UPSC Exam  >  UPSC Notes  >  Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly  >  Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th December 2023) Part - 2

Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th December 2023) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Italy Withdraws from China’s BRI

Context: Italy's recent withdrawal from China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) marks a significant shift in its foreign policy. After more than four years of participation as the sole G7 nation within the initiative, Italy has opted to reassess its engagement, citing a confluence of economic, geopolitical, and strategic considerations.

Reasons Behind Italy’s Withdrawal From BRI

  • Economic Imbalance: Initially enticed by the prospect of investment and infrastructural development, Italy's anticipated economic benefits failed to materialize. Reports indicate a stark decline in Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Italy and limited growth in trade, leading to disillusionment with the agreement's economic viability.
  • Geopolitical Realignment: Italy's exit mirrors a broader European trend of reevaluating ties with China. Concerns over China's expanding influence and geopolitical alignments amid global events like the Russia-Ukraine conflict have prompted Italy to reconsider its position within the BRI.
  • Alignment with Western Allies: As Italy gears up for the G7 presidency, aligning itself more closely with Western allies could influence its decision to withdraw from the BRI, potentially signaling solidarity with its G7 partners.
  • Negative Press and Debt Concerns: Global criticisms regarding potential debt traps and opaque financial dealings within the BRI have likely contributed to Italy's reassessment and ultimate withdrawal.

India-Italy Relations: A Historical Perspective

  • India and Italy share ancient ties rooted in historical trade routes and cultural exchanges. Despite setbacks such as the Italian Marines case and AgustaWestland allegations, both nations have strived to repair relations through diplomatic engagement, strategic partnerships, and economic cooperation.

Common Ground: Rethinking Engagement with China

  • Italy's reconsideration of the BRI aligns with India's opposition to the initiative, emphasizing territorial concerns. Both countries have reevaluated their engagements with China, leading to collaborative efforts in various sectors like science, technology, counter-terrorism, and regional connectivity.

Prospects of Increased Collaboration

  • With Italy stepping away from the BRI, prospects for heightened economic collaboration between India and Italy emerge. Opportunities in technology, manufacturing, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, and infrastructure development could be explored, fostering a deeper strategic partnership.

The Way Forward

India and Italy stand at a crucial juncture, poised to elevate their strategic ties. Collaborative efforts in defense production, joint military exercises, and information sharing can further strengthen security cooperation. Increased economic collaboration presents a promising avenue for mutual growth and development.

Conclusion

Italy's withdrawal from China's BRI signifies a nuanced geopolitical shift, impacting both regional dynamics and bilateral relationships. As India and Italy pivot towards closer collaboration, the stage is set for a new chapter in their strategic partnership, fostering mutual progress and stability.

SC Verdict on Revocation of Article 370

Context: The recent verdict by the Supreme Court on the revocation of Article 370 has brought about significant shifts in the landscape of Jammu and Kashmir, redefining its constitutional, political, and socio-economic dimensions.

  • Let's delve into the details of this transformative judgment, examining its implications on the Union Territory and the broader Indian polity.

Understanding the Supreme Court's Decision

The Supreme Court's verdict validated the Constitutional order that led to the abrogation of Article 370, thereby eliminating the special status held by the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Here's an in-depth breakdown of the key points addressed in the judgment:

  • Sovereignty and Constitutional Alignment: The Court highlighted that Jammu and Kashmir did not possess sovereignty independent of India, emphasizing the alignment of Article 370(1) with Article 1 of the Indian Constitution. The explicit statements in the J&K Constitution and Indian Constitution solidified the integration of J&K into the Union of India.
  • Temporary Provision and Instrument of Accession: The SC stressed the temporary nature of Article 370, placing it within the framework of transitional provisions. It underscored the Instrument of Accession's affirmation of India's territorial integrity, rendering the J&K Constitution inoperative with the comprehensive application of the Indian Constitution.
  • Constitutional Validity of Proclamations Under President's Rule: The judgment acknowledged the President's authority to enact irreversible changes under President's Rule, subject to constitutional scrutiny.
  • Recommendation for Truth and Reconciliation: To address human rights violations, the Court recommended the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, drawing parallels with South Africa's post-apartheid model.

Unpacking the Special Status of J&K

The historical context of Article 370 and the unique relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Union laid the groundwork for the 2019 revocation. The original provision, introduced in 1949, granted autonomy to J&K in drafting its constitution and limited the legislative powers of the Indian Parliament in the state.

Key Changes Introduced by the 2019 Order

The 2019 Constitutional Order brought about sweeping changes, transforming the status of J&K by converting it into two Union Territories: Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. This move abolished the separate constitution, flag, and anthem of Jammu & Kashmir, aligning it with the Indian Constitution and extending Fundamental Rights to its citizens.

Legal Challenges and International Responses

The revocation faced legal challenges centering on Constitutional norms and federalism, contested in the Supreme Court. Moreover, the international community responded with varied stances, raising concerns over the change's legality and impact on the region's disputed status.

Signs of Progress and Security Post-Revocation

Post the abrogation, notable developments in J&K included a decline in incidents of stone-pelting, militant activities, and civilian injuries. Security measures and arrests contributed to a significant reduction in disruptive elements.

