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

Large Ozone Hole Detected Over Antarctica

Context: In a surprising turn of events, satellite measurements over Antarctica have uncovered a colossal ozone hole, sparking concerns worldwide. The European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite has captured this significant anomaly, raising questions about its origins and potential ties to climate change.

Understanding the Ozone Layer:

The ozone layer, residing in the stratosphere, serves as a crucial shield against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Its depletion could lead to increased rates of skin cancer, making its preservation vital.

Decoding Ozone Holes:

An ozone hole, technically not a void but a region of severely depleted ozone concentrations, forms over Antarctica annually. It opens due to specific climatic conditions and closes by late November or December each year.

Mechanism Behind Ozone Hole:

The polar vortex, driven by Earth's rotation, plays a pivotal role in ozone hole dynamics. During winter, it creates a cold environment for polar stratospheric clouds, triggering ozone-depleting reactions. Chlorine compounds, activated by sunlight, break down ozone molecules, causing the depletion. The hole closes as the polar vortex weakens in spring.

The 2023 Ozone Hole:

Cause of the Ozone Hole in 2023:

Scientists suspect the 2023 ozone hole's magnitude may be linked to volcanic eruptions in Tonga. These eruptions propelled water vapor and ozone-depleting elements into the stratosphere, altering the ozone layer's heating rate.

Ozone Holes and Climate Change:

While ozone depletion isn't a primary driver of global climate change, recent instances have been linked to climate change-induced events. Wildfires, intensified by global warming, inject more smoke into the stratosphere, potentially contributing to further ozone depletion. This depletion can impact seasons, leading to prolonged winter conditions.

Global Response and Solutions:

In response to ozone depletion, the international community established the Vienna Convention in 1985 and the Montreal Protocol in 1987. These agreements paved the way for significant reductions in ozone-depleting substances, showcasing the world's collective effort to combat this environmental challenge. World Ozone Day on the 16th of September commemorates the signing of the Montreal Protocol.

Conclusion

The discovery of the massive ozone hole over Antarctica serves as a stark reminder of our planet's vulnerability. While natural events like volcanic eruptions play a role, human-induced climate change exacerbates these occurrences. Through international collaboration and sustained efforts, humanity can continue to protect the ozone layer, ensuring a healthier and sustainable future for all.

Gandhi's Stance on Jewish Nation-State in Palestine

Context: In the heart of the complex Israel-Palestine conflict lies a perspective that echoes the sentiments of a global icon, Mahatma Gandhi. This article delves into Gandhi’s profound stance against a Jewish nation-state in Palestine, examining his compassionate reasoning and its enduring influence on India’s foreign policy.

Understanding Gandhi’s Opposition

The Plight of the Jewish People in Europe

  • In the tumultuous 1930s and 1940s, Europe witnessed the horrific persecution of Jews under the Nazi regime, prompting Gandhi’s deep empathy for their plight. He drew parallels between their suffering and that of India’s untouchables, emphasizing the shared inhumanity both communities faced.

The Zionist Movement and Its Goals

  • Amidst this backdrop, the Zionist movement aimed to establish a homeland for Jewish people in Palestine, gaining momentum after World War I. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the subsequent UN partition plan in 1947 marked pivotal moments in the formation of Israel.

Gandhi’s Opposition to a Jewish Nation-State

  • Gandhi vehemently opposed the idea of displacing native Arabs for a Jewish homeland, asserting that such a move would be a crime against humanity. He insisted on Arab goodwill and questioned the imposition of a homeland through force, emphasizing the need for peaceful coexistence.

Gandhi’s Influence on India’s Policy

  • Gandhi’s anti-imperialist ideology significantly impacted India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, shaping the country’s foreign policy for decades. This influence was evident when India voted against UN Resolution 181, which proposed the partition of Palestine. India recognized Israel in 1950 but established formal diplomatic relations in 1992, displaying a delicate balance between principles and pragmatic interests.

India’s Evolving Stance: A Two-State Solution

  • Over time, India’s policy underwent changes, reflecting strategic and economic interests. While acknowledging Israel and recognizing Palestine, India leaned towards a dehyphenation policy. Embracing the Two-State Solution, India now advocates for peaceful coexistence, self-determination, and the rights of both nations.

Contemporary Developments and Global Relevance

  • Recent geopolitical shifts, such as Israel’s diplomatic engagements with Arab states, underline the evolving dynamics in the region. Gandhi’s moral compass remains a guiding light, emphasizing the importance of empathy, dialogue, and humanity in resolving one of the world’s most enduring conflicts.

