UPSC Exam  >  UPSC Notes  >  Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly  >  Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 2023) Part - 1

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 2023) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

India's Maiden Winter Arctic Research

Context: India has taken a significant leap in scientific exploration with its pioneering winter expedition to the Arctic. The recent commencement of India's inaugural scientific journey to Himadri, the nation's Arctic Research Station in Ny-Ålesund within the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, marks a historic milestone in the country's scientific pursuit. 

  • This groundbreaking initiative, flagged off by the Union Minister of Earth Sciences, ushers in a new era of exploration and research in one of the most remote and critical regions on our planet.

Importance of India's Winter Arctic Research Expedition

  • The expedition holds paramount importance as it provides Indian researchers with a unique opportunity to conduct scientific observations during the polar nights, a period characterized by nearly 24-hour darkness and sub-zero temperatures. 
  • This venture expands India's scientific horizons, enhancing understanding of crucial facets like climate change, space weather, sea-ice dynamics, ocean circulation patterns, and ecosystem adaptations in the Arctic. These findings significantly impact global weather systems, including monsoons in the tropics.

Unveiling Himadri: India's Arctic Research Base

  • Established in 2008, Himadri has been a cornerstone of India's Arctic endeavors, predominantly hosting scientists during the summer months. However, the extension of operations into winter positions India among the select nations operating Arctic research bases year-round. 
  • The base focuses on diverse research domains encompassing atmospheric, biological, marine, and space sciences, environmental chemistry, cryosphere studies, terrestrial ecosystems, and astrophysics.

Impact of Warming on the Arctic and Global Implications

  • The Arctic region has experienced a staggering 4-degree Celsius temperature rise on average in the last century, with 2023 standing as the warmest year on record. Alarmingly, the extent of Arctic sea-ice has been rapidly declining at a rate of 13% per decade, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The repercussions of melting sea ice extend far beyond the Arctic, influencing global sea levels, atmospheric circulation, and tropical weather patterns.
  • Rising sea levels and altered tropical sea surface temperatures can trigger increased precipitation in the tropics, potentially shifting the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone and escalating extreme rainfall events. Paradoxically, global warming might render the Arctic more habitable, sparking interest in exploring and exploiting its resources, including minerals, thereby intensifying global geopolitical dynamics.

India's Stand in Polar Research: A Historical Perspective

  • While Dakshin Gangotri in Antarctica, established in 1983, now lies submerged under ice, India's continued presence in Antarctica through stations like Maitri and Bharti underscores its commitment to polar exploration. 
  • Indian scientific expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic are facilitated under the PACER (Polar and Cryosphere) scheme of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, led by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa.

Examining India's Interest in Arctic Resources

  • The significance of India's interest in the Arctic region is a topic of inquiry in various examinations like the UPSC Civil Services Examination. Questions ranging from the reasons behind India's Arctic exploration to the economic implications of discovering oil in the Arctic Sea and its environmental consequences reflect the growing importance of Arctic research in India's national agenda.

Conclusion: India's Voyage to the Arctic Frontiers

India's inaugural winter expedition to the Arctic stands as a testament to the nation's commitment to scientific excellence and understanding the complexities of our planet's changing climate. This pioneering venture not only elevates India's stature in polar research but also contributes significantly to global scientific knowledge, fostering a deeper comprehension of our interconnected world.


UNODC’s Global Study on Homicide Report 2023

Context: The recently unveiled Global Study on Homicide 2023 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) paints a grim picture of escalating global violence. The report, an extensive analysis of homicide patterns worldwide, underscores the alarming prevalence of homicide, surpassing the toll of armed conflicts and terrorism combined.

Unveiling the Disturbing Realities of Homicide

  • The study defines homicide as the killing of a person, lawful or unlawful, intentional or unintentional, while murder specifically refers to the unlawful killing of a person with intent or malice aforethought. 
  • Beyond statistics, the report delves into homicides related to criminal activities, interpersonal conflicts, and socio-politically motivated killings, shedding light on the deliberate targeting of human rights activists, humanitarian workers, and journalists.

