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Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC PDF Download

India Calls for Permanent Solution for Public Stockholding

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC


Context: India has taken a firm stance on the issue of finding a permanent solution for public stockholding for food security at the 13th ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Key Points Highlighted by India:

  • Expanding WTO's Focus: India has called for a shift in the WTO's focus beyond merely catering to the trade interests of agricultural exporters. It urges prioritizing fundamental concerns such as food security and sustaining livelihoods.
  • Needs of Developing Countries: India emphasizes the necessity of public stockholding programs for developing countries to ensure food security, particularly for vulnerable sections of society. While current WTO rules offer some flexibility for such programs, India seeks a permanent solution that acknowledges their developmental needs.
    • India, along with other G-33 nations, has also advocated for the use of the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) as a vital tool against significant import surges or sudden price declines.
  • Demand for Fairness: India stresses the importance of creating a level playing field in international agricultural trade, especially for low-income or resource-poor farmers globally. This aligns with the broader objective of promoting fairness and equity in trade practices.
    • India highlights the disparities in domestic support provided by countries to their farmers, with subsidies in some developed nations reported to be significantly higher than those in developing countries.
    • India's Role in G-33 nations emphasizes the call for a permanent solution to public stockholding within the WTO framework.

What is Public Stockholding?

  • Overview: Public stockholding involves governments purchasing, storing, and distributing food grains to ensure food security for their populations. India, among many other countries, employs this system.

Advantages:

  • Food Security: Public stockpiles act as a buffer against potential food shortages caused by factors like droughts or market disruptions, ensuring food availability, especially during emergencies.
  • Price Stability: Governments can moderate price fluctuations by releasing stocks during price spikes, preventing burdensome price increases for consumers, particularly low-income households.
  • Support for Farmers: Minimum support prices offer income security for farmers, incentivizing production and maintaining agricultural output.
  • Social Welfare: Stockpiled food can be utilized for social welfare programs, providing subsidized food to vulnerable populations.

Disadvantages:

  • Financial Strain: Maintaining large stockpiles can strain public finances due to storage and maintenance costs, diverting resources from other development priorities.
  • Market Distortion: Subsidized food grains may undercut market prices, discouraging private sector investment in agriculture and affecting production efficiency.
  • Spoilage and Waste: Improper storage leads to spoilage and wastage, causing economic losses and undermining effectiveness.
  • Corruption Risks: Mismanagement and corruption within the system can lead to inefficiencies and leakages.
  • Trade Issues: Subsidized stockpiling practices may create tensions in international trade, as seen in recent disputes between countries like India and Thailand.

What is the WTO Agreement on Agriculture?

  • About: The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) is a set of international rules established during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations that came into effect in 1995.
  • It aims to promote fair trade in agricultural products by:
  • Reducing Trade Barriers: The AoA encourages member countries to reduce tariffs, quotas, and other restrictions on agricultural imports.
  • Domestic Support: It regulates the types and levels of subsidies that governments can provide to their domestic agricultural producers.
  • Market Access: The AoA promotes greater market access for agricultural exports by reducing import barriers.
  • Agriculture Subsidy: As per WTO norms, agri subsidy should not exceed 10% of the value of agricultural production for developing countries. But developing nations receive certain protections.
  • However, under the Peace Clause of December 2013, WTO members agreed to refrain from challenging any breach in the prescribed ceiling by a developing nation at the dispute settlement forum of the WTO.
  • India’s subsidy on rice had exceeded the threshold on multiple occasions forcing it to invoke the ‘peace clause’ .

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2
Try yourself:
What is the purpose of public stockholding programs for developing countries?
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Massive Floods in Dubai

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSCContext: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) recently experienced one of its heaviest rainfall events following a severe thunderstorm that swept across the country, originating in Oman before reaching the UAE.

  • Meanwhile, Mumbai, situated on the opposite side of the Arabian Sea, has been enduring a humid heatwave with a high relative humidity of 55%.

Climate and Rain Patterns in the United Arab Emirates (UAE):

Overview:

  • The UAE is situated in arid regions, making heavy rainfall events uncommon.
  • On average, Dubai receives approximately 94.7 mm of rainfall annually. However, this recent event was historic, bringing over 142 mm of rainfall within 24 hours, inundating Dubai.

