Prelim Bits 11-09-2023 | UPSC Daily Current Affairs

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September 11, 2023

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

Italy was planning to leave China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

  • Italy’s Reason for leaving BRI - Italy believes that BRI is more beneficial for China and wants to maintain a balanced international relationships with U.S. and China.

Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

  • Also known as the New Silk Road, BRI is the infrastructure and connectivity project both by land and sea.
  • The two-pronged plan includes
    • The overland Silk Road Economic Belt
    • Maritime Silk Road
  • The two were collectively referred as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative but eventually became the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Year - Announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
  • Aim - To connect China with Europe by land and rail, and to Africa and Asia by sea.
  • The project has expanded to Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, significantly broadening China’s economic and political influence.
  • Under the initiative, China has built or financed bridges, roads, ports, and even laid down digital connectivity networks in partner countries.
  • Membership - Currently 147 countries
  • BRI will eventually encompass 100 countries representing 70% of the world’s population, 55% of GDP and 24% of global trade.

Italy is the only G7 country to sign up for the BRI.

Belt and Road Initiative

  • Other alternatives - European Union and United States have their own development schemes known as "Globally Connected Europe" and "Build Back Better".
  • India’s Stand - India does not support the BRI as it passes through Indian territory illegally held by Pakistan.

Related links- China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)


  1. The Indian Express | Italy to leave BRI
  2. EBRD | Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  3. Silk Road Briefing | The Belt and Road Initiative

Earthquake in Morocco

An earthquake of magnitude 6.8 struck Morocco claiming the death toll at over 600.

  • Earthquake – Earthquakes are caused by a sudden release of stress along faults in the earth's crust.
  • Reason for Moroccan earthquake - The US Geological Survey attributed that the reason might be oblique-reverse faulting at shallow depth within the Moroccan High Atlas Mountain range.

Oblique-reverse faulting

  • A fault that shows the characteristics of both dip-slip and strike-slip motion caused by a combination of shearing and compressional forces.
  • It forms when hanging wall slides over the footwall due to compressional forces bringing the sides together.

Oblique Fault

  • Shallow quake - The epicentre was roughly 11 to 18.5 km below the Earth’s surface, thus being a fairly shallow quake.
  • Shallow quakes are generally more dangerous as they carry more energy than when they emerge to the surface, when compared to quakes that occur deeper underneath the surface.
  • Rare in North Africa – Earthquakes are not very common in North Africa, with seismicity rates comparatively low along the northern margin of the African continent.


  • Location - North Africa.
  • Bordered by - Western Sahara to the south and Algeria to the east.
  • Coastlines - Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.
  • Mountains- The Atlas Mountains and Rif Mountains.
  • Jebel Toubkal is the highest point of Morocco and is also the highest peak of the Atlas Mountains.
  • Water sources - Moulouya River, whose source is located in the Atlas Mountains, and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Ethnic groups - Morocco is composed mainly of Arabs and Imazighen (Berber)
  • Morocco possess two-thirds of the world’s reserves of phosphates.

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  1. The Indian Express | Earthquake in Morocco
  2. Live Mint | Earthquake in Morocco
  3. World Atlas | Maps Of Morocco

Space Launch System (SLS) & Starship

NASA and Elon Musk's SpaceX suffered setbacks in SLS (Unaffordable) and Starship (Explosive) programs recently.

  • The SLS rocket and Starship play crucial roles in NASA’s Artemis program which aims to put humanity back on the Moon.

Space Launch System (SLS)

  • Agency – NASA, U.S.
  • It is a super heavy-lift rocket that provides the foundation for human exploration beyond Earth orbit.
  • Stages – Core stage, boosters with 4 RS-25 engines.
  • Fuel - Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) & Liquid Oxygen (LO2).
  • SLS will be the only rocket with the capability to carry Orion and astronauts, as well as large cargo to the moon during a single mission.
  • It is the most powerful rocket NASA has ever launched.
  • SLS was successfully launched as part of the Artemis I Mission in 2022.



