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16th December Current Affairs

Parliamentary Panel on ‘India’s Soft power’

(GS-II: International Relations)

In News:

A parliamentary panel has recommended that the ministry of external affairs (MEA) prepare a policy document on India’s soft power projections amid efforts by China to give a mega push to its soft power.

What is Soft Power?

Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes one prefers, and that can be accomplished by coercion, payment, or attraction and persuasion. Soft power is the ability to obtain preferred outcomes by attraction rather than coercion or payment.

Need for soft power:

Potential in augmenting positive perceptions about a country and its national interests

Change in other’s attitudes without competition or conflict

India’s civilizational heritage has an advantage over other countries in soft power: According to Brand Finance’s Global Soft Power Index, India ranks 27th in terms of soft power.

Recommendations of the Committee:

Prepare a policy document on India’s soft power projection: To delineate India’s soft power toolbox and how it is being projected abroad along with a vision statement for the future

Prepare a soft power Matrix

Comparative analysis of India’s soft power with other similar countries such as China

g., China is estimated to spend about $10 billion a year just on its Confucius Institutes and soft power promotion whereas ICCR (Indian Council of Cultural Relations) and other agencies put together spending around (Rs) 300-400 crore.

Most of India’s expenditure goes into the establishment and administration

Get recognition for Ayurveda by adopting the pharmacopoeia of India

Revamp the focus, structure and functioning of DD India for its global outreach

Proactive interaction with the Indian Diaspora is an important part of India’s “soft diplomacy” or “diaspora diplomacy”.

For example, the Indian Diaspora played a critical role in the fructification of the Indo-US Nuclear deal

They help in building its brand internationally through their huge success stories.

WB report on Curbing air pollution in India

(GS-III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment)

In News:

According to a World Bank report, India has six large airsheds, some of them shared with Pakistan, between which air pollutants move.

Background:

Persistently hazardous levels of air pollution have caused public health crises in South Asia demanding urgent action.

Using a modelling approach over South Asia as a whole, the WB report lays out multiple scenarios and costs involved in reducing the region’s exposure to particulate matter (PM).

Highlights of the report:

Currently, over 60% of South Asians are exposed to an average of 35 µg/m3 of PM2.5

In some parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) it spiked to as much as 100 µg/m3 – nearly 20 times the upper limit of 5 µg/m3 recommended by the WHO.

There are six major airsheds in South Asia.

Airshed includes the entire area over which the pollutants disperse due to meteorological and geographical factors.

For example, the region of the Indo-Gangetic plain may be considered as one airshed. The region extends from Rawalpindi in Pakistan to Rangpur in northern Bangladesh.

When the wind direction was predominantly northwest to southeast, 30% of the air pollution in Indian Punjab came from the Punjab Province in Pakistan.

This means that even if Delhi NCT were to fully implement all air pollution control measures, it wouldn’t keep pollution exposure below 35 µg/m3.

Impact: According to the ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), PM pollution in the mountains will come down when the glaciers melt and then go into the oceans.

Significance of the report: It highlights the interdependence in air quality within airsheds in South Asia, which is necessary for pollution control.

Policy measures and cooperation among countries to reduce air pollution:

Airshed approach: Coordination between airsheds, would cut the average exposure of PM 2.5 and save more than 7,50,000 lives annually.

Best practice: In ASEAN, Nordic regions and across China, air pollution is tackled in this way.

Indian efforts to curb air pollution:

The National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) (2019) aims to reduce (40% over 2017 levels by 2025-26) air pollution in 131 of India’s most polluted cities.

The government of India has set aside $1.7 billion to fight air pollution over the next five years, as per the recommendation of the 15th Finance Commission

Parliament has approved to the establishment of the Commission of Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas.

The clean air action plan is implemented across the states with guidelines from WB.

Way ahead: Curbing air pollution requires not only tackling its specific sources, but also close coordination across local and national jurisdictional boundaries.

Conclusion:

Regional cooperation can help implement cost-effective joint strategies that leverage the interdependent nature of air quality.

Gond Tribes and Hattee community

In News:

A motion has been initiated in Lok Sabha to include Hattee community of Sirmaur district’s Trans-Giri region in the Scheduled Tribes list of Himachal Pradesh. Also, a bill to move in the Gond community from SC to the ST list in four districts of UP has been approved by the Rajya Sabha.

About Gond Tribes:

Gond is one of the largest tribal groups speaking the Gondi language (a Dravidian ethnolinguistic group). They are spread over several states- MP, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, etc. They are generally peasants and worship nature.

Bhil are the largest Tribe in India (consisting of 38% of the ST population of India)

About Motion in the house: A motion is any proposal made for the purpose of eliciting a decision from the House. There can be different types of motions such as Cut motion, Call-attention motion etc.

Why did methane emissions spike in 2020?

In News:

Global methane emissions reached roughly 15 parts per billion (ppb) in 2020 from 9.9 ppb in 2019, the study published in the journal Nature noted.

Reasons for the spike:

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) can impact methane levels. In the troposphere — the upper part of the atmosphere — NOx combines with ozone to form hydroxyl radicals. These radicals remove 85 per cent of methane annually from the atmosphere.

Nitrogen oxide enters the atmosphere from exhaust gases of cars and trucks as well as electrical power generation plants. Thus during the lockdown, Nitrogen oxide pollution was reduced drastically increasing methane levels.

Precipitation over global wetlands showed a 2-11 per cent annual increase in 2020 relative to 2019. Water‐logged soils make conditions ripe for soil microorganisms, allowing them to produce more methane.

 About Methane:

Methane is short-lived, compared to carbon dioxide.

Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years of its lifetime in the atmosphere.

The common sources of methane are oil.