Possible Causes of Extreme Rainfall:

Climate Change:

  • Climate change, coupled with various associated factors such as natural climate variability like El Niño and La Niña, has likely contributed to the occurrence of extreme rainfall events.

Global Warming:

  • Rising global temperatures lead to increased evaporation of water from land, oceans, and other water bodies. This results in a warmer atmosphere capable of holding more moisture.
  • For every 1 degree Celsius rise in average temperature, the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture, intensifying storms and increasing precipitation intensity, duration, and frequency.

Cloud Seeding:

  • Cloud seeding involves the introduction of chemicals like silver iodide crystals into clouds to enhance rainfall, particularly in regions facing water scarcity concerns.
  • Given the UAE's location in one of the hottest and driest regions globally, it has been actively pursuing cloud seeding initiatives to augment precipitation.

Thunderstorms:

  • Thunderstorms result from atmospheric instability and turbulence, driven by factors such as warm, unstable air rising rapidly into the atmosphere, sufficient moisture for cloud and rain formation, and the upward lift of air currents caused by various weather phenomena such as colliding weather fronts, sea breezes, or terrain features like mountains.

What are Thunderstorms?

About:

  • It is also known as an electrical storm or a lightning storm, is a storm in which lightning strikes and produces a tremendous audible effect in the Earth's atmosphere.
  • It often occurs in warm, humid environments and can bring about intense rainfall, hail, and powerful winds. These storms usually develop in the afternoon or evening and can persist for a few minutes to several hours.
  • Formation: There are 3 stages in the formation of a thunderstorm.

Cumulus stage:

  • The ground is greatly heated due to solar insolation.
  • Due to the intense lifting of an air parcel, a low pressure begins to form (convention).
  • Air from the surrounding area rushes in to fill the void created by the low pressure.
  • A towering cumulonimbus cloud forms due to the intense convection of wet hot air.

Mature Stage:

  • Characterised by a strong updraft of rising warm air that causes clouds to develop larger and rise higher. Later, a downdraft sends chilly air and rain to Earth.
  • A powerful blast of wind signals the arrival of a thunderstorm. This wind is caused by a strong downdraft.
  • The route of the thunderstorm is determined by the updraft and downdraft. The course is erratic the majority of the time.

Dissipating Stage:

  • Hails form when clouds reach heights where temperatures are below freezing, and they fall as hailstorms. There is a lot of precipitation.
  • The storm subsides in a matter of minutes, and clear weather begins to prevail.

The State of the Climate in Asia 2023

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC


Context: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a report titled "The State of the Climate in Asia 2023," drawing attention to the concerning impact of climate change.

Key Highlights of the Report:

Asia's Vulnerability to Disasters:

  • Asia witnessed 79 extreme weather events in 2023, affecting over nine million individuals and leading to over 2,000 fatalities.
  • Floods and storms emerged as the primary contributors to casualties and economic losses in Asia during 2023.

Accelerated Warming Trend:

  • The report underscores that Asia has experienced a more rapid warming trend compared to the global average, with the warming rate nearly doubling since the 1961-1990 period.
  • This accelerating trend in key climate change indicators such as surface temperatures, glacier retreat, and sea level rise is expected to have profound implications for Asia's economy and ecosystems.

Impacts on India:

  • India experienced a range of severe weather events including heatwaves, floods triggered by heavy rainfall, glacial lake outbursts, and tropical cyclones.
  • In April and June 2023, intense heatwaves resulted in approximately 110 heatstroke-related deaths, with temperatures soaring to 42-43 degrees Celsius in certain areas.
  • A prolonged heatwave affected Southeast Asia in April and May, extending westward into Bangladesh, eastern India, and parts of China.
  • August 2023 saw devastating floods in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, causing significant loss of life and widespread damage to infrastructure and agriculture.
  • Six tropical cyclones formed in the North Indian Ocean, with four making landfall in India. This cyclone activity slightly exceeded the average, with four cyclones—Mocha, Hamoon, Midhili, and Michaung—forming over the Bay of Bengal, and two—Biparjoy and Tej—forming over the Arabian Sea.
  • The eastern and northern regions of India experienced the most significant temperature increase compared to the 1991-2021 average.
  • Sea level rise in the Bay of Bengal, particularly in the Sundarbans region, was 30% higher than the global average, ranking among the highest in the region.