  • Agency – SpaceX, U.S.
  • Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket is collectively referred to as Starship.
  • It represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.
  • Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, capable of carrying up to 150 metric tonnes fully reusable and 250 metric tonnes expendable.
  • Payload capacity - 100 – 150 tonnes (fully reusable).
  • Starship spacecraft - Starship is the fully reusable spacecraft and 2nd stage of the Starship system.
  • Super Heavy – It is the first stage, or booster, of the Starship launch system and is fully reusable and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Raptor engine – It is a reusable methane-oxygen staged-combustion engine that powers the Starship system.


  1. The Indian Express | NASA’s SLS & SpaceX’s Starship
  2. NASA | SLS
  3. SpaceX | Starship

Nalanda University

The Backdrop of Nalanda Mahavira welcomes delegates at the G20 Summit for the President’s dinner.

  • Nalanda was an acclaimed Mahavihara, a large Buddhist monastery in the ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar) in India.
  • It is an ancient centre of higher learning, founded in the 5th century CE.
  • The Nalanda University is the world's first residential university believed to have 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students.
  • Scholars gathered here to learn medicine, logic, mathematics and Buddhist principles.
  • Patrons - Nalanda flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries (especially Krishna Gupta) and later under Harsha, the emperor of Kannauj.
  • Nalanda University reached the peak of its fame and glory during the reign of the Pala dynasty in the 8th and 9th centuries CE.
  • One of the star teachers who taught at Nalanda University was Aryabhata, the astronomer and mathematician who gave the world the concept of Zero back in the 5th century CE.
  • Famous Student – Xuanxang, Harshavardhana, Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, etc.
  • Library of Nalanda - The library of Nalanda, known as Dharma Gunj (Mountain of Truth) or Dharmagañja (Treasury of Truth).
  • Attacks on Nalanda - Nalanda University was destroyed 3 times by different invaders.
    1. By Huns under the reign of Mihirakula.
    2. By 7th century by the Goudas - The Buddhist king Harshavardhana then restored the university.
    3. By the Muslim army led by the Turkish leader Bakhtiyar Khilji during the year 119
  • Current revival - Today, the ruins of Nalanda University are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • The University is being supported by all the Member States of the East Asia Summit and Intergovernmental Memorandums of Understanding to that effect have been signed by 17 countries.


  1. Business Today | Nalanda University
  2. Nalanda University | About
  3. The Times of India | Nalanda University

Vidya Samiksha Kendras

The Ministry of Education is pushing States to open Vidya Samiksha Kendras (VSKs) under the National Digital Education Architecture (NDEAR) recently.

  • Vidya Samiksha Kendra (VSK) is a data repository which will have data from all schemes run by the Ministry of Education (MoE).
  • VSK control rooms will collect data to track key performance indicators as well as analyse data collated from govt schemes ‘using AI & machine-learning’.
  • The operations of VSK centres are managed by an open-source platform run on C-Qube software.
  • Advisory role – By EkStep Foundation (non-profit organisation co-founded by former Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India, Nandan Nilekani)
  • Funding - The Centre has allocated funds ranging from Rs.2 to Rs.5 crore to each State for adopting and establishing VSK.
  • Features – The repository will include regularly updated data from
    • PM-POSHAN mid-day meal programmes;
    • Teacher training data from National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement portal;
    • Textbook content from Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA);
    • School dropout and attendance-related data on Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE+);
    • Students’ learning outcomes from National Achievement Survey;
    • Performance Grading Index which evaluates school education system at the State/U.T. level.
  • Function- Multiple platforms at Centre, State and district levels can communicate with each other using requests and responses to seamlessly integrate data at all levels on the platforms.
  • This is in line with the National Education Policy, 2020 talking about developing operational standards for making data open source.

The 1st VSK was inaugurated in June 2021 in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar.


  1. The Hindu | Vidya Samiksha Kendras
  2. The Times of India | Vidya Samiksha Kendra initiative
  3. The Print | Vidya Samiksha Kendras’ to monitor govt schools
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