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UPSC Essentials: Weekly news express — Black swan to Roe v. Wade

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


The Indian Express’ UPSC weekly news express covers the most important topics of current affairs news from this week to help you prepare for UPSC-CSE.

West Seti power project


Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.

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Mains Examination: General Studies II: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Why in news?

India will be taking over an ambitious hydropower project in Nepal — West Seti — nearly four years after China withdrew from it, ending a six-year engagement between 2012 and 2018.

Key takeaways:

— It is a proposed 750-megawatt Hydropower Project. It is to be built on the Seti river in far-western Nepal.

— The government has remodeled projects with the names West Seti and Seti River (SR-6), a joint storage project. It has the capacity to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity.

— This storage or reservoir will fill up during the monsoon season and the water will be drawn to generate power during peak hours each day in the dry season.

— West Seti has the potential to be a defining model for Nepal and India’s power relations in the future.


Point to ponder: India-Nepal’s diplomatic ties go hand in hand with the power relations. Discuss.

RBI report: ‘Black swan’ event may trigger around Rs 7.8-lakh-cr outflow


Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development

Main Examination: General Studies III: Indian Economy

Why in news?

— Capital outflows to the tune of $100 billion (around Rs 7,80,000 crore) are likely to take place from India in a major global risk scenario or a black swan event, says a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) study.


— According to NSDL data, foreign portfolio investors have pulled out a record Rs 2,08,587 crore ($26.75 billion) from the Indian markets in the calendar year 2022 so far.

Key takeaways from the news:

— A black swan is a rare, unpredictable event that comes as a surprise and has a significant impact on society or the world.

— These events are said to have three distinguishing characteristics – they are extremely rare and outside the realm of regular expectations; they have a severe impact after they hit, and they seem probable in hindsight when plausible explanations appear.

—The black swan theory was put forward by author and investor Nassim Nicholas Taleb in 2001, and later popularised in his 2007 book – The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The Sunday Times described his work as one of the 12 most influential books since World War II.

— Taleb does not try to lay out a method to predict such events but instead stresses on building “robustness” in systems and strategies to deal with black swan occurrences and withstand their impact.


— He does not agree with those who believe it to be one. In an interview with Bloomberg in 2020, he called it a “white swan”, arguing that it was predictable, and there was no excuse for companies and governments not to be prepared for something like this.

Point to ponder: Why FPIs’ market exit means? 

Banning single-use plastic


Preliminary Examination: General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change


Mains Examination: General Studies III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Why in news?

— The Centre has banned the use of ‘single-use-plastic’ from July 1 and now defined a list of single-use plastic items that will be banned from this date.

Key takeaways from the news:


— The manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of following single-use plastic, including polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, commodities shall be prohibited with effect from July 1, 2022.

— As the name suggests, it refers to plastic items that are used once and discarded. Single-use plastic has among the highest shares of plastic manufactured and used — from the packaging of items to bottles (shampoo, detergents, cosmetics), polythene bags, face masks, coffee cups, cling film, trash bags, food packaging etc.

— The ban will be monitored by the CPCB from the Centre, and by the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) that will report to the Centre regularly.

— Ministry officials have said that the choice for the first set of single-use plastic items for the ban was based on “difficulty of collection, and therefore recycling”.

— Those found violating the ban can be penalised under the Environment Protection Act 1986 – which allows for imprisonment up to five years, or a penalty up to Rs 1 lakh, or both.

— A 2021 report by one of the Australian philanthropic organisations the Minderoo Foundation said single-use plastics account for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98 per cent manufactured from fossil fuels.

— Single-use plastic also accounts for the majority of plastic discarded – 130 million metric tonnes globally in 2019 — “all of which is burned, buried in landfills or discarded directly into the environment”, the report said.

— On the current trajectory of production, it has been projected that single-use plastic could account for 5-10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The report found that India features in the top 100 countries of single-use plastic waste generation – at rank 94.

Point to ponder: The enemy is not that plastic exists per se, but that plastic exists in the environment. Explain.

21st Constitutional Amendment of Sri Lanka


Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.

Main Examination: General Studies II: India and its Neighbourhood- Relations.

Why in news?

— Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that the 21st Amendment to the Constitution to curb the presidential powers will be discussed with the Attorney General’s Department on Monday so that it can be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.

Key takeaways from the news:

— It seeks to reduce the Presidency to a ceremonial position, retaining the powers of the President on all three armed forces. All other key powers pertaining to governance, and cabinet ministers will be handed over to the Prime Minister.

— It seeks to transfer powers of making key appointments from the President to the Constitutional Council.

