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The Hindu PDF 18 December 2023 Analysis


The Hindu PDF 18 December 2023 Newspaper is considered an important source of news and information for UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) aspirants in India. This The Hindu Epaper PDF newspaper covers a wide range of topics that are relevant to the UPSC exam, including politics, economics, international relations, governance, and social issues.

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The Hindu Epaper Analysis 18 December 2023 for UPSC

Global coal demand likely to decline 2.3% by 2026: IEA: Page 1

  • Global coal demand to decline by 2.3% by 2026, despite record production.
  • IEA report attributes decline to renewable energy shift and plateauing demand in China.
  • India remains a key driver for coal demand until 2026.
  • Global coal demand projected to rise by 1.4% in 2023, exceeding 8.5 billion tonnes.
  • Regional variations: EU and US expect a 20% demand drop, while India and China anticipate increases.
  • El Nino to La Nina shift expected between 2024-2026, impacting hydroelectric power positively.
  • Factors contributing to decline: low-cost solar deployment, nuclear generation increases.
  • China, responsible for over half of global coal demand, foresees a fall in 2024 and plateau in 2026.
  • Despite decline, global coal consumption expected to exceed 8 billion tonnes through 2026.
  • Structural decline in coal demand due to sustained expansion of clean energy technologies.
  • Urgent efforts needed to meet climate targets, including a 95% decline in coal emissions by 2050.
  • Top coal producers: China, India, and Indonesia, set to break output records in 2023, contributing to 70% of global production.

A cloudy horizon: Page 6

  • India’s goods exports declined by 2.8% in November to $33.9 billion from 2022 levels.
  • Imports decreased by 4.33% to $54.5 billion, leading to a merchandise trade deficit of $20.6 billion.
  • The decline in imports was significant sequentially, despite a $1.6 billion reduction in October’s import bill.
  • Exports, though contracting in November, were higher than October, marking a year-on-year uptick.
  • Exports have recorded their weakest values in a year over the last two months.
  • The dip in imports in November is attributed to factors like a decline in discretionary demand for high-value goods and global price drops.
  • Economists expect the trade deficit to stay between $20 billion and $25 billion for the remaining four months.
  • Data corrections have been significant, with a monthly merchandise trade deficit revision averaging around $1.5 billion since July.
  • The government needs a better grip on data for decision-making, with officials hoping for an export uptick in the final quarter.
  • India must enhance competitiveness to capture global demand, considering trends like potential interest rate cuts and strengthened global trade flows in 2024.
  • A government-commissioned study on logistics costs indicates a slight drop over the past decade, and infrastructure spending may further reduce them.
  • Lowering petroleum prices in line with global trends could significantly boost competitiveness.

An uphill struggle to grow the Forest Rights Act: Page 6

  • The Forest Rights Act (FRA) was endorsed by the Rajya Sabha on December 18, 2006, aiming to address historical injustices and democratize forest governance.
  • The FRA acknowledges the impact of colonial forest policies, disrupting local communities’ customary rights over forests.
  • Colonial forest policies imposed injustices such as the ban on shifting cultivation, biased survey and settlement of agricultural lands, creation of ‘forest villages,’ and limited access to forest produce.
  • Post-Independence, forest areas were declared state property, displacing legitimate residents and cultivators who were labeled as ‘encroachers.’
  • The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 further contributed to injustices, forcibly resettling communities and not considering local views in development projects.
  • The FRA addresses historical injustices through the recognition of individual forest rights (IFRs) and community rights to access and manage forests (CFRs).
  • Implementation challenges include political opportunism, resistance from the forestry department, bureaucratic apathy, and distortions in recognizing both IFRs and CFRs.
  • Some states, like Maharashtra, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh, have made substantial progress in recognizing CFRs, but overall recognition is slow and incomplete.
  • Slow recognition of community rights benefits hardline conservationists and the development lobby, making communities vulnerable and facilitating land handovers for mining or dams without consent.
  • Calls to shut down FRA implementation have emerged, and mission-mode implementation can lead to distorted rights recognition unless the spirit and intent of the FRA are appreciated.
  • To address historical injustices and realize the potential for community-led forest conservation, political leaders, bureaucrats, and environmentalists must understand and uphold the FRA’s spirit and intent.

