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Weekly Current Affairs (1st to 7th January 2024) Part - 1 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

Red Sea and Panama Canal

Context: Concerns have been raised regarding potential disruptions in global trade due to recent assaults on vessels along the Red Sea trade route and the persistent drought issues at the Panama Canal.

What are the Key Issues in the Red Sea and Panama Canal Presently?

Red Sea:

  • Issue: Chemical tanker MV Chem Pluto was struck by a drone attack, approximately 200 nautical miles off Gujarat's coast.
    • MV Chem Pluto is a Liberia-flagged, Japanese-owned, and Netherlands-operated chemical tanker. It had started its journey carrying crude from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia and was expected to arrive in New Mangalore, India.
  • Alleged Involved Entity: It is believed to have been carried out by Houthi rebels based in Yemen, citing protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza.
    • Houthi rebels are also engaged in a decade-long civil conflict with Yemen's government.
  • Impact on India: Concerns arise for Indian oil importers and exporters of key commodities like basmati and tea due to disruptions in this critical trade route.
    • Disruption in the Red Sea route could increase Indian agricultural product prices by 10-20% as shipments reroute through the Cape of Good Hope.

Note

  • Global oil and petroleum shipments have reduced significantly due to major shipping firms avoiding the Red Sea. Nonetheless, India's oil imports from Russia have remained unaffected.
  • Despite the conflict in the Red Sea, India's dependence on Russian oil, often seen as an ally of Iran, has stayed steady.

What is the Significance of Maritime Transport in Global Trade?

  • Unrivaled Volume and Value Carrier: Maritime transport shoulders a colossal 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% by value, far surpassing other modes of transportation as per the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
    • As of 2019, the total value of the annual world shipping trade had reached more than 14 trillion US Dollars.
  • Environmental Considerations: While shipping does contribute to around 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is relatively more fuel-efficient and emits less per ton of cargo transported compared to other modes of transportation like air freight.
  • Energy Transportation: The majority of the world's energy resources, such as oil and natural gas, are transported by sea. Tankers carry these resources from production areas to consuming regions, playing a critical role in meeting global energy demands.

What Measures India can Adopt to Reduce Vulnerability to These Issues?

  • Joint Maritime Security Initiative: Propose a collaborative security framework with key Red Sea stakeholders (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen) involving intelligence sharing, coordinated patrols, and joint exercises.
  • Deploy Advanced Surveillance Systems: Install integrated radar and drone surveillance systems along India's western coastline to enhance early threat detection and response capabilities.
  • Negotiate Preferential Access: Engage with Panama Canal authorities to explore preferential passage for Indian vessels or potential toll discounts for specific routes.

Alternate Trade Routes Under Consideration

There's been a resurgence of attention towards the Ben Gurion Canal Project, a planned 160-mile-long sea-level canal that aims to link the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Aqaba, serving as an alternative to the Suez Canal.


Balancing Climate Goals and Biodiversity Protection

Context: A recently published study titled "Balancing Climate Objectives and Biodiversity Conservation: Legal Ramifications of the 30x30 Objective for Land-Based Carbon Removal" sheds light on the tensions between land-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) techniques and the creation of protected regions, emphasizing their implications within international environmental law.

What are the Key Highlights of the Study?

Land Availability Constraints:

  • Limited land availability poses a significant challenge in concurrently executing biodiversity goals and land-based climate mitigation strategies. As countries designate considerable land portions for Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) activities, this presents a hurdle in establishing protected areas due to constrained available land.

Global Targets and Current Status:

  • Nations have committed to the "30x30" biodiversity target, aiming to safeguard 30% of the world's terrestrial and marine areas by 2030. However, as of 2023, protected areas cover only around 16% of terrestrial areas and 8% of marine areas, falling short of the 30x30 objective. This target intends to protect crucial ecosystems and halt the accelerating loss of species that contribute to global economic security.

Land Use and Conflict:

  • Certain land-based mitigation strategies conflict with the imperative need to expand protected areas due to constraints in land use. Extensive deployment of CDR may exacerbate biodiversity loss and create competition for land allocated to food crop cultivation.

Target Insufficiency:

  • Despite the ambitious nature of the 30x30 goal, research suggests that a minimum of 44% of global land should be under protected areas for effective biodiversity conservation. Furthermore, solely relying on CDR activities may not sufficiently meet the objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement to curb global warming within 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.

Challenges in Implementation:

  • Questions arise regarding how countries will designate additional land for protected areas and restoration while simultaneously expanding food production and implementing CDR strategies. Balancing these objectives presents a significant challenge.