Soaring Temperatures and Melting Glaciers:

  • The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 was the second-highest on record.
  • The High Mountain Asia region, containing the largest volume of ice outside of the polar regions, is under threat due to melting glaciers.

Below-Normal Precipitation and Killer Floods:

  • Precipitation was below normal across almost the entire Asian region in 2023.
  • Despite overall less precipitation, over 80% of reported hydrometeorological hazards in Asia were flood and storm events, leading to fatalities and affecting millions.
  • Floods were the leading cause of death in reported events, particularly in India, Yemen, and Pakistan.

Need for Robust Climate Finance:

  • The report emphasises the need for robust climate finance mechanisms to scale up adaptation and address loss and damage in developing countries of Asia.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2
Try yourself:
What is the primary cause of thunderstorms?
View Solution


Left Wing Extremism

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC


Context: Recently, two separate incidents of Naxalite attacks were reported from Chhattisgarh and Assam.

  • In one of the largest operations by security forces in Chhattisgarh, 29 Naxalites were killed in the Kanker area. Meanwhile, in another incident, three vehicles of the paramilitary Assam Rifles were ambushed in eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district.

What is Naxalism?

Origin:

  • Naxalism takes its name from the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal. It originated as a rebellion against local landlords who assaulted a peasant during a land dispute. The movement quickly spread across Eastern India, particularly in less developed areas of states such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.

Objectives:

  • Naxalites, also known as Left-wing extremists (LWE) or Maoists, advocate for the overthrow of the Indian government through armed revolution, aiming to establish a communist state based on Maoist principles. They perceive the state as oppressive, exploitative, and serving the interests of the ruling elite. Their goal is to address socio-economic grievances through armed struggle and people's war.

Modus Operandi:

  • Naxalite groups employ various tactics, including guerrilla warfare, attacks on security forces, extortion, intimidation, and propaganda. They seek to capture State power through a combination of armed insurgency, mass mobilization, and strategic alliances. Targets include government institutions, infrastructure, economic interests, as well as perceived collaborators and informants. In certain areas under their control, Naxalites operate parallel governance structures, providing basic services and dispensing justice.

Status of LWE in India:

  • In 2022, Naxalism-affected areas witnessed the lowest number of violent incidents and deaths in the last four decades. Incidents of violence in Naxal-affected states decreased by 77% in 2022 compared to the peak in 2010. The number of affected districts dropped from 90 to 45, and deaths of security forces and civilians in LWE violence reduced by 90% in 2022 compared to 2010.

States Affected by LWE:

  • Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala are considered LWE-affected states. The Red Corridor, spanning central, eastern, and southern India, experiences severe Naxalism-Maoist insurgency.

What are the Causes for Naxalism? 

Socio-Economic Factors: 

  • Poverty and Lack of Development: Naxalism thrives in underdeveloped regions with high poverty rates.  
  • Adivasi (indigenous) and Dalit (lower caste) communities often face social exclusion and lack access to basic necessities like healthcare and education. 
  • This fuels resentment and makes them receptive to Naxalite ideology. 

Land Rights Disputes:  

  • Adivasis have been displaced from their traditional lands due to mining and development projects, creating anger and a sense of injustice.  
  • Naxalites exploit these disputes to project themselves as champions of the marginalised. 

Exploitation by Powerful Entities:  

  • Tribal communities are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by landlords, moneylenders, and mining companies.  
  • Naxalites position themselves as protectors against such exploitation. 
  • Caste Discrimination: Dalits, who face social and economic marginalisation, may find Naxalism appealing as it challenges the existing caste hierarchy.

Political Factors: 

  • Weak Governance and Lack of Infrastructure: Naxalism flourishes in areas with a weak government presence.  
  • Poor infrastructure like roads and communication networks allows Naxalites to operate with less interference. 
  • No Follow-Up from Administration: It is seen that even after police take hold of a region, administration fails to provide essential services to the people of that region. 
  • Lack of Coordination between Centre and State Government: State governments consider naxalism as the central government’s issue and thus are not taking any initiatives to fight it. 
  • Disillusionment with Democracy: Naxalites feel that the democratic system has failed to address their needs and grievances.  
  • Naxalites offer an alternative, albeit violent, path to change. 