Key Findings Unveiled

  • Disturbing Trends: Between 2019 and 2021, an average of approximately 440,000 deaths annually occurred due to homicide. However, the year 2021 stood out with an exceptionally lethal toll of 458,000 homicides, attributed to economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and a surge in organized crime, gang-related, and socio-political violence.
  • Contributors to Homicide: Organized crime accounted for 22% of global homicides, skyrocketing to 50% in the Americas. Factors like climate change, demographic shifts, inequality, urbanization, and technological advancements were identified as influential elements impacting homicide rates across different regions.
  • Regional Disparities: The Americas exhibited the highest regional homicide rate per capita in 2021 (15 per 100,000 population), while Africa recorded the highest absolute number of homicides (176,000) with a rate of 12.7 per 100,000 population. In contrast, Asia, Europe, and Oceania had significantly lower homicide rates below the global average.
  • Victims and Vulnerabilities: Men comprised 81% of homicide victims and 90% of suspects, whereas women were more likely to be victims of family or intimate partner-related homicides. Shockingly, 15% of homicide victims in 2021 were children, signaling a dire concern for child safety. Additionally, targeted killings of human rights defenders, journalists, and aid workers accounted for 9% of global homicides, reflecting an increased threat to humanitarian efforts.
  • Future Projections and Vulnerable Regions: The study projects a decrease in the global homicide rate to 4.7 by 2030 but falls short of meeting Sustainable Development Goals. Africa emerges as the most vulnerable region due to its younger population, persistent inequality, and climate-related challenges.

India's Distinct Challenges

  • Underlying Motives: Within India, the report reveals that nearly 16.8% of murder cases between 2019 and 2021 were linked to disputes over property, land, or access to water. A notable 0.5% of recorded murders during this period (300 cases) were specifically attributed to water-related conflicts, emphasizing the rising significance of water-related disputes as a driver of homicides.
  • Amplifying Factors: Factors such as population growth, economic expansion, and climate change exacerbate tensions over water access, contributing significantly to heightened violence surrounding disputes over water resources within the country.

Conclusion: A Call for Global Attention and Remedial Action

The UNODC’s Global Study on Homicide 2023 illuminates the urgency to address escalating global violence, emphasizing the critical need for concerted international efforts to combat organized crime, social inequalities, and geopolitical instabilities. The insights underscore the imperative to safeguard vulnerable communities and mitigate underlying socio-economic tensions to pave the way towards a more peaceful and secure world.


India-US Relations

Context: In recent times, the relationship between India and the United States has undergone significant shifts and developments, marked by both cooperation and challenges. The Prime Minister of India highlighted the positive trajectory of these relations, emphasizing a deepening engagement and friendship driven by mutual interests.

Historical Foundation

  • The U.S.-India strategic partnership is built upon shared values such as democracy and a commitment to the rules-based international system. Both nations aim to promote global security, stability, and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity.

Economic Interactions

  • The economic ties between India and the U.S. have substantially strengthened, with the U.S. emerging as India's largest trading partner. Bilateral trade has seen notable growth, reaching USD 128.55 billion in 2022-23. This includes an increase in exports to USD 78.31 billion and imports reaching USD 50.24 billion.

International Collaborations

  • India and the United States collaborate extensively in various multilateral organizations such as the UN, G-20, ASEAN, IMF, World Bank, and more. The U.S. supports India's role in the UN Security Council and partnerships like the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) and the International Solar Alliance.

Defense Cooperation

  • Significant strides have been made in defense cooperation, with India signing foundational agreements like LEMOA, COMCASA, BECA, GSOMIA, and ISA with the U.S. India's acquisition of arms worth USD 20 billion over the past two decades underscores this growing partnership.

Space, Science, and Technology

  • Collaborations between ISRO and NASA have resulted in projects like the NISAR satellite and the Artemis Accords for peaceful exploration of outer space. Initiatives like iCET aim to foster cooperation in key technology domains such as AI, quantum, telecom, space, biotech, semiconductors, and defense.