Legal Perspectives:

  • While some land-based CDR approaches could potentially benefit biodiversity, existing international environmental laws do not prohibit implementing CDR techniques alongside protected areas on the same land parcels.

Recommendations:

  • Emphasis should be placed on CDR policies that effectively absorb greenhouse gases while concurrently preserving biodiversity. The study highlights the urgency to address climate change, emphasizing that the threat it poses to biodiversity outweighs other concerns.

India-Italy Migration and Mobility Agreement

Context: The Union Cabinet recently provided ex-post facto approval for the Migration and Mobility Agreement signed between India and Italy.

What is Migration and Mobility Agreement between India and Italy?

About:

  • The agreement is set to strengthen cooperation on issues related to irregular migration while bolstering people-to-people ties between India and Italy.
  • It facilitates mobility for various segments, including students, skilled workers, businesspersons, and young professionals, fostering exchange and collaboration.

Key Provisions:

  • Temporary Residence for Indian Students: Graduates seeking professional exposure in Italy post-academic or vocational training can secure temporary residency for up to 12 months.
  • Reserved Quotas for Workers: The agreement outlines quotas for non-seasonal and seasonal Indian workers, with a reserved quota range over the years 2023-2025 under the existing Flows Decree.
    • The Italian government's annual "Flow Decree" (Decreto Flussi) sets the maximum number of non-EU citizens who can enter Italy for work and self-employment

Implementation:

  • The agreement will remain in force for 5 years, with automatic renewal unless terminated.
  • A Joint Working Group (JWG) will oversee its implementation, convening periodically to evaluate progress and propose supportive measures for effective execution.

What are the Other Areas of Cooperation Between India and Italy?

Historical Ties:

  • India and Italy are ancient civilizations but young states. Italian port cities were important trading posts on the spice route.
  • The Venetian merchant Marco Polo, during his travels to the east, also traveled to India in the 13th century and wrote about his experiences.

Political:

  • Political relations between India and Italy were established in 1947.
  • In March 2023, India and Italy elevated their relationship to a Strategic Partnership.

Economic:

  • The bilateral trade between the two countries was valued at USD 14.25 billion in 2022-23.
  • Italy is among India's top 5 trading partners in the European Union.
  • Main items of Indian exports to Italy are ready-made garments, leather, iron ore, motor vehicles, textiles, chemicals, gems & jewelry.
  • The main items of import from Italy are general and special purpose machinery, machine tools, metallurgical products, and engineering items.

Security:

  • The India-Italy Military Cooperation Group (MCG) is a forum established to boost defense cooperation between the both countries.
  • Other Initiatives Involving India and Italy:
  • India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor
  • Global Biofuel Alliance
  • Blue-Raman project

Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra Adds Beneficiaries to PM-Kisan

Context: Recently, there has been a notable decline in the number of beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme, dropping by over 20% from its peak of 10.47 crore beneficiaries recorded in April-July 2022 to 8.12 crore.

  • The government has taken proactive steps, particularly through the "saturation drive" launched as part of the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, resulting in the reinstatement of 34 lakh farmers as beneficiaries.

About the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra:

Overview:

  • It is a nationwide campaign aimed at raising awareness through extensive outreach efforts to ensure the complete coverage of Government of India schemes across the nation, encompassing all Gram Panchayats, Nagar Panchayats, and Urban Local Bodies.

Implementation:

  • The campaign is executed by adopting a comprehensive approach involving various Ministries/Departments of the Government of India, State Governments, Central Government Organizations, and Institutions.

Objectives:

  • Targeting eligible but underserved individuals under various schemes to ensure their access to benefits.
  • Facilitating information dissemination and creating awareness regarding government schemes.
  • Engaging with scheme beneficiaries to share personal experiences and stories.
  • Enrolling potential beneficiaries based on the information gathered during the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra.

What is PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-Kisan)?

About:

  • It was launched to supplement financial needs of land holding farmers.
  • It has become operational from December, 2018.

Financial Benefits:

  • Financial benefit of Rs 6000/- per year in three equal installments, every four month is transferred into the bank accounts of farmers’ families across the country through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode.

Scope of the Scheme:

  • The scheme was initially meant for Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs) having landholding upto 2 hectares but scope of the scheme was extended to cover all landholding farmers.

Funding and Implementation:

  • It is a Central Sector Scheme with 100% funding from the Government of India.
  • It is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.