Conclusion

Mahatma Gandhi’s opposition to a Jewish nation-state in Palestine continues to resonate, reminding the world of the power of empathy and ethical foreign policy. As India navigates the complexities of the Israel-Palestine issue, it does so under the enduring influence of a man whose principles transcend time, offering a beacon of hope for a peaceful resolution in the region.

Consanguinity

Context: The intricate tapestry of human society is woven with diverse threads of traditions, beliefs, and practices. One such practice, consanguinity, has intrigued researchers and scholars alike for its multifaceted influence on genetics, health, and societal norms.

  • Recent studies have delved deep into this age-old tradition, shedding light on its impact on disease susceptibility, human traits, and family dynamics across global populations.
  • This is  journey to explore the intricacies of consanguinity, dissecting its origins, key findings, benefits, challenges, and the way forward.

What is Consanguinity?

Consanguinity, a term encompassing both social and genetic dimensions, signifies the act of marrying blood relatives, such as cousins or siblings. Genetically, it involves unions between closely related individuals, a phenomenon commonly referred to as inbreeding. This practice, prevalent in various cultures, has profound implications for both family and population genetics.

Key Takeaways from Recent Studies

  • Recent research has illuminated the prevalence of consanguinity, indicating that approximately 15-20% of the world's population practices it, with higher concentrations in regions like Asia and West Africa. Genetic evidence from ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians and Incas, further validates its historical roots.
  • In India, more than 4,000 endogamous groups engage in consanguineous marriages, providing fertile ground for studies in this field. Shockingly, it has been observed that consanguinity leads to increased mortality rates and a higher prevalence of recessive genetic diseases in populations where it is practiced.

Benefits and Challenges of Consanguinity

Benefits:

  • Preservation of Cultural and Social Traditions: Consanguinity preserves cultural and social norms in societies where it is a longstanding tradition.
  • Social Safety Net: Consanguineous relationships provide built-in social support, reducing reliance on external social services.
  • Reduced Risk of Incompatibility: In some cases, marrying close relatives can lead to more stable marriages by reducing cultural and social incompatibilities.
  • Genetic Improvement in Breeding Programs: Controlled mating of closely related individuals is essential in enhancing desirable qualities in plants and animals through selective breeding techniques.

Challenges:

  • Increased Risk of Genetic Disorders: Consanguinity elevates the risk of offspring inheriting genetic disorders due to shared recessive genes.
  • Limited Genetic Diversity: Marrying close relatives leads to limited genetic diversity, potentially reducing resilience to diseases and environmental changes.
  • Complex Family Dynamics: Consanguineous families often experience intricate dynamics, leading to conflicts and tensions in decision-making.
  • Erosion of Individual Autonomy: Close-knit consanguineous communities might restrict individual autonomy, impacting decisions related to marriage and family planning.
  • Silenced Voices in Domestic Violence Cases: Cultural pressures within consanguineous relationships can discourage reporting of domestic violence, perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

The Way Forward
Navigating the realm of consanguinity requires delicacy and respect for cultural heritage. Addressing its challenges necessitates a multifaceted approach involving education, legal safeguards, and support services. Empowering individuals to make informed choices while preserving cultural values is paramount. Personalized medicine and genetic counseling can play pivotal roles in mitigating the risks associated with consanguinity, ensuring a healthier future for generations to come.

Conclusion
Consanguinity stands as a testament to the intricate interplay of tradition, genetics, and societal norms. While it presents challenges, its understanding opens avenues for creating a more informed and compassionate society. By acknowledging its complexities and embracing informed decision-making, humanity can navigate the delicate balance between tradition and the well-being of future generations.

Methane Mitigation to Combat Global Warming

Context: In a groundbreaking report titled "The Imperative of Cutting Methane from Fossil Fuels," jointly released by the International Energy Agency, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the UNEP-convened Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the urgent need for targeted methane mitigation to combat global warming has been underscored.

Understanding Methane: The Silent Threat

  • Methane, the simplest hydrocarbon (CH4), is a highly potent greenhouse gas responsible for approximately 30% of global warming since the Industrial Revolution.
  • Its atmospheric lifetime is around a decade, yet it has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years of its presence in the atmosphere. Common sources include oil and natural gas systems, agricultural activities, coal mining, and wastes.

Key Findings from the Report

  • Methane Emissions and Global Warming: Mitigating methane emissions is crucial to limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Failure to address methane could result in temperatures exceeding 1.6°C by 2050. Methane mitigation efforts could prevent approximately 0.1°C of warming by 2050.
  • Current Methane Emission Scenario: Globally, 580 million tonnes of methane are emitted annually, with human activities contributing 60% of these emissions. Fossil fuel operations alone accounted for 120 million tonnes of methane emissions in 2022. Without intervention, total anthropogenic methane emissions could rise by up to 13% between 2020 and 2030.

