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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 16 December 2023

  1. Social Barriers in Shifting Towards Sustainable Mobility
  2. India’s Position on the Gaza Crisis


Context:

Addressing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation is a critical priority for India’s pursuit of net zero emissions. Globally, the largest contributor to mobility emissions is passenger road vehicles, a trend mirrored in India where approximately 14% of total emissions are linked to mobility.

Relevance:

GS3- Environmental Pollution

Mains Question:

Sustainable Urban Mobility centred around public transportation demands an understanding of both climate science and behavioural science to make it truly inclusive. Comment. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Background: Statistics Related to Vehicular Pollution in India:

Vehicular Emissions in India:

  • The anticipated growth in annual car sales in India, from the current 3.5 million to around 10.5 million by 2030, a threefold increase, is expected to elevate the exposure to vehicular exhaust emissions.
  • India holds the position of the fifth-largest global car manufacturer, boasting one of the highest compound annual growth rates (10%) in vehicle registration as of 2019.
  • Vehicular emissions significantly contribute to air pollution in urban areas.
  • Typically, these emissions account for 20-30% of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 at the breathing level of air quality.
  • PM2.5 refers to particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers, more than 100 times thinner than a human hair, and capable of remaining suspended for longer durations.
  • Studies indicate that vehicles contribute approximately 290 gigagrams (Gg) of PM2.5 annually.
  • Simultaneously, about 8% of total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in India originate from the transport sector, exceeding 30% in Delhi.

Vehicular Emissions (World):

  • The transport sector constitutes a quarter of total emissions, with road transport accounting for three-quarters of these emissions and 15% of the overall global CO2 emissions.
  • Among these, passenger vehicles are the primary source, releasing approximately 45% of CO2.
  • Under current conditions, it is projected that annual GHG emissions in 2050 will be 90% higher than those recorded in 2020.

Genesis of the Issue:

  • Projections suggest a significant increase in car ownership, potentially 9-14 times higher by 2050.
  • Despite the fact that only 16% of Indians use private vehicles as their primary mode of commute, investments in road infrastructure have historically overshadowed investments in public transportation, walking, and cycling infrastructure. This has resulted in limited public transportation access for many communities and raised concerns about quality, comfort, and safety.
  • Perceptions of high effort and unpleasant experiences associated with first and last-mile connectivity deter people, often influenced by exaggerated memories and external descriptions.
  • Non-Metro users are inclined towards personal vehicles due to factors such as connectivity, security, waiting times, and perceived control over route and time. Behavioral biases, specifically the “illusion of control” and hyperbolic discounting, play a role in this decision-making process.
  • Personal vehicles are often seen as status symbols, whereas the Metro lacks aspirational value.

What needs to be done?

  • To mitigate this anticipated rise in emissions, it is imperative not only to embrace electrified transportation but also to reduce reliance on private vehicles by promoting alternative modes like public transportation.
  • In recent times, there has been a renewed emphasis on developing high-quality public transportation infrastructure in India, particularly in the form of metro rail systems.
  • Overcoming social barriers is crucial in this effort. In addition to systemic challenges like inadequate infrastructure for persons with disabilities and senior citizens, several social factors hinder widespread adoption of metro systems.
  • Employing a behavioral science approach involves understanding the mental shortcuts (heuristics) individuals use to make decisions and utilizing behavioral nudges (subtle cues) to influence their behavior, thereby shaping urban mobility choices.
  • Promoting equitable access for marginalized communities goes beyond merely shifting from private vehicles. Improving the quality and service of sustainable mobility modes, like public transportation, has broader societal benefits.

Conclusion:

While current Indian policies advocate the development of public transportation, particularly in urban areas, the emphasis on social planning and the promotion of behavioral and normative shifts is lacking. Incorporating social planning in transportation strategies can enhance user demand by understanding the values, attitudes, and beliefs that influence people’s modal choices.



Context:

Two months after Israel initiated airstrikes on Gaza in response to the October 7 terror attacks by Hamas, India changed its stance and, along with 152 other nations, supported a resolution at the UN General Assembly. This marked a shift from India’s previous abstention during the last UNGA resolution on October 26, despite the death of 8,000 Gazans, which also called for a ceasefire.