Objectives:

  • To supplement the financial needs of the Small and Marginal Farmers in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income at the end of each crop cycle.
  • To protect them from falling in the clutches of moneylenders for meeting such expenses and ensure their continuance in the farming activities.

PM-KISAN Mobile App:

  • It was developed and designed by the National Informatics Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Physical Verification Module:

  • A mandatory physical verification of 5% beneficiary every year is being done as per the provisions laid down in the scheme.

Challenges Encountered by PM-Kisan Scheme

Compulsory Provisions and Aadhaar Linkage:

  • The obligatory conditions of linking land records and the necessity of Aadhaar linkage with active bank accounts have introduced complications, posing challenges for farmers in adhering to these prerequisites.
  • Farmers, especially those residing in remote regions, might encounter technical hurdles in fulfilling the Aadhaar linkage and land seeding requirements, impeding their access to PM-Kisan benefits.

Awareness and Outreach:

  • Numerous eligible farmers might still lack awareness about the PM-Kisan scheme or possess inadequate information about the application procedures.
  • Despite endeavors, outreach initiatives may struggle to reach all sections of the farming community, especially in secluded or underprivileged areas.

Accessibility of Technology:

  • Disparities in access to technology, such as smartphones and internet connectivity, might impede farmers' capacity to engage with the online processes essential for PM-Kisan enrollment and compliance.

Way Forward

  • Conduct a thorough evaluation of mandatory land seeding prerequisites and Aadhaar linkage mandates for enhanced simplicity and efficiency.
  • Leverage technology to create user-friendly platforms for uncomplicated compliance.
  • Establish programs for community-level involvement to reach out to vulnerable farmers.
  • Collaborate with local authorities, agricultural services, and non-governmental organizations to identify and assist eligible farmers unaware of PM-Kisan benefits.

Prioritizing the Poor, Youth, Women, and Farmers

Context: The Prime Minister of India has emphasized the critical importance of prioritizing the welfare of four distinct groups: the impoverished, youth, women, and farmers.

  • This focus highlights a dedication to guaranteeing dignity and honor for those facing deprivation.

Socioeconomic Dynamics of Highlighted Groups in India:

Poor:

Multidimensional Poverty Index:

  • India's population includes over 230 million individuals living below the poverty line.
  • The 2023 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index released by the UNDP and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative showed that around 415 million Indians moved out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2019-21.
  • Approximately 18.7% of the population falls into the 'vulnerable' category, experiencing deprivations in 20-33.3% of the weighted indicators, primarily in areas like cooking fuel, housing, and nutrition.

Unemployment:

  • India's unemployment rate increased to its highest level in over two years in October 2023, particularly in rural areas.
  • The 2022-23 National Sample Survey Office's Periodic Labour Force Survey indicated a rise in rural unemployment from 5.3% to 2.4% and urban unemployment from 7.7% to 5.4% compared to 2017-18.
  • Self-employment in various sectors, including small enterprises and household work, increased from 52% to 57%.
  • This increase in self-employment may reflect a lack of alternative opportunities.

Women:

  • India ranked 127th out of 146 countries in the 2023 Global Gender Gap Report, despite a slight improvement from the previous year.
  • Crimes against women increased by 4% in 2022, with over 4.45 lakh reported cases, predominantly involving cruelty by relatives, kidnapping, assault, and rape.
  • 12 states and Union territories had crime rates above the national average.
  • The Women’s Reservation Act, 2023 was passed to reserve one-third of seats in legislative assemblies and Lok Sabha for women.

Farmers:

  • Farmers faced significant income losses due to damaged crops from excess or untimely rain.
  • Below-normal and erratic monsoons impacted crop yields, particularly in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand, facing drought-like conditions.
  • Issues like the pink bollworm pest affected cotton crops in North India, contributing to farmers' distress.
  • NCRB data showed an increase in farm-related suicides, with agricultural labourers accounting for 53% of the cases.

Youth:

  • The youth unemployment rate in India was 23.2%, higher than neighboring countries in 2022.
  • While it dropped from 23.9% in 2021, it remained higher than pre-COVID levels in 2019.
  • A study revealed that unemployment among graduates under 25 was at 42.3% in 2021-2022, while overall joblessness was at 8.7%.