The stormy Red Sea, the complexities of global events: Page 6

  • In October, Hamas launched a terror attack against Israel, disrupting regional stability.
  • Yemen-based and Iran-aligned Houthi militia announced support for Gaza, involving the critical Red Sea waterways.
  • The Red Sea, connecting the Suez Canal, carries nearly 15% of global trade between the West and the East.
  • Houthis targeted a cargo vessel with Israeli links in the Red Sea, escalating commercial vessel incidents.
  • The U.S. deployed military capacity to counter Houthi threats, calling for a multinational task force in Bab al-Mandab Strait.
  • Houthis demonstrated diverse military capabilities, including torpedoes and missiles with longer-range capability.
  • Riyadh urged Washington DC restraint in military action against Houthis, engaging in talks amid the Saudi-Iran détente.
  • Geopolitical complexities involve China’s balanced stance, impacting the ongoing Gaza crisis and influencing Arab sentiment.
  • Red Sea security depletion affects global interests, with implications for Asian economies like India, Japan, South Korea, and China.
  • Asian countries, including India, had historical coordinated efforts against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
  • Non-state militant actors are strengthening politically and militarily, shaping global geopolitics and challenging the western-led international security order.

An oil spill in an ignored wetland: Page 7

  • Cyclone Michaung caused heavy rainfall in Chennai, leading to flooding in the Ennore-Manali region.
  • Oil spilled from the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL) refinery, affecting the Buckingham Canal and Kosasthalaiyar river.
  • The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board downplayed the ecological impact, and the spill’s extent was confirmed by the Indian Coast Guard through aerial assessment.
  • The State government acted eight days later after the spill, prompted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
  • The oil spill crisis management committee directed CPCL to compensate for damages and initiated remediation efforts.
  • Initial response was delayed and haphazard, lacking an approved standard operating procedure.
  • The Department of Environment, Climate Change and Forests coordinated cleanup with CPCL and deployed workers and machinery.
  • Remediation is expected to be completed by December 19, but caution is advised due to the extensive spread of oil.
  • The Ennore backwaters, a neglected wetland, faces pollution from leaky pipelines and thermal power plants, impacting biodiversity.
  • NGT orders since 2017 to address pollution concerns in the region, including fly ash removal, have seen limited progress.
  • In 2022, NGT directed the State to notify Ennore wetlands under the Tamil Nadu Wetland Mission and develop a plan for restoration.
  • The State government’s reluctance to regulate industries and restore Ennore Creek reflects unfair environmental standards in northern Chennai.

On selecting Election Commissioners: Page 8

  • The Rajya Sabha passed The Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Office and Terms of Office) Bill, 2023.
  • The Bill outlines the procedure for appointing the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and two Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • Article 324 of the Constitution establishes the Election Commission of India (ECI), consisting of the CEC and two ECs.
  • The Constitution empowers the President to appoint the CEC and ECs, subject to parliamentary law.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in March 2023, in response to a PIL, that there is a legislative vacuum regarding the appointment process.
  • The Supreme Court suggested a committee-based selection mechanism, including the Prime Minister, CJI, and Leader of the Opposition.
  • The proposed law introduces a structured mechanism with a search committee and a selection committee but removes the CJI from the process.
  • The CEC and ECs will be appointed from individuals holding a post equivalent to the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.
  • The selection committee comprises the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, and a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by the Prime Minister.
  • The Bill’s mechanism differs from global practices, with variations in selection processes in countries like South Africa, the U.K., and the U.S.
  • The Bill, while improving the appointment process, is criticized for being tilted in favor of the incumbent government.
  • Retaining the Chief Justice of India (CJI) in the selection committee could ensure greater independence, as suggested by the Supreme Court.
  • The Bill is likely to be enacted into law, and unanimous decisions by the selection committee could enhance public confidence in the Election Commission of India (ECI).

What led to the coup attempt in Sierra Leone?: Page 8

  • On November 26, unidentified gunmen attempted a coup in Sierra Leone, targeting military barracks, police stations, and correctional centers.
  • In August 2023, the Sierra Leone police arrested several individuals, including senior military officers, accused of planning violent attacks on government institutions.
  • The recent attacks aimed to free the arrested military officers and were declared an unsuccessful coup attempt by the government.
  • Political instability is a key factor, intensified by President Julius Maada Wonie Bio’s contested re-election and the opposition’s boycott of parliament.
  • Economic instability, marked by a high cost of living, severe poverty, and a 50.94% inflation rate in August, contributes to unrest.
  • President Bio’s economic policies worsened the crisis, leading to protests demanding his resignation in July and August 2022.
  • Police aggression, seen in incidents like the 2020 prison riot and the August 2022 protests, fuels resentment toward the government.
  • The state response includes an indefinite curfew, flight rescheduling, cash rewards for information on coup leaders, and ongoing security operations.
  • Sierra Leone is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and ECOWAS intervention may occur to maintain constitutional order.
  • ECOWAS has a history of intolerance toward unconstitutional takeovers and may impose sanctions on Sierra Leone if a coup attempt succeeds.