Relevance:

GS2- International Relations

  • Bilateral Groupings & Agreements
  • Regional Groupings
  • Indian Diaspora
  • Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests

Mains Question:

India recently voted in favour of a resolution in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) that demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Analyse the factors that could have led to this change in India’s stance. What should be India’s future foreign policy approach while dealing with Israel? (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Background of the Israel-Palestine Conflict:

Balfour Declaration:

In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour officially expressed Britain’s support for the establishment of a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, laying the foundation for the conflict.

Creation of Palestine:

Due to escalating Arab and Jewish violence, Britain withdrew from Palestine in 1948, leaving the United Nations to address the conflicting claims. The UN proposed a partition plan for independent Jewish and Arab states, which was largely rejected by Arab nations.

Arab-Israel War (1948):

The declaration of Israel’s independence in 1948 led neighboring Arab states to launch an attack. After the war, Israel controlled significantly more territory than originally outlined in the UN partition plan.

UN Partition Plan:

The UN’s partition plan assigned control of the West Bank and Jerusalem’s holy sites to Jordan, while Egypt governed the Gaza Strip. However, it failed to resolve the Palestinian crisis, leading to the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1964.

Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO):

Established in 1964, the PLO aimed to free Palestine from Israeli dominance. The United Nations granted the PLO observer status in 1975, recognizing the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

Six-Day War:

In the 1967 war, Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt.

Camp David Accords (1978):

The U.S.-brokered “Framework for Peace in the Middle East” in 1978 set the stage for peace talks between Israel and its neighbors, aiming to resolve the Palestinian issue. However, these efforts remained unfulfilled.

Emergence of Hamas:

Founded in 1987, Hamas, a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, sought to fulfill its agenda through violent jihad. The U.S. designates Hamas as a terrorist organization.

First Intifada (1987):

Tensions in the occupied territories led to the First Intifada, a conflict between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.

Oslo Accords:

In 1993, the Oslo Accords led to official recognition between Israel and the PLO, renouncing violence. The Palestinian Authority was established, receiving limited autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Territorial Disputes of Israel with Neighboring Countries:

The West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights have been focal points of territorial disputes between Israel and its neighboring countries. Israel’s control over these areas has led to ongoing conflicts and geopolitical tensions.

More on the Recent UN Resolution:

  • The resolution called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, adherence to international humanitarian law, the unconditional release of hostages, and ensuring humanitarian access.
  • The government and the Ministry of External Affairs explained this as a matter of principle, citing India’s unwavering “zero-tolerance” stance on terrorism, especially since the earlier resolution lacked an “explicit condemnation” of the October 7 attacks.
  • However, despite the absence of direct mention of the terror attacks in the UNGA resolution passed on December 12, India voted in favor.

Rationale Behind India’s Stance:

  • The government has not yet elaborated on the rationale, but there could be multiple reasons, including a relentless rise in casualty figures, reaching 18,000 deaths with almost 90 journalists among the victims.
  • Over 80% of the entire population is now homeless. Even the United States, Israel’s primary ally, estimates that almost half of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions deployed by Israel are “unguided” or indiscriminate missiles.
  • The Israeli Defense Forces have exceeded their initial mandate, which was to eliminate Hamas capacity and free hostages. They have now engaged in extensive destruction in Gaza and the forced occupation of additional territory. Over 100 Israeli hostages are still held by Hamas.
  • Global opinion, including that of the Indian public, has shifted from sympathy for Israel to horror at the unfolding aftermath.
  • New Delhi may not have been unaffected by pleas from Palestine and the Gulf States to reconsider its vote, especially as India found itself isolated in South Asia and the Global South due to its previous abstention.

Interpreting India’s Stance:

  • It might be premature to interpret India’s UNGA vote as a complete reversal of its previous stance and a return to its initial position in the conflict, where it traditionally advocated for peace.
  • The future trajectory will hinge on the role India decides to play in ensuring the effectiveness and sustainability of the ceasefire, especially considering Israel’s rejection of the UNGA resolution.

Conclusion:

After demonstrating its support for Israel in the aftermath of the terror attacks and bearing the criticism for civilian casualties, the Indian government should take a more assertive stance in assisting the Israeli government navigate the strategic challenges it has entered through military actions. This situation has the potential to lead to regional instability and insecurity for decades, and India’s involvement is crucial in finding a resolution.


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