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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 21 December 2021

Contents

  1. For Afghan women, it’s the great regression
  2. The sustained attack on federalism

For Afghan women, it’s the great regression

Context:

The Taliban’s seizure of Kabul on August 15, 2021 has considerably altered the group’s role and the Taliban have gone out of their way to present a more