An overview of the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act: Page 9

  • Objectives of the EU AI Act:
  • Create a regulatory framework for AI technologies.
  • Mitigate risks associated with AI systems.
  • Establish clear guidelines for developers, users, and regulators.
  • Strengths of the Act:
  • Risk-Based Approach:
    • Categorizes AI applications into different risk levels.
    • Tailored regulations based on risk, with higher-risk applications facing more stringent requirements.
  • Prohibitions:
    • Explicitly prohibits unacceptable AI practices, e.g., social credit scoring for government, predictive policing, and manipulative AI systems.
  • Transparency and Accountability:
    • Emphasizes transparency in AI development and deployment.
    • Mandates clear information about AI system capabilities and limitations.
    • Requires comprehensive documentation for regulatory oversight.
  • Conformity Assessment:
    • Introduces independent conformity assessment for higher-risk AI applications.
    • Conducted by third-party entities to ensure objectivity.
  • Limitations:
  • Challenge in Definition:
    • Criticized for difficulty in defining and categorizing AI applications accurately.
  • Competitiveness Concerns:
    • Stringent regulations may hinder European businesses’ competitiveness in the global AI market.
    • Potential burden on smaller businesses and start-ups.
  • Potential Implications:
  • Global Impact:
    • Likely to influence AI development globally.
    • EU’s regulatory framework may set a precedent for other regions.
  • Ethical Considerations:
    • Contributes to global norms for ethical AI development.
  • Innovation and Competitiveness:
    • Impact depends on the balance between regulation and fostering innovation.
    • May influence AI development beyond EU borders.
  • Administrative Side:
  • Reporting and Enforcement:
    • Individuals have the right to report non-compliance.
    • EU member states’ market surveillance authorities enforce the AI Act.
  • Fines:
    • Fines range from $8 million to almost $38 million based on violation nature and company size.
    • Specific limits on fines for SMEs and start-ups.
  • Centralized Entities:
    • Establishment of a central ‘AI office’ and ‘AI Board.’
  • Global Impact:
  • Collaboration:
    • Encourages collaboration and cooperation between regulatory authorities.
    • Aims for a unified approach to AI regulation.
  • International Norms:
    • EU AI Act may set international norms for AI development.
    • Addresses global challenges and ensures consistent standards across borders.

Bhutan to have massive green city along Assam border: Page 10

  • Bhutan plans to build a massive “international city” along its border with Assam, covering over 1,000 sq. km.
  • Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck announced the project as an “economic corridor connecting South Asia with Southeast Asia via India’s northeastern States.”
  • The first India-Bhutan railway line to Gelephu is part of the project, connecting with roadways and border-trading points into Assam and West Bengal.
  • The Gelephu Smartcity Project aims to follow environmental standards and sustainability, attracting quality investment from screened international companies.
  • The project includes plans for an international airport (Bhutan’s second), “zero emission” industries, and a “mindfulness city” focusing on tourism and wellness.
  • Gelephu will be a “Special Administrative Region” run under different laws to facilitate international investment.
  • King Jigme Wangchuck emphasized terms like “skilling projects,” “digital infrastructure,” and “economic hub” for the Gelephu project.
  • The decision to announce project details follows discussions with Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
  • Bhutan recently transitioned from a Least Developed Country (LDC) status, despite economic challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment reaching 20%.
  • The announcement generated anticipation among Bhutanese citizens, with hopes that the project will create jobs and contribute to the country’s economic transformation.

Modi inaugurates Surat Diamond Bourse in Gujarat, says it will add 1.5 lakh more jobs: Page 11

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates Surat Diamond Bourse (SDB), the world’s largest and modern center for international diamond and jewelry business.
  • SDB is located in Surat, aiming to shift the diamond trading business from Mumbai to Surat, known as the hub of diamond cutting and polishing.
  • The SDB building is the world’s largest office complex, spread over 67 lakh square feet, with nine interconnected towers of 15 storeys each.
  • Modi refers to the SDB building as another diamond in Surat’s magnificence, surpassing tall buildings worldwide.
  • The diamond industry in Surat employs around 8 lakh people, and the new diamond bourse is expected to add 1.5 lakh more jobs.
  • The SDB houses offices for trading cut and polished diamonds, agents dealing with the import of rough stones, and 27 retail jewelry outlets.
  • Inauguration takes place amid challenges from the global economic slowdown and G-7 countries’ tough stance on Russian diamonds, impacting the diamond industry.
  • Modi also inaugurates a new integrated terminal building at Surat airport, recently granted international status, capable of handling 35 lakh passengers annually with provisions for expansion.
  • The diamond industry in Surat has faced difficulties, with reports of artisans committing suicide due to financial challenges in the past year.

