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UPSC Essentials: The weekly news express

A news-laden week comes to an end. Check out the essential weekly news, categorized as per the UPSC syllabus and consolidate your CSE preparation.

upsc, upsc- cse current affairs, current affairs, upsc weekly express, upsc weekly current affairs, upsc news,The weekly news express curated as per UPSC syllabus

Weekly current affairs news covering the important topics for the UPSC- CSE aspirants.

GS I: Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Lumbini and its significance

Key takeaways from the news:

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– PM Modi’s recent visit to Lumbini and laying the foundation of its monastery may provide India with a foothold along with a cultural space.

– Significance of Lumbini: The Lord Buddha was said to be born in 623 BC in the sacred area of Lumbini located in the Terai plains of southern Nepal.  

– Ashoka, the king of ancient India, had erected one of his commemorative pillars there. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage center. Here, the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.

-The complex structures include- the Shakya Tank, the remains within the Maya Devi Temple, the sandstone Ashoka pillar with its Pali inscription in Brahmi script, the excavated remains of Buddhist viharas (monasteries) of the 3rd century BC to the 5th century AD, the remains of Buddhist stupas (memorial shrines) from the 3rd century BC to the 15th century AD.

-Both Lumbini and the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The first foreign monastery in Lumbini was built by a Vietnamese monk, Thay Huyen Dieu.

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-The largest monastery has been built by the Chinese who sponsor and support international conferences on Buddhism in Nepal as well as the massive celebrations of Buddhist festivals such as Vesak. India does not have a monastery in Lumbini.

Point to ponder: What is that Buddhist center whose foundation PM Modi laid in Lumbini? How will this visit strengthen the relationship between India and Nepal

GS II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate

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IMF lifts weighting of dollars, Chinese yuan in SDR basket

Key takeaways from the news:

– The International Monetary Fund lifted the Chinese currency yuan’s weighting in the Special Drawing Rights currency basket, prompting the Chinese central bank to pledge to push for a further opening of its financial markets.

– In its first regular review of the SDR evaluation since 2016, the IMF raised the yuan’s weight to 12.28 percent from 10.92. The weighing of the US dollar rose to 43.38 percent from 41.73 percent, while those of the euro, Japanese yen, and British pound declined. The ranking of the currencies’ weighting remains the same after the review, with the yuan continuing to be in third place.

-IMF’s executive directors concurred that neither the pandemic nor developments in financial technology have had any major impact on the relative role of currencies in the SDR basket so far.

– The Special Drawing Right is an interest-bearing international reserve asset created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement other reserve assets of member countries.

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– The SDR is based on a basket of international currencies comprising the S. dollar, Japanese yen, euro, pound sterling and Chinese Renminbi. It is not a currency, nor a claim on the IMF, but is potentially a claim on freely usable currencies of IMF members. The value of the SDR is set daily by the IMF on the basis of fixed currency amounts of the currencies included in the SDR basket and the daily market exchange rates between the currencies included in the SDR basket. The SDR basket is reviewed every five years to ensure that the basket reflects the relative importance of currencies in the world’s trading and financial systems.

Point to ponder: What is the IMF and how does it work? What are some of the important reports published by the IMF?

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General Studies III: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology, and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Google’s Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale

Key takeaways from the news:

The Monk Skin Tone (MST) Scale is a tool that will be primarily incorporated by Google into computer vision, which is a type of AI that allows computers to see and understand images.

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– It has been found that computer vision systems often do not function as efficiently for people of darker skin as they do for those with fairer complexion.

-Using the MST Scale, Google and the tech industry are aiming to build more representative datasets so that such AI models can be trained to identify a wider range of skin tones in images.

– According to Google, the scale will “make it easier for people of all backgrounds to find more relevant and helpful” search results.

– For example, users who search for makeup or beauty tutorials in Google Images will see an option to refine search results further by skin tone

– Going ahead, Google will utilise the MST Scale to better detect and categorise images to give a larger range of results.

Point to ponder- What is the need for MST scale?

General Studies III: Disaster and disaster management

Mundka Fire

Key takeaways from the news:

-The recent Mundka fire incident in Delhi is yet another case of man-made disaster that the capital has witnessed. Fire incidents in Delhi speak volumes of how India’s urban centers have time and again failed to meet the very basic safety norms.

-Delhi has seen disastrous fire incidents before such as at Uphaar Cinema (1997), the Lal Kuan fire tragedy (1999), the Anand Mandi fire (2019), and Hotel fire in Karol Bagh (2019).

-The point is that these buildings and localities are sources of livelihood for a substantial section of the city’s population but they are unregulated.

– The problems: lapse in following the norms in construction, congestion in the building, lack of fire exits as the building had only one staircase as an escape route, illegal constructions, unplanned infrastructure and poorly ventilated workplaces, no fire clearance, lapsed manufacturing unit license, no NOCs from concerned authorities and missing of the basic norms of occupational safety.

-There are extremely poor working conditions in the informal urban areas. Even the provision of drinking water and toilet facilities is often denied to workers.