Initiatives Targeting Specific Groups:

Poor:

  • Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005
  • Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM)
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana

Women:

  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme
  • Ujjawala Yojna
  • Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme
  • One Stop Centre
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013
  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), 2012
  • NARI SHAKTI PURASKAR
  • Mahila Police Volunteers
  • Mahila Shakti Kendras (MSK)

Farmers:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)
  • Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF)
  • Kisan Credit Cards (KCC)
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
  • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana

Youth:

  • YUVA: Prime Minister’s Scheme For Mentoring Young Authors
  • National Youth Policy-2014
  • National Skill Development Corporation
  • Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram Scheme

The document Weekly Current Affairs (1st to 7th January 2024) 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 (1st to 7th January 2024) Part - 1 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the significance of the Red Sea and Panama Canal in terms of balancing climate goals and biodiversity protection?
Ans. The Red Sea and Panama Canal play significant roles in balancing climate goals and biodiversity protection. The Red Sea is known for its rich marine biodiversity and serves as an important ecosystem for various species. The conservation efforts in this region aim to protect and preserve this biodiversity while also promoting sustainable development and climate resilience. On the other hand, the Panama Canal is crucial for global trade and transportation, but it also poses challenges to biodiversity conservation. The canal cuts through the natural habitat of many species, leading to habitat fragmentation and disruption of ecological processes. Efforts are being made to mitigate these impacts and ensure the protection of biodiversity in and around the canal area.
2. What is the India-Italy Migration and Mobility Agreement?
Ans. The India-Italy Migration and Mobility Agreement is a bilateral agreement between India and Italy that aims to facilitate the movement of people between the two countries for various purposes, including work, study, and tourism. The agreement establishes a framework for cooperation in managing migration flows and promoting legal and safe migration. Under this agreement, provisions are made for the protection of the rights and welfare of migrants, including social security benefits, healthcare, and access to justice. It also encourages cooperation in preventing and combating irregular migration and human trafficking.
3. What are the objectives of the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra?
Ans. The Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra is an initiative that aims to promote the development and welfare of India. It focuses on four main objectives: 1. Prioritizing the poor: The yatra aims to address the needs and concerns of the economically disadvantaged sections of society, providing them with better access to education, healthcare, and livelihood opportunities. 2. Empowering youth: The initiative aims to empower the youth of India by promoting skill development, entrepreneurship, and innovation. It seeks to create an enabling environment for young individuals to contribute to the country's development. 3. Empowering women: The yatra aims to promote gender equality and empower women by addressing issues like gender-based violence, discrimination, and lack of opportunities. It seeks to create a society where women have equal rights and opportunities for growth. 4. Supporting farmers: The initiative focuses on improving agricultural practices, providing farmers with better access to resources, technology, and markets. It aims to enhance the income and livelihoods of farmers, ensuring their overall well-being.
4. How does the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra benefit the beneficiaries of the PM-Kisan scheme?
Ans. The Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra adds beneficiaries to the PM-Kisan scheme, which is a government initiative aimed at providing direct income support to farmers. The yatra benefits the beneficiaries in several ways: 1. Increased awareness: The yatra helps in creating awareness about the PM-Kisan scheme and its benefits among the farming community. It ensures that eligible farmers are aware of the scheme and can avail themselves of its benefits. 2. Registration assistance: The yatra provides assistance to farmers in the registration process for the PM-Kisan scheme. It helps them complete the necessary documentation and facilitates the enrollment process, ensuring that farmers can receive the financial support. 3. Outreach and communication: The yatra acts as a platform for communication between the government and the beneficiaries of the PM-Kisan scheme. It allows farmers to share their concerns, feedback, and suggestions, which can help in improving the implementation of the scheme. 4. Knowledge dissemination: The yatra also provides information and knowledge about various agricultural practices, technologies, and schemes that can complement the benefits of the PM-Kisan scheme. It helps farmers in enhancing their productivity and income.
5. What groups are prioritized in the weekly current affairs?
Ans. The weekly current affairs prioritize several groups, including the poor, youth, women, and farmers. The aim is to focus on issues, developments, and policies that directly impact these groups and their well-being. 1. The poor: The weekly current affairs highlight issues related to poverty alleviation, social welfare schemes, and inclusive development. It aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the poor and the efforts being made to improve their lives. 2. Youth: The current affairs section focuses on youth-related topics such as education, skill development, employment opportunities, and youth empowerment initiatives. It aims to keep the youth informed about relevant developments that can shape their future. 3. Women: The current affairs section gives importance to gender-related issues, including women's rights, gender equality, and initiatives promoting women's empowerment. It aims to create awareness about the challenges faced by women and the progress being made in addressing them. 4. Farmers: The current affairs section covers agricultural policies, farmer welfare schemes, and issues related to farming practices. It aims to keep farmers informed about the latest developments that can impact their livelihoods and provide them with relevant information to enhance their farming practices.
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