Indigenously built Unit-4 at Kakrapar attains criticality: Page 12

  • The fourth unit of Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP) in Gujarat achieved criticality at 1.17 a.m. on Sunday.
  • These 700-MWe units are the largest indigenous nuclear power reactors built by NPCIL.
  • Unit-3 of KAPP began generating commercial electricity on August 30.
  • The reactors are pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) using natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as a coolant and moderator.
  • NPCIL operates indigenous PHWRs with 220-MWe and 540-MWe capacity at other facilities.
  • KAPP-4’s criticality was confirmed after meeting conditions set by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
  • B.S. Pathak, NPCIL Chairman, called it a significant achievement and praised NPCIL’s capabilities in nuclear power generation.
  • The KAPP-4 criticality follows the commercial operation of unit-3 within six months.
  • Indian industries supplied equipment, and the contract for the reactors was executed by them.
  • Kakrapar Atomic Power Station already has two operating PHWRs with a capacity of 220 MWe each (KAPS-1 and -2).
  • The indigenously built 700-MWe reactors have advanced safety features, including a steel lining and a passive decay heat removal system.
  • NPCIL operates 23 nuclear electricity reactors with a total capacity of 7,480 MWe and has nine units, including KAPP-4, under construction.

‘1971 War is the bedrock of Dhaka’s ties with India’: Page 12

  • The Indian envoy emphasizes the significance of the 1971 Liberation War as the foundation of India-Bangladesh ties.
  • India expresses readiness to support Bangladesh in achieving its vision of a stable, progressive, and prosperous nation.
  • The Indian High Commissioner, Pranay Verma, highlights the enduring friendship based on shared sacrifices during the Liberation War.
  • He calls for cherishing the friendship and reiterating the commitment to preserving the spirit of 1971.
  • The envoy speaks during the opening ceremony of Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ inaugural flight from Dhaka to Chennai.
  • The Liberation War and the triumph of the people symbolize shared sacrifices for Bangladesh’s freedom and reinforce the time-tested friendship between Delhi and Dhaka.
  • Both nations are described as having connected destinies based on geographies and historical roots.
  • The envoy anticipates the realization of a “Sonali adhyay” (golden chapter) in the ties between India and Bangladesh.

The era of CRISPR therapeutics is here — what can we expect?: SCIENCE Page II

  • CRISPR Therapeutics Approval:
  • MHRA (U.K.) approved exagamglogene autotemcel for sickle-cell disease and -thalassemia.
  • FDA (U.S.) also approved it for sickle-cell disease, making it one of the first dual-approved CRISPR therapies.
  • Patient Impact:
  • Signifies a transformative era for millions with inherited blood disorders like thalassemia and sickle-cell anaemia.
  • Over a million thalassemia patients globally, with 100,000 dependent on blood transfusions. Around 20 million suffer from sickle-cell anaemia.
  • CRISPR Discovery Timeline:
  • CRISPR system discovered in archaea in 1993.
  • CRISPR + Cas proteins identified as antiviral defense system in 2010.
  • Cas9 demonstrated as a programmable ‘molecular scissor’ in 2012.
  • Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020 awarded to Charpentier and Doudna for CRISPR-Cas9 breakthrough.
  • Casgevy Treatment Process:
  • Blood stem cells extracted, genes modified to correct defects, and regrafted.
  • Cells proliferate to produce normal red blood cells.
  • Evolution of CRISPR Technologies:
  • First-generation CRISPR technologies in use, with growing efficacy and efficiency.
  • Emerging techniques include base-editing, prime editing, and modification of epigenetic effects.
  • Verve Therapeutics testing base-editing for familial hypercholesterolemia.
  • Challenges and Considerations:
  • Safety and accuracy concerns reported, particularly off-target events.
  • Ongoing scrutiny needed for short- and long-term benefits.
  • Early development cycle for many therapies; potential for undiscovered side effects.
  • Overall Impact:
  • CRISPR therapies like Casgevy mark a significant step in treating genetic diseases.
  • Potential for revolutionary impacts in medicine and genetic engineering.

Kraft process: a paper-maker’s craft: SCIENCE Page II

  • Kraft process: technique for making paper from wood chips
  • Input: wood chips; Output: cellulose fibers for paper
  • Chemical process: involves water, sodium hydroxide, sodium sulphide
  • Forms white liquor (alkaline mixture)
  • High temperature breaks bonds between lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose
  • Steps: wood pulp extraction, chemical recovery, bleaching, processing
  • Paper strength determined by sulphidity (amount of sulphur)
  • Kraft-process paper has higher sulphidity
  • Ubiquitous today, replaced toxic and resource-intensive methods
  • Concerns: large water volume required, environmental unfriendliness
  • Effluent contains lignin, dissolved carbon, alcohol ions, heavy metals
  • Effluent treatment needed to mitigate environmental impact

Source: The Hindu Epaper

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