-The quality of jobs is very poor in informal establishments, especially for women. Many women workers are often the primary breadwinners of their households. Such jobs also consist of long working hours, and the absence of any leave, including maternity leave.

-Most of the workers are very young and are forced to join the labor market in low-paid jobs. A dignified life can’t be imagined. It is also often reported that there is poor enforcement of the labor laws by the enforcement machinery as the corruption has entered into administration.

-The incident underscores the invisibilities and insecurities of informal workers in the city. This shows the lack of identity of informal sector workers. The fire incident underscores the invisibilities and insecurities of informal workers in the city. This in turn shows the lack of identity of informal sector workers.

Points to ponder:  Try to view the disaster management of fire in a building from the perspective of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. What is The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSHWC)?  

GS II- Indian Constitution

The Places of Worship Act, 1991

Key takeaways from the news:

– The Supreme Court heard an appeal against the video survey of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque. A Muslim body says the survey violates a law enacted by Parliament in 1991.

– The long title describes it as “An Act to prohibit conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

-Section 3 of the Act bars the conversion, in full or part, of a place of worship of any religious denomination into a place of worship of a different religious denomination — or even a different segment of the same religious denomination.

-Section 4(1) declares that the religious character of a place of worship “shall continue to be the same as it existed” on August 15, 1947.

-Section 4(2) says any suit or legal proceeding with respect to the conversion of the religious character of any place of worship existing on August 15, 1947, pending before any court, shall abate — and no fresh suit or legal proceedings shall be instituted.

-Section 5 stipulates that the Act shall not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, and to any suit, appeal or proceeding relating to it.

Point to ponder: Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque controversy- What is the issue so far.

Article 142

Key takeaways from the news:

– The release of AG Perarivalan in the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination case has brought Article 142 in news once again.

– Article 142 provides a unique power to the Supreme Court, to do “complete justice” between the parties, where at times law or statute may not provide a remedy. In those situations, the Court can extend itself to put a quietus to a dispute in a manner that would fit the facts of the case.

– Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.

– Article 142 of the Constitution of India provides a special and extraordinary power to the Supreme Court to do complete justice to the litigants who have suffered traversed illegality or injustice in the proceedings.

– The necessity for incorporating such an article into the Constitution was spelt out in the Constituent Assembly. The framers of the Constitution felt that this provision is of utmost significance to those people who have to suffer due to the delay in getting their necessary reliefs due to the disadvantaged position of the judicial system. According to  Shri Thakur Das Bhargava, natural justice is above law, and the Supreme Court will also be above law, in the sense that, it shall have full right to pass any order that it considers just. This gives almost unlimited powers to the Supreme Court. Therefore, the Supreme Court shall exercise these powers and will not be deterred from doing justice by the provision of any rule or law, executive practice or executive circular or regulation etc.

Point to ponder: What are the important instances where the Supreme Court has invoked its plenary powers under Article 142?

GS II- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests.

Finland and Sweden have shown interest to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Key takeaway from the news: 

– Finland has stayed out of such alliances because it always wanted to maintain cordial relations with its neighbor, Russia. For a long time, the idea of not joining NATO or getting too close to the West was a matter of survival for Finland. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the perspective.

-But unlike Finland, whose policy stance was a matter of survival, Sweden has been opposed to joining the organisation for ideological reasons.

– Reacting to this development, Russia threatened to take military measures if the membership goes through and warned Finland to be aware of the consequences of this move.

-European Nations and the United States have welcomed the announcement.

-Norway and Denmark have said they will push for NATO admission faster. Until the membership is formally accepted, the US stated it is prepared to provide any necessary defence support or address any concerns.

-Turkey opposes Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. The Turkish government claimed that it could use its membership in the Western alliance to veto moves to admit the two nations. Turkey blames Sweden and other Scandinavian countries for supporting Kurdish militants and other groups it considers terrorists.

Point to ponder: What is NATO? How will the membership of NATO benefit Sweden and Finland and vice-versa?

GS III- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development, and employment.

Rising prices drive wholesale inflation to a record high of 15.1%

Key takeaways from the news:

– The inflation rate based on the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) surged to a record high of 15.1 percent in April, with the rise in prices of vegetables, fruits, milk, manufacturing, fuel and power, according to data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday. This is the highest WPI print in the 2011-12 series.

According to data released last week, inflation at the retail level also surged to an eight-year high of 7.79 percent in April, with expectations now rising for another repo rate hike by the RBI in June of as much as 40 basis points.

-The heatwave this summer has led to a spike in prices of perishables such as fruits, vegetables and milk, which along with a spike in tea prices pushed up primary food inflation.

– According to experts, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has aggravated the situation.

Point to ponder: What is WPI?

GS III- Security Issues

INS Udaygiri and INS Surat

Key takeaways from the news:

Surat and Udaygiri are both frontline vessels. They are designed by the Directorate of Naval Design and built by Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd (MDL).