— The President would be required to act on the Prime Minister’s advice to determine the scope and functions of ministries and appoint ministers, deputy ministers, and state ministers.

— The 21st Amendment is expected to annul the 20th Amendment, which gave unfettered powers to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa after abolishing the 19th Amendment, a provision that had made the Parliament powerful over the president.

— The 19th Amendment (2015) removed the powers of the President to sack the Prime Minister at his discretion. It restricted the President’s powers to dismiss Cabinet ministers as he was required to act on the advice of the Prime Minister.

— 20th Amendment (2020) increased the executive powers of a President. It empowered the President to make key appointments to independent institutions.

Point to ponder: How are the political developments in Sri Lanka of great interest to India?

India’s emerging twin deficit problem

Why in news?

— In its latest ‘Monthly Economic Review’, the Ministry of Finance has painted an overall optimistic picture of the state of the domestic economy. “The World is looking at a distinct possibility of widespread stagflation. India, however, is at low risk of stagflation, owing to its prudent stabilization policies,” it states.

Key takeaways from the news:

— The fiscal deficit may be high due to cuts in excise duties on diesel and petrol.

— Higher import bills may increase the Current account deficit (CAD). Costlier imports such as crude oil and other commodities will widen the CAD. It will also depreciate the rupee. Importantly, a weaker rupee will make future imports costlier.

— At present, there is no cause of worry in the short term. The twin deficit may reduce the savings in the long term, depreciate the rupee and imbalance the financial investments of the government for social purposes.

— Rupee can also weaken if foreign portfolio investors (FPI) continue to pull out money from the Indian markets, which too will hurt the rupee and further increase CAD.

Point to ponder: Define fiscal deficit, CAD and Stagflation.

The Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (AFS)


Preliminary Examination: Economic and Social Development

Mains Examination: General Studies II: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Why in news?

One of the most promising outcomes of the recently concluded twelfth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the adoption of a new, first-of-its-kind, sustainability-driven trade agreement called the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (AFS).

Key takeaways from the news:

— This is only the third instance of amending the WTO agreement in its 27-year history.

— The aim of AFS is echoed by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.6. It would curb ‘harmful’ subsidies on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing for the next four years, to better protect global fish stocks.

— Global fisheries subsidies were estimated at $35.4 billion in 2018, of which $22.2 billion were capacity-enhancing subsidies.

— Three kinds of subsidies are prohibited: Illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing, fishing of already over-exploited stocks and fishing on unregulated high seas.

— Developing country members will enjoy a two-year exemption for subsidies granted within their exclusive economic zones (up to 200 nautical miles from their coasts). No member will be allowed to provide subsidies to fishing on the high seas, other than were regulated by a fisheries management organisation. The agreement contains notification requirements and sets up a voluntary funding mechanism to assist developing countries.

— There would be no limitation on subsidies granted or maintained by developing or least-developed countries for fishing within their exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

Point to ponder: What have been India’s initiatives for the fisheries sector in terms of policies and global efforts?

Roe v. Wade


Preliminary Examination: Current events of national and international importance.

Main Examination: General Studies IV Ethics

Why in news?

The landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade judgment that legalised abortion in the US has been struck down by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

Key takeaways from the news:

— The case is sometimes referred to simply as “Roe”, the listed name of the 22-year-old plaintiff, Norma McCorvey. ‘Wade’ was the defendant Henry Wade, the Dallas County (Texas) district attorney at the time.

— ‘Roe’ struck down laws that made abortion illegal in several states, and ruled that abortion would be allowed up to the point of foetal viability, that is, the time after which a foetus can survive outside the womb.

— Foetal viability was around 28 weeks (seven months) at the time of the ‘Roe’ judgment nearly 50 years ago; experts now agree that advances in medicine have brought the threshold down to 23 or 24 weeks (six months or a little less), and newer studies show this could be further pegged at 22 weeks. An average pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.

— Foetal viability is often seen as the point at which the rights of the woman can be separated from the rights of the unborn foetus. The length of a pregnancy is commonly calculated from the start of a person’s most recent menstrual period. Since many people identify pregnancy only after the sixth week, pre-viability timelines leave women with very little time and opportunity to make a decision to abort.

— Abortion laws across the world rely on this metric but those opposing abortions argue that this is an arbitrary timeframe that legislation and the court in ‘Roe’ adopted.

Point to ponder: India’s amended law makes abortion safer and more accessible. Discuss.

Note: Hold on to the following ongoing events and news till they actually conclude. To be covered later.

1) President’s election

2) Maharashtra’s political crisis

3) PM’s participation in various future summits

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First published on: 25-06-2022 at 03:47:28 pm
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