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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 08 September 2023

CONTENTS:

  1. Disappearing languages, vanishing voices
  2. Building resilience towards a sustainable and secure future

Disappearing Languages, Vanishing Voices


Context:

English has served as a unifying factor among multilingual Indians since the era of British colonial rule. While English is widely used for communication in urban areas, it can pose challenges in remote rural regions. Regardless of the veracity of the story, the significance of a shared language is recognized. Language serves as a medium for conveying information, thoughts, and emotions.

Relevance:

GS1- Indian Society-Diversity in India.

Mains Question:

“A greater number of people in the world are transitioning to just a few dominant languages at the expense of several smaller ones, resulting in a loss of linguistic diversity.” Examine.

Language Extinction:

Meaning:

It means that the languages will no longer be spoken as a mother tongue, or as the principal language.

Status of languages spoken in the world:

There are approximately 7,000 unique languages spoken as a native language globally. Roughly half of the world’s population speaks one of the top 10 most commonly spoken languages, posing a significant risk to linguistic diversity. Currently, English holds the title of the world’s most commonly spoken language, with the influence of British colonialism playing a key role in its global proliferation.

Statistics:

Statistics indicate that a fascinating mathematical model, featured in The Economic Journal, predicts that approximately 40% of languages spoken by fewer than 35,000 individuals may face extinction within the next century.

Migration and the Extinction of Languages:

When people migrate, there is often a compelling incentive to adopt the predominant language spoken in their new country, as it opens up opportunities for social and economic advancement in their new environment. This transition typically results in first-generation migrants becoming bilingual, followed by subsequent generations having a progressively weaker connection to their native language. By the third generation, there may be a significant loss of ability to speak or understand their grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ language.

India provides a pertinent example of this phenomenon, especially concerning the growing trend of migration to English-speaking countries. English, which currently boasts 340 million native speakers and over 1.2 billion second-language speakers, continues to show potential for further expansion. This raises questions about the fate of Hindi, which has an estimated 586 million second-language speakers worldwide.

Language Indices:

IndicesFindings
Index of Linguistic Diversity (ILD)This was introduced as a quantitative tool to analyze the trends observed in the number of native speakers of the world’s languages over the past three decades. It serves as a metric for assessing the decline of languages.

The ILD reveals that on a global scale, linguistic diversity experienced a 20% reduction between 1970 and 2005. Regionally, there was a significant decline in indigenous linguistic diversity, with a decrease of over 60% in the Americas, around 30% in the Pacific, including Australia, and nearly 20% in Africa.

However, it’s important to note that calculating this index based on a sample of, for example, 1,000 languages out of the total 7,000 languages over a specific time frame may not provide an accurate representation, especially considering the increasing global population.

The index’s primary aim is to assess the distribution of speakers among all the languages spoken worldwide, and it has revealed that this distribution is becoming increasingly unequal over time.
Language Diversity IndexThis measures the likelihood that two randomly selected individuals from a population will have different mother tongues. This index ranges from 0 (indicating everyone shares the same mother tongue) to 1 (implying that no two individuals have the same mother tongue). Naturally, countries with a smaller variety of mother languages tend to have a lower LDI compared to countries with a more extensive range of mother tongues.

For instance, when comparing the United Kingdom (LDI of 0.139) to India (LDI of 0.930), we observe that the UK has a lower LDI due to its fewer mother languages. Interestingly, despite both the United States and the United Kingdom predominantly speaking English, the U.S. possesses a higher LDI of 0.353. This discrepancy arises from the significant presence of migrants from diverse countries in the United States.

Inference:

An increasing number of people around the world are shifting towards a handful of dominant languages, often at the expense of numerous smaller ones. This phenomenon is contributing to a decline in linguistic diversity, and unfortunately, some languages are on the brink of extinction.

According to the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), there are several languages today that have only one remaining native speaker, underscoring the precarious situation of these languages. When such languages vanish, they take with them not only a means of communication but also an entire identity and culture.