Future Prospects and Way Forward

Moving ahead, addressing the socio-economic facets through educational upliftment, employment strategies, and a focus on peace-building initiatives emerges as crucial aspects for the region's development. Embracing reconciliation models and engaging in dialogues aligning with Atal Bihari Vajpayee's vision can pave the way for a sustainable solution.

In conclusion, while the SC verdict solidifies the Constitutional integration of Jammu and Kashmir, the road ahead demands a balanced approach focusing on development, peace, and inclusivity for the holistic progress of the region.

Web Browsers

Context: In the vast expanse of the internet, web browsers serve as our digital passports, allowing seamless exploration of web pages and services. Understanding the evolution, anatomy, and future of these gateways is crucial in grasping their impact on everyday life.

What are Web Browsers?

Web browsers act as a conduit between users and the World Wide Web (www). They interpret HTML, presenting web content that comprises text, links, images, and functionality like stylesheets and JavaScript. Prominent examples include Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.

Origin and Evolution

The inception of the World Wide Web in 1990 revolutionized browsing, transitioning from text-based interfaces to graphical representations. Milestones like the Mosaic browser's image integration and Netscape Navigator's user-friendly features sparked the 'Browser Wars,' fostering innovation and competition.

The Evolutionary Leaps

Mozilla Firefox's introduction in the mid-2000s, championing tabbed browsing and add-ons, challenged Internet Explorer's dominance. Google Chrome's arrival in 2008 further diversified the market, emphasizing speed and minimalism. Other browsers like Safari and Microsoft Edge have tailored offerings to cater to diverse user preferences.

Anatomy of Web Browsers

  • Request and Response: Initiating a website visit triggers a sequence of communication between servers, akin to messaging.
  • Deconstructing the Response: Webpages arrive in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript formats, defining structure, aesthetics, and interactivity respectively.
  • Rendering: Browsers assemble webpages by interpreting HTML, applying CSS for style, and executing JavaScript for interactivity, ensuring a seamless user experience.
  • Data Management and Security Measures: Cookies, cache, encryption protocols (e.g., HTTPS), and warning systems enhance navigation, speed, and protection against threats.

The Future of Browsing

Web browsers continue to evolve, embracing cutting-edge technologies like WebAssembly for enhanced performance. Support for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) experiences promises immersive online interactions. Privacy features are being fortified, granting users greater control over their digital footprint.

In conclusion, web browsers stand as gatekeepers to the digital realm, continually evolving to shape our online interactions and experiences. Understanding their evolution, functionalities, and future trends is imperative in navigating the ever-expanding universe of the internet.

Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2023

Context: Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has launched the Asia-Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2023: Statistics and Trends, which said 74.1% of Indians were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2021.

Key Highlights from the Report

Global Insights

  • The Asia-Pacific region witnessed a decrease in the prevalence of undernourishment from 8.8% in 2021 to 8.4% in 2022, translating to approximately 12 million fewer undernourished individuals compared to the previous year. However, this figure remains 55 million higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
  • This region, with 370.7 million undernourished people, represents half of the world's undernourished population, with Southern Asia accounting for a staggering 314 million, signifying 85% of the region's undernourished individuals.

Regional Disparities and Vulnerabilities

Within the subregions, Southern Asia harbors the most severely food insecure individuals. Notably, except for Eastern Asia, women across these subregions face higher food insecurity than men, reflecting a concerning trend in gender-based vulnerabilities.

India's Nutritional Landscape

India grapples with significant challenges regarding food security and nutrition:

  • Affordability of Healthy Diet: A striking 74.1% of Indians couldn't afford a nutritious diet in 2021, a slight improvement from 76.2% in 2020. This places India amid neighboring nations like Pakistan (82.2%) and Bangladesh (66.1%) concerning access to healthy food.
  • Undernourishment: 16.6% of India's population suffers from undernourishment, and while the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity is lower compared to global statistics, challenges persist.

Impact on Children and Women's Health

  • Child Nutrition: Alarmingly, 31.7% of Indian children under five experience stunting, while 18.7% face wasting, a condition characterized by low weight for height, far exceeding the WHO global nutrition target of less than 5%.
  • Maternal Health: Anaemia affects 53% of women aged 15 to 49 in India, contributing to adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes, emphasizing the urgent need for focused interventions.

Obesity and Breastfeeding Statistics

  • Obesity: FAO data reveals a rise in adult obesity in India, increasing from 1.6% in 2000 to 3.9% in 2016, underscoring the multifaceted nutritional challenges facing the population.
  • Breastfeeding Practices: India shows improvement in exclusive breastfeeding prevalence among infants aged 0–5 months (63.7%), surpassing the global average (47.7%). However, challenges persist with high prevalence rates of low birth weight.

What is the Food and Agriculture Organization?

About:

  • FAO is a specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on 16th October. The day is celebrated to mark the anniversary of the founding of the FAO in 1945.
  • It is one of the UN food aid organisations based in Rome (Italy). Its sister bodies are the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Initiatives Taken:

  • Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).
  • Monitors the Desert Locust situation throughout the world.
  • The Codex Alimentarius Commission or CAC is the body responsible for all matters regarding the implementation of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme.
  • The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was adopted by the Thirty-First Session of the Conference of the FAO in 2001.

