
    • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
    • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life is calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
    • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
    • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
  • Also, the members of the attacked group must have been attacked because they are members of the group, and not as individuals, for the crime to qualify as a genocide.

Genocide Convention:

  • The Genocide Convention, also known as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, is an international treaty that was adopted by the UNGA on December 9, 1948.
  • The purpose is to prevent and punish the crime of genocide and requires signatory nations to take action to prevent and punish genocide, including by enacting laws that criminalize the crime of genocide and by cooperating with other nations in the investigation and prosecution of individuals suspected of committing genocide.
  • The Convention also establishes the International Court of Justice as the primary judicial body responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Convention.
  • It was the first human rights treaty adopted by the General Assembly of the UN on 9 December 1948.

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2023) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

What is the Armenian Genocide?

  • Background: Armenians are an ancient people whose traditional homeland by the beginning of the 20th century was divided between the Russian and the Ottoman empires.
    • In the Ottoman Empire, dominated by Muslims, Armenians were a Christian, well-off minority.
    • On account of their religion, they faced discrimination, which they had been protesting and demanding greater say in the government. This had led to resentment and attacks against the community.
  • Role of Young Turks and WW-I: A revolution brought in 1908 by a group called the Young Turks and paved the way for the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) forming the government which wanted ‘Turkification’ of the empire and was hard on minorities.
    • In August 1914, World War I broke out, and the Ottoman Empire joined forces with Germany and Austria-Hungary against Russia, Great Britain and France.
    • The war brought antipathy towards Armenians to a boil, especially as some Armenians were sympathetic to Russia and even willing to help it in the war.
    • Soon, the Armenians as a whole were seen as a threat.
    • The crackdown of April 14, 1915 on the community began in earnest with the arrest of prominent citizens in Constantinople, many of whom were executed.
    • The government then ordered forcible eviction of Armenians.
    • In spring 1915 the Ottoman government began the deportation of the Armenian population from its northeastern border regions.
  • Recognition as ‘Genocide’: Armenian genocide has been recognized so by 32 countries as of now, including the US, France, Germany, the Armenian genocide.
    • India and UK do not recognize the Armenian Genocide. India’s stand can be attributed to its wider foreign policy decisions and geo-political interests in the region.
    • Turkey does not recognize the Armenion massacre as genocide and has always claimed that there is no proof the deaths were planned and targetted.
  • Current Status of Armenia-Turkey Relations: The modern state of Armenia has in the past sought better ties with Turkey, although the two are now locked in a tussle over the Nagorno-Karabakh region an Armenian-dominated part of Azerbaijan where Turkey supports Azerbaijan.

What are the Law and Regulations in India for Genocide?

  • India does not have any domestic law on genocide, even though it has ratified the UN Convention on Genocide.
  • Indian Penal Code (IPC):
    • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for the punishment of genocide and related crimes, and sets out the procedures for investigation, prosecution, and punishment.
    • Genocide has been defined as a crime under IPC Section 153B, which criminalizes acts that promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. with the intent to cause riots or commit acts of violence.
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • The Indian Constitution provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
      Article 15 of the Constitution prohibits discrimination on these grounds.
      Article 21 guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.

Way Forward

The prevention and punishment of genocide is a complex issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. Some possible ways forward include:

  • Strengthening legal frameworks: Countries should continue to adopt and enforce laws that criminalize genocide and related crimes. Governments should also ensure that these laws are in line with international legal standards, such as the Genocide Convention.
  • Education and awareness-raising: Education and awareness-raising campaigns can help to promote tolerance and understanding between different groups and reduce the likelihood of discrimination and violence. Governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders should work together to promote these initiatives.
  • Early warning systems: The development of early warning systems can help to detect and prevent the escalation of tensions between different groups. These systems can include the monitoring of hate speech, social media platforms, and other indicators of potential violence.
  • International cooperation: International cooperation is essential in the prevention and punishment of genocide. Countries should work together to share information, resources, and expertise in order to prevent and respond to potential instances of genocide.
  • Support for victims: The provision of support and reparations to victims of genocide is essential in promoting healing and reconciliation. Governments and other stakeholders should work together to provide support to victims, including access to justice, reparations, and mental health services.
  • Addressing root causes: Addressing the root causes of discrimination and violence is essential in the prevention of genocide. This can include addressing poverty, inequality, and social exclusion, as well as promoting inclusive governance and democratic institutions.
The document Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 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 (22nd to 30th April 2023) Part - 1 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the Global Buddhist Summit 2023?
Ans. The Global Buddhist Summit 2023 is a significant event that brings together Buddhist leaders, scholars, and practitioners from around the world to discuss and promote the teachings of Buddhism. It serves as a platform for dialogue, exchange of ideas, and fostering harmony among different Buddhist traditions.
2. What is the significance of the translocation of elephants?
Ans. The translocation of elephants refers to the process of moving elephants from one location to another, usually from areas with high human-elephant conflict to safer habitats. This practice is significant as it helps in reducing conflicts between humans and elephants, conserving the elephant population, and preserving their natural habitats.
3. What is the UDAN 5.0 Scheme?
Ans. The UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) 5.0 Scheme is a government initiative in India aimed at enhancing regional connectivity through the development of airports in remote and underserved areas. It focuses on making air travel affordable and accessible to common citizens by providing subsidized airfare on selected routes.
4. What is the Logistics Performance Index 2023?
Ans. The Logistics Performance Index 2023 is a measurement tool used to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics and supply chain management in different countries. It evaluates various factors such as infrastructure, customs procedures, logistics quality, and timeliness to provide an overall ranking of countries' logistics performance.
5. What was the Armenian Genocide?
Ans. The Armenian Genocide refers to the systematic mass killings and deportation of Armenian civilians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It is estimated that around 1.5 million Armenians were killed, and many others were displaced or forcibly deported. The Armenian Genocide is considered one of the first modern genocides and has been recognized by several countries and international organizations.
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