Major Challenges

  • Despite the strides, challenges persist. The divergence in foreign policy, criticisms of India's engagement with U.S. adversaries, concerns over democracy, and economic tensions - notably reflected in India's Atmanirbhar Bharat Campaign and the withdrawal of GSP benefits - are notable friction points.

The Path Ahead

  • The relationship between India and the U.S. holds significant importance in ensuring a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific region. Leveraging demographic advantages and exploring opportunities for technology transfer, manufacturing, trade, and investment can further solidify this partnership.

Conclusion

The evolving dynamics between India and the United States demand a delicate balance between cooperation and addressing mutual concerns. As both nations navigate their roles in global strategies, understanding and respecting each other's aspirations and interests remain crucial for a stronger, mutually beneficial relationship.


Land of Fire and Ice: Iceland

Context: In the realm of natural wonders, Iceland stands apart as a land shaped by the relentless forces of nature. Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, this Nordic island country presents a captivating fusion of fire and ice, boasting a distinctive landscape formed by volcanic eruptions and glacial movements.

Iceland's Geographical Significance

  • Iceland, nestled on the longest mountain range globally, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, spans the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Positioned at the juncture of the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, it's a hub of seismic activity. Although primarily submerged, this ridge emerges above the ocean surface in the North Atlantic, epitomized by Iceland.

A Unique Topography

  • The island's geological peculiarity has sculpted its striking terrain, showcasing a panorama of geysers, glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, and lava fields. Aptly dubbed the 'Land of Fire and Ice,' Iceland hosts 33 active volcanoes, the highest count in Europe.
  • One of its renowned volcanoes, Eyjafjallajökull, gained global attention with its 2010 eruption, triggering a widespread ash cloud. Notable volcanic systems like Hekla, Grímsvötn, Hóluhraun, and Litli-Hrútur contribute to Iceland's volatile landscape, forming part of the Fagradalsfjall system.

Worldwide Distribution of Volcanoes

  • Volcanic activity isn't confined to Iceland; it spans the globe along tectonic plate margins and intraplate hotspots. The Circum-Pacific Belt, popularly known as the 'Ring of Fire,' delineates high seismic activity along the Pacific Ocean's subduction zones. Housing 452 volcanoes, it encompasses regions from Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula through Japan, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.
  • Additionally, the Mid-Continental Belt extends across the Alpine Mountain system in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Himalayas, housing volcanoes such as those in the Mediterranean, Aegean Seas, and the Himalayan range.

Understanding Volcanic Activity

  • The Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent boundary, facilitates magma's upward movement, cooling as it meets water, forming undersea volcanoes and contributing to the oceanic ridges worldwide. Intraplate volcanoes, like the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chains, emerge due to deep-mantle plumes rising through Earth's mantle.

Notable Instances and UPSC Relevance

  • Iceland's volcanic eruptions and similar occurrences worldwide are critical topics in global discourse and examination circuits like the UPSC Civil Services Examination. For instance, Barren Island's volcanic activity in India remains a significant point of discussion in understanding volcanic phenomena.

Conclusion

Iceland's position on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge symbolizes nature's dynamism, offering a unique tapestry of geological marvels. Its tale of fire and ice intertwines with global volcanic occurrences, underscoring the planet's enduring geophysical transformations.


Parliament Passes Bills To Replace British-era Criminal Laws

Context: The Bills underwent rigorous scrutiny after their introduction in August 2023 and were subject to deliberation within a 31-member Parliamentary Standing Committee. Each bill addresses various lacunae within the existing legal structure while introducing progressive amendments to tackle evolving challenges concerning criminal offenses in India.

Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita, 2023

  • The Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita (BNS2) serves as a comprehensive replacement for the Indian Penal Code, 1860, introducing pivotal modifications. Key highlights include:

Redefined Offenses and Penalties

  • Terrorism: It defines acts threatening the nation's integrity or causing terror, delineating penalties ranging from death or life imprisonment to fines.
  • Organized Crime: Encompassing offenses like kidnapping, financial scams, and cybercrime, carrying punishments from life imprisonment to death.
  • Mob Lynching: Recognizing murder or severe injury by five or more individuals based on specific grounds as a punishable offense, with life imprisonment or the death penalty.
  • Sexual Offenses Against Women: Elevated the age threshold for gangrape victims from 16 to 18 years, criminalizing deceptive sexual acts or false promises.