– Surat is a Visakhapatnam Class guided-missile destroyer, which has the capability to attack other ships. Surat is the fourth ship built in India under Project 15B. The class gets its name from the first vessel commissioned under the Project, named INS Visakhapatnam, which was delivered to the Navy in October 2021. The second ship, Mormugao, is undergoing sea trials and the third, Imphal, is in advanced stages of outfitting and trials of various auxiliary equipment.

-Vishakhapatnam Class destroyers draw their lineage from the P15 Delhi class destroyers. Three such warships were inducted between 1997 and 2001, and until then the largest naval ships were built within the country. The second series of vessels were P15A, Kolkata Class destroyers, under which three ships were inducted between 2014 and 2016.

– Udaygiri is a Nilgiri Class frigate, which is usually faster and more maneuverable. Udaygiri is the second warship produced under Project 17A of the Nilgiri Class frigates. The first vessel under the project, INS Nilgiri, was launched in September 2019.

-The Nilgiri Class follows the production of three Shivalik Class frigates commissioned between 2010 and 2012, which are multi-role frigates and are the first-of-its-kind warships built in India incorporating stealth features.

Point to ponder: Why is the modernization of the navy important right now?

GS III- Environment

India topped air pollution death toll in 2019- The Lancet Planetary Health Report

Key takeaways from the news:

– Air pollution was responsible for 16.7 lakh deaths in India in 2019, or 17.8% of all deaths in the country that year. This is the largest number of air pollution-related deaths in any country.

-Globally, air pollution alone contributes to 66.7 lakh deaths, according to the report, which updates a previous analysis from 2015.

– Overall, pollution was responsible for an estimated 90 lakh deaths in 2019 (equivalent to one in six deaths worldwide), a number that has remained unchanged since the 2015 analysis.

– Ambient air pollution was responsible for 45 lakh deaths, and hazardous chemical pollutants for 17 lakh, with 9 lakh deaths attributable to lead pollution. The majority of the 16.7 lakh air pollution-related deaths in India – 9.8 lakh — were caused by PM2.5 pollution and another 6.1 lakh by household air pollution.

– According to the report, air pollution is most severe in the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This area contains New Delhi and many of the most polluted cities. Burning of biomass in households was the single largest cause of air pollution deaths in India, followed by coal combustion and crop burning.

Point to ponder: What are some of the efforts by the government of India to reduce air pollution?

Urban heat islands

Key takeaways from the news:

– Several parts of the country are reeling under heatwave conditions. Cities, especially, are a lot hotter than rural areas. This is due to a phenomenon called an “urban heat island”.

– An urban heat island is a local and temporary phenomenon experienced when certain pockets within a city experience a higher heat load than surrounding or neighbouring areas on the same day.

– Rural areas are less hot. Rural areas have relatively larger green cover in the form of plantations, farmlands, forests, and trees as compared to urban spaces. This green cover plays a major role in regulating heat in its surroundings. Transpiration is a natural way of heat regulation. This is the scientific process of roots absorbing water from the soil, storing it in the leaves and stems of plants, before processing it and releasing it in the form of water vapor.

-On the other hand, urban areas lack sufficient green cover or gardens and are often developed with highrise buildings, roads, parking spaces, pavements and transit routes for public transport. Therefore, heat regulation is either completely absent or man-made.

 -Black or any dark coloured object absorbs all wavelengths of light and converts them to heat, while white reflects it. Cities usually have buildings constructed with glass, bricks, cement and concrete — all of which are dark-coloured materials, meaning they attract and absorb higher heat content. Therefore temporary islands within cities where the heat remains trapped.

– The main way to reduce heat within urban areas is increasing the green cover; filling open spaces with trees and plants.

– Other ways include the appropriate choice of construction materials, promoting terrace and kitchen gardens, and painting white or light colours on terraces wherever possible to reflect heat.

Point to ponder: What has NASA said about urban heat islands in India?

Ramgarh Sanctuary Becomes Country’s 52nd Tiger Reserve

Key takeaways from the news

– On May 16, 2022, Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav informed that a notification has been issued to declare the Ramgarh Vishdhari Sanctuary in Bundi district of Rajasthan as the 52nd tiger reserve in the country.

-After the notification, Ramgarh Vishdhari sanctuary has become the fourth tiger reserve in Rajasthan.

-At present, There are Ranthambhore, Sariska, and Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserves in Rajasthan.

– The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had accorded ‘in-principle’ approval for the creation of Ramgarh Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining areas as tiger reserves on July 5, 2021, under the provision of Section 38 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

– The newly notified Ramgarh Vishdhari Tiger Reserve includes the habitat of tigers between Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in the Northeast and Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve in the south.

– The Government of Rajasthan declared it a sanctuary under Section 5 of the Rajasthan Wildlife and Bird Protection Act, 1951 on 20th May 1982.

– This sanctuary is also famous for the ecosystem as well as floral species. The sanctuary has 500 types of wildlife including Indian wolf, leopard, striped woodpecker, cheetal, sambhar, sloth bear, golden jackal, chinkara, nilgai, fox, wild cats, langur, snake, and crocodile.

Point to ponder: What are the key highlights of the ‘Status of Tigers in India’ Report?

 

First published on: 21-05-2022 at 03:38:30 pm
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