Targeted Methane Mitigation: A Call to Action

  • Even with reduced fossil fuel use, targeted methane mitigation measures are imperative. Existing technologies can help avoid over 80 million tonnes of annual methane emissions from fossil fuels by 2030. These solutions are cost-effective, with an estimated investment of USD 75 billion needed by 2030 for methane reduction measures in the oil and gas sector. Regulatory frameworks are essential for effective implementation.

Mitigation Strategies:

  • Eliminating routine venting and flaring.
  • Repairing leaks in fossil fuel operations.
  • Appropriate regulatory frameworks for the energy sector.

Global Initiatives:

  • India: Initiatives like Harit Dhara (HD), BS VI Emission Norms, and the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
  • Global: Methane Alert and Response System (MARS), Global Methane Pledge, and efforts by the International Energy Agency and UNEP.

Economic and Health Benefits of Methane Mitigation

  • Methane reduction efforts are not only critical for the environment but also for public health and economies. Ground-level ozone pollution, caused primarily by methane, leads to nearly one million premature deaths prevention by 2050.
  • Moreover, achieving methane reduction targets can prevent 95 million tonnes of crop losses, providing direct economic benefits valued at more than USD 260 billion between 2020 and 2050.

Conclusion: A Global Imperative

  • Addressing methane emissions is not merely a choice but a global imperative. The collaborative efforts of international organizations, governments, and industries are essential in implementing targeted methane mitigation strategies. With the right measures, we can curb global warming, save lives, and preserve our planet for future generations.

SC to Hear Challenge on Designation of Bills as Money Bills

Context: In a significant legal development, a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India, led by the Chief Justice of India, has taken up a crucial reference. This reference pertains to the manner in which the Centre passed vital amendments in the Parliament by categorizing them as Money Bills.

  • This move has sparked intense debates about the legality and constitutionality of these amendments, prompting legal experts and concerned citizens to question the standard legislative process.

Challenged Amendments: A Closer Look

Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Amendments

  • Amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) since 2015 granted extensive powers to the Enforcement Directorate, including the authority to make arrests and conduct raids. The key concern revolves around the passage of these amendments as Money Bills, raising fundamental questions about their legality and adherence to constitutional norms.

Finance Act of 2017

  • The Finance Act of 2017, passed as a Money Bill, raised eyebrows due to concerns about its potential impact on key judicial tribunals. Allegations were made that this Act was an attempt to extend executive control over these tribunals, with changes made to appointments and qualifications. Categorizing it as a Money Bill sparked suspicions of deliberate maneuvering to evade oversight.

Aadhaar Act, 2016

  • The Aadhaar Act, a subject of contention since its inception, was upheld as a valid Money Bill under Article 110 of the Constitution by the Supreme Court in 2018. The debate hinges on whether its categorization was legitimate, considering the subsidies distributed through Aadhaar, originating from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Implications of the Larger Bench
The ongoing discussions within the larger bench hold significant implications:

  • Clarity on Constitutionality: Determining the constitutionality of the PMLA, Aadhaar Act, and Tribunal reforms.
  • Categorization Scrutiny: Evaluating whether these laws were rightly categorized as Money Bills or used strategically to bypass Rajya Sabha scrutiny.
  • Legality vs. Strategy: Resolving whether these classifications were legally sound or strategic maneuvers to escape parliamentary oversight.
  • Judicial Scrutiny: Offering insights into the level of scrutiny the judiciary can exercise over the Speaker's determinations in classifying bills as Money Bills.

Understanding Money Bills

  • Definition: Money Bills encompass financial legislation solely related to revenue, taxation, government expenditures, and borrowing.
  • Constitutional Basis: According to Article 110(1) of the Constitution, a Bill is deemed a Money Bill if it addresses matters specified in Article 110(1)(a) to (g), including taxation, government borrowing, and appropriation of money from the Consolidated Fund of India. Article 110(1)(g) allows matters incidental to these to be classified as Money Bills. Article 110(3) stipulates that the Speaker of the House of the People's decision on whether a Bill is a Money Bill is final.
  • Procedure: Money Bills must be introduced exclusively in the Lok Sabha, preventing introduction in the Rajya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha can offer recommendations but lacks the power to amend or reject a Money Bill. The President can either accept or reject a Money Bill but cannot return it for reconsideration.

Conclusion

As the Supreme Court embarks on this profound inquiry, it raises pertinent questions about the integrity of the legislative process and the sanctity of constitutional procedures. The outcome of this deliberation could potentially redefine the boundaries of legislative powers and reinforce the principles of transparency and accountability in India's democratic framework.

The document Weekly Current Affairs (15th to 21st October 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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