Sedition and Criticisms

  • Sedition Revisions: Elimination of sedition offense, replacing it with penalties concerning actions endangering national sovereignty or unity. However, concerns linger regarding its essence and application.
  • Criticism: Debates persist over discrepancies in the age of criminal responsibility, inconsistencies in defining child offenses, and the retention of certain IPC provisions on rape and sexual harassment.

Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita, 2023

  • Replacing the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC), the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita (BNSS2) introduces substantive changes including:

Procedural Alterations

  • Detention Conditions: Stricter rules for undertrials, restricting release on personal bond in severe offense cases.
  • Forensic Investigation: Mandates forensic scrutiny for crimes punishable by at least seven years' imprisonment, establishing procedures for evidence collection and timelines for reports and judgments.
  • Restrictions and Criticism: Concerns arise over property seizure from crime proceeds, restrictions on bail for multiple charges, and contradictions in directives related to handcuff use.

Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill, 2023

The Bharatiya Sakshya (Second) Bill (BSB2) replaces the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, incorporating notable adjustments in evidence-related matters:

Changes in Evidence Handling

  • Expanded Definitions: Inclusion of electronic records as documents, and the categorization of primary and secondary evidence.
  • Admissibility of Electronic Records: Grants equivalent legal status to electronic records and allows testimony through electronic means.

Criticisms and Concerns

  • Admissibility of Custodial Information: Distinctions between information obtained inside and outside police custody raise concerns.
  • Unincorporated Recommendations: Several significant recommendations by the Law Commission haven't been included, sparking concerns about electronic record tampering and safeguards.

Conclusion

While these Bills signify a leap towards modernizing India's legal landscape, debates persist regarding certain provisions and their alignment with international standards. The adoption of these bills sparks hope for a more robust and contemporary criminal justice system while inviting a continuing discourse on refining legal frameworks to address emerging challenges effectively.


The document Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 31st December 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 31st December 2023) Part - 1 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the purpose of India's maiden winter Arctic research?
Ans. The purpose of India's maiden winter Arctic research is to study and understand the impact of climate change on the Arctic region during the winter season. The research aims to gather scientific data on the changing climate patterns, melting ice, and its implications on global weather patterns and sea levels.
2. What is the UNODC's Global Study on Homicide Report 2023?
Ans. The UNODC's Global Study on Homicide Report 2023 is a comprehensive study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that analyzes homicide rates and trends worldwide. The report provides insights into the causes and patterns of homicides, including factors such as gender, age, and geographical location. It serves as a valuable resource for policymakers and law enforcement agencies to develop effective strategies for crime prevention and reduction.
3. How would you describe the current state of India-US relations?
Ans. The current state of India-US relations can be characterized as strong and strategic. Over the years, the bilateral ties between the two countries have witnessed significant growth in various areas, including defense, trade, and people-to-people exchanges. Both countries engage in regular high-level dialogues and collaborations on regional and global issues of mutual interest. The relationship is based on shared democratic values, economic cooperation, and converging strategic interests.
4. What is the significance of Iceland being referred to as the "Land of Fire and Ice"?
Ans. Iceland is referred to as the "Land of Fire and Ice" due to its unique geographical features. The country is known for its contrasting landscapes, which include active volcanoes (fire) and vast glaciers (ice). This combination of fire and ice makes Iceland a visually stunning destination and offers opportunities for diverse outdoor activities such as volcano exploration, glacier hiking, and hot springs bathing. It showcases the natural beauty and geological wonders that make Iceland a popular tourist destination.
5. Which British-era criminal laws are being replaced by the bills passed by the parliament?
Ans. The bills passed by the parliament aim to replace several British-era criminal laws in India. These include the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the Indian Evidence Act. The aim is to modernize and update the legal framework to align with the current socio-cultural context and address the evolving nature of crimes. The new bills seek to enhance efficiency, transparency, and access to justice in the Indian legal system.
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