 

Language Extinction in India:

As per a 2018 UNESCO report, India is currently facing the threat of extinction for 42 languages, each of which is spoken by fewer than 10,000 individuals. According to UNESCO’s criteria, any language with fewer than 10,000 speakers is considered potentially endangered.

Conclusion:

The loss of any language represents not only a reduction in linguistic diversity but also a forfeiture of the associated cultural nuances, perspectives, and knowledge. It is imperative to devise strategies to halt the decline of languages on a global scale. The Linguistic Society of America (LSA) deserves commendation for its efforts in studying these endangered languages. The LSA is actively creating video and audio recordings and written documentation of these languages, along with their translations. The world must make similar efforts, to explore ways and means to preserve some of these endangered languages.


Building Resilience Towards a Sustainable and Secure Future


Context:

The G20 acknowledges the worldwide importance of malnutrition and its repercussions for public health and societal welfare. Climate change is an undeniable reality, posing a substantial threat to our entire civilization. The escalating climate emergency, the rapid deterioration of soil quality, the depletion of aquifers, the loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the highly unstable nature of markets have led to concerns about the feasibility of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially considering that only seven annual harvests are left until 2030.

Relevance:

GS2-Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s Interests

GS3-Environmental pollution and degradation

Mains Question:

India has significantly used the G20 platform to further its goals of sustainable agriculture that can generate food security in the country. Critically comment. (15 marks, 250 words).

IssuesStatusInitiatives
Anthropogenic climate changeIt has slowed down global agricultural productivity by 21% in the last 50 years.

Climate change is driven primarily by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes, and agricultural activities.

Agriculture is in the midst of numerous global challenges, including food security, environmental sustainability, and climate change mitigation.

Agriculture is both vulnerable to and a contributor to climate change. For addressing global agricultural challenges such as meeting the food and nutritional demands of the growing population, climate change, water scarcity, and low agricultural productivity, a shared vision leading to collective action by the global community is crucial.
In this respect, the Agricultural Working Group (AWG) of the G20 under India’s presidency has taken some futuristic and innovative initiatives.



Food and Nutritional SecurityMillets which are increasingly being acknowledged as ‘nutri-cereals’ have many health benefits and are also climate-resilient crops that can be grown in low rainfall, low soil fertility conditions, requiring low inputs, and have comparatively low water and carbon footprints compared to many cereals.The declaration of the Year 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

India’s distinctive G20 endeavor, known as MAHARISHI (Millets and Other Ancient Grains International Research Initiative), will play a pivotal role in driving progress in various domains. This initiative, operating through its Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS) and Agricultural Working Group, will significantly contribute to advancements in technology, climate adaptation, inclusive policymaking, global partnerships, capacity development, and the promotion of mutual learning among Southern nations.

The primary objectives of the MAHARISHI initiative and the ‘Shree Anna’ millet campaign are to encourage the cultivation and consumption of millets. Millets, known for their nutrient density, drought tolerance, and resilience, are at the forefront of this effort.

Under the G20’s MAHARISHI initiative, there is a strong emphasis on strengthening collaborations with international organizations like the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Together, they are committed to combatting malnutrition through scientific research. This research encompasses activities aimed at improving crop varieties to enhance productivity, nutritional value, and resilience. Moreover, the initiative prioritizes the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, the advancement of digital agriculture, capacity building, and advocacy for policy reforms.

Conclusion:

The G20, as a forum representing major economies, acknowledges the global significance of malnutrition and its far-reaching consequences on public health, economic progress, and social welfare. By collaborating with esteemed international organizations such as ICRISAT, the G20 can harness scientific expertise and innovative solutions to effectively combat malnutrition.

Efforts must be intensified to support agricultural communities in adapting to the challenges posed by shifting climate conditions. This entails promoting the cultivation of drought-resistant crops, implementing advanced techniques for soil and water management, and adopting low-input technologies. Sustainable practices like crop rotation, agroforestry, and organic farming should be actively promoted, as they not only benefit the environment but also make economic sense. These practices play a pivotal role in mitigating soil degradation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


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