Additional factors: 

  • Globalization: Discontent with the impact of globalisation, particularly displacement due to land acquisition for corporations, can contribute to Naxalite support. 
  • Confusion over tackling naxalism as a social issue or as a security threat. 
  • Wide Geographic Spread: LWE groups operate in remote and inaccessible areas; dense forests, hilly terrains, and where there is lack of proper infrastructure making it challenging for security forces to track them down. 

What are Initiative of Government Against Naxalism? 

  • National Policy and Action Plan to address Left Wing Extremism 2015 
  • SAMADHAN 
  • Aspirational Districts Programme 
  • Security Related Expenditure (SRE) Scheme: Scheme implemented in 10 LWE affected States for Security Related Expenditure. 
  • It relates to training and operational needs of security forces, ex-gratia payment to the family of civilians/security forces killed/injured in LWE violence, rehabilitation of surrendered LWE cadres, community policing, village defence committees and publicity materials.  
  • Special Central Assistance (SCA) for most LWE Affected Districts: It aims to fill the critical gaps in Public Infrastructure and Services, which are of emergent nature. 
  • Scheme of Fortified Police stations: Under the scheme, 604 fortified police stations have been constructed in LWE affected areas. 
  • Road Connectivity Project for LWE Affected Areas (RCPLWE): It aims at improving road connectivity in LWE affected States. 

Way Forward 

  • Targeted Security Operations: The security forces need to conduct targeted operations against LWE groups, using intelligence-based approaches and avoiding collateral damage. 
  • Rehabilitation and Reintegration: The government needs to provide rehabilitation and reintegration support to former extremists who have renounced violence by providing them with education, training, employment as well as psychosocial support. 
    • States should rationalise their surrender policy in order to bring innocent individuals caught in the trap of LWE into the mainstream. 
  • Empowering Local Peace Ambassadors: Identify and empower influential individuals within communities who are committed to promoting peace and countering extremist narratives. 
    • There is a need to foster open channels of communication between the government, security forces, and affected communities. 
    • Also, there is a need to encourage community leaders, NGOs, and religious institutions to play a role in mediating conflicts and addressing local issues. 
  • Socio-Economic Development: The government needs to focus on improving socio-economic conditions in areas affected by left wing extremism such as investing in infrastructure, creating employment opportunities, and providing better access to education and healthcare. 
  • Ecological and Sustainable Development Initiatives: Introduce projects that focus on sustainable development and conservation of natural resources in areas affected by extremism. 
    • By involving local communities in environmental protection efforts, a sense of ownership and responsibility can be fostered, leading to reduced extremism.

Vultures at Risk in Protected Areas

Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 | Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC


Context: Recent studies have revealed that even vultures in protected areas are at risk from toxic drugs like Diclofenac. Scientists conducted research on vulture feeding habits in India by analyzing DNA in vulture fecal samples from nests and roosts across six states between 2018 and 2022.

  • Vultures are renowned for their remarkable ability to cover vast distances while searching for food. These expansive foraging territories may expose them to Diclofenac from neighboring countries where the drug may still be in use.

What are the Key Facts About Vulture Species in India?

About:

  • Vultures are among the 22 species of large scavenger birds primarily inhabiting tropical and subtropical regions.
  • They play a crucial role as nature’s scavengers, aiding in waste cleanup and wildlife disease control.
  • India hosts nine vulture species, including the Oriental white-backed, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Himalayan, Red-headed, Egyptian, Bearded, Cinereous, and Eurasian Griffon vultures.

Population Decline:

  • Significant declines in vulture populations have been observed in South Asian nations, notably India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
  • This decline is chiefly attributed to the widespread use of Diclofenac, a veterinary drug, during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • In some regions, vulture populations have plummeted by over 97%, leading to a consequential ecological crisis.

Role of Vultures in Ecosystem:

Decomposition and Nutrient Cycling:

  • Vultures efficiently consume carrion, preventing carcasses from accumulating and decomposing.
  • This aids in decomposing organic matter and returning nutrients to the soil, benefiting plant growth and overall ecosystem health.

Disease Prevention:

  • Vultures possess highly acidic stomachs that can kill bacteria and viruses, preventing the spread of diseases like anthrax, rabies, and botulism, making them effective "dead-end hosts" for pathogens.