Flagship Publications:

  • The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA).
  • The State of the World's Forests (SOFO).
  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI).
  • The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA).
  • The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets (SOCO).

India's Coal Plants: SO2 Emission Control

Context: Recently, an analysis by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) has found less than 8% of India’s coal-based power plants have installed the SO2 emission reduction technology recommended by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to keep Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emissions in check.

  • According to a 2019 Greenpeace study, India is the largest emitter of SO2 in the world.

What are the Technologies to Reduce SO2 Emissions?

Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD):

  • FGD is the process of removing sulphur compounds from the exhaust emissions of fossil-fueled power stations.
  • This is done through the addition of absorbents, which can remove up to 95% of the sulphur dioxide from the flue gas.
  • Flue gas is the material emitted when fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, or wood are burned for heat or power.

Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion (CFBC):

  • CFBC Boiler is an environment-friendly power facility to reduce the discharge of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide by injecting air and lime at the same time for burning.
  • A bed of solid particles is said to be fluidized when the pressurised fluid (liquid or gas) is passed through the medium and causes the solid particles to behave like a fluid under certain conditions. Fluidization causes the transformation of the state of solid particles from static to dynamic.

What are the Key Findings of the Study?

  • Only a combined capacity of 16.5 Gigawatts(GW) of coal plants have installed FGDs and Circulating Fluidised Bed Combustion (CFBC) boilers equivalent to 5.9 GW across India.
  • The CREA analysis found that 92 % of the country’s coal power plants function without FGDs.
  • Blanket extension of the deadline for all coal power plants without checking on their progress by MoEF&CC and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) played a major role in derailment of emission controls from coal-based electricity generation units.
  • The MoEF&CC introduced emission standards in 2015 for regulating PM, SO2, NOx, and Hg (Mercury) emissions.
  • The deadline has been extended four times for units in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) and three times for most other units across the country.
  • India’s energy generation installed capacity stands at 425 GW. The thermal sector holds a predominant position within the overall installed capacity, encompassing coal (48.6%), gas (5.9%), lignite (1.6%) and a minimal share (<0.2%) from diesel.

What is the Categorisation of Power Plants for Installing FGD?

  • In 2021, the MoEF&CC divided the categories of coal-power plants based on geography to enforce deadlines.
  • Category A is demarcated to coal-based power plants within a 10-kilometer radius of the National Capital Region (NCR) and of cities with a million-plus population.
  • Category B is within a 10 km radius of critically polluted areas or non-attainment cities.
  • Category C is the remaining plants throughout the country.
  • The majority of the country’s power plants belong to Category C, with the longest deadlines.
  • Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)
  • CREA is an independent research organisation focused on revealing the trends, causes, and health impacts, as well as the solutions to air pollution.
  • It uses scientific data, research and evidence to support the efforts of governments, companies and campaigning organisations worldwide in their efforts to move towards clean energy and clean air.

Way Forward

Accelerate FGD Implementation:

  • Prioritise and expedite the installation of FGD technology in coal-based power plants. Encourage and incentivize the adoption of this technology to ensure compliance with emission standards set by the MoEF&CC.

Expand CFBC Implementation:

  • Provide support and incentives for power plants to adopt CFBC technology, aiming for a broader implementation to enhance environmental sustainability.

Stricter Enforcement and Monitoring:

  • Strengthen regulatory mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing emission standards. Implement strict penalties for non-compliance with deadlines and emission regulations.

Research and Development (R&D):

  • Invest in research and development to explore and implement advanced technologies that go beyond current standards. Foster innovation in clean energy solutions and emission control technologies to make coal-based power generation more sustainable.
The document Weekly Current Affairs (8th to 14th December 2023) Part - 2 | 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 (8th to 14th December 2023) Part - 2 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. Why did Italy withdraw from China's BRI?
Ans. Italy withdrew from China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) due to concerns over the lack of transparency and potential debt risks associated with the projects. Italy also faced pressure from its European Union partners, who raised concerns about China's growing influence in the region.
2. What was the verdict of the SC regarding the revocation of Article 370?
Ans. The Supreme Court of India upheld the revocation of Article 370, which granted special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. The court ruled that the revocation was in accordance with the Indian Constitution and did not violate any legal provisions.
3. Which web browsers are mentioned in the article?
Ans. The article does not mention any specific web browsers. It focuses on other topics such as Italy's withdrawal from China's BRI, the SC verdict on revocation of Article 370, and food security and nutrition.
4. What is the regional overview of food security and nutrition in 2023?
Ans. The article does not provide details on the regional overview of food security and nutrition in 2023. It only mentions the topic as one of the areas covered in the article.
5. What measures are being taken to control SO2 emissions from India's coal plants?
Ans. The article does not mention any specific measures being taken to control SO2 emissions from India's coal plants. It focuses on other topics such as Italy's withdrawal from China's BRI, the SC verdict on revocation of Article 370, and food security and nutrition.
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