Indicator Species:

  • Vultures serve as sensitive indicators of environmental changes. Declines in vulture populations can signify broader ecological issues such as pollution or food source shortages.

What are the Reasons Behind the Decline in Vulture Populations?

Drug Poisoning:

  • The widespread use of veterinary drugs like diclofenac, ketoprofen, and aceclofenac in the late 20th century has had devastating consequences for vulture populations.
  • These drugs, commonly used to treat pain and inflammation in livestock, are toxic to vultures when they feed on carcasses of treated animals.
  • Diclofenac in particular causes fatal kidney failure in vultures, and similar effects have been documented with ketoprofen and aceclofenac.

Secondary Poisoning:

  • Vultures are scavengers, often consuming carcasses contaminated with pesticides or other toxins
  • Vultures feeding on carcasses of animals hunted with lead ammunition can suffer fatal lead poisoning.
  • This "secondary poisoning" poses a significant threat, further declining their populations.

Habitat Loss:

  • Urbanisation, deforestation, and agricultural expansion have led to habitat loss, destroying vulture nesting sites, roosting areas, and food sources. The lack of suitable habitat hinders their survival.

Collisions with Infrastructure:

  • Vultures are vulnerable to collisions with power lines, wind turbines, and other man-made structures, leading to injuries or fatalities and contributing to population decline.

Poaching and Hunting:

  • In some areas, vultures are targeted due to cultural beliefs or illegal wildlife trade, adding to their struggle to survive.

Disease Outbreaks:

  • Diseases like avian pox and avian flu can also have a detrimental impact on vulture populations, leading to further decline.
  • What are the Vulture Conservation Efforts Taken by India?

Addressing the Drug Threat:

  • Ban on Diclofenac: Recognising the devastating impact of diclofenac, India banned its veterinary use in 2006.
    • This was a critical step in protecting vultures from kidney failure caused by ingesting carcasses of treated livestock.
  • The Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change launched a Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country.
    • It will ensure minimum use of Diclofenac and prevent the poisoning of the principal food of vultures, the cattle carcasses.
  • Expansion of the Ban: In August 2023, India further banned the use of ketoprofen and aceclofenac for veterinary purposes, acknowledging their potential threat to vultures.

Captive Breeding and Reintroduction:

  • Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres (VCBCs): India established a network of VCBCs, the first being set up in Pinjore, Haryana in 2001.
  • These centres focus on the captive breeding of endangered vulture species, providing a safe environment to raise healthy populations for reintroduction into the wild.
  • Currently, there are nine Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBC) in India, of which three are directly administered by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Vulture Restaurant:

  • In a proactive effort to conserve the declining vulture population in Jharkhand, a ‘Vulture Restaurant’ has been established in Koderma district. The initiative aims to address the adverse impact of livestock drugs, particularly diclofenac, on vultures.

Other Vulture Conservation Initiatives:

  • Vulture species are conserved under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH) ‘Species Recovery Programme’.
  • The Vulture Safe Zone program is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Bearded, Long-billed, Slender-billed, and Oriental white-backed are protected in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Rest are protected under ‘Schedule IV’.

International Collaboration:

  • SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction): The consortium of like-minded, regional and international organizations, created to oversee and co-ordinate conservation, campaigning, and fundraising activities to help the plight of South Asia’s vultures.

Question for Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2
Try yourself:
What is the main objective of Naxalites or Left-wing extremists (LWE)?
View Solution


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FAQs on Weekly Current Affairs (22nd to 30th April 2024) Part - 2 - Current Affairs & Hindu Analysis: Daily, Weekly & Monthly - UPSC

1. What is the current stance of India on the issue of public stockholding and what are they calling for?
Ans. India is calling for a permanent solution for public stockholding to be implemented.
2. What is the impact of the massive floods in Dubai?
Ans. The massive floods in Dubai have caused significant damage to the region.
3. What is the state of the climate in Asia in 2023 according to the article?
Ans. The article discusses the current state of the climate in Asia in 2023.
4. What is the issue of left-wing extremism being discussed in the article?
Ans. The article covers the topic of left-wing extremism and its implications.
5. Why are vultures at risk in protected areas according to the article?
Ans. The article highlights the threats facing vultures in protected areas and the need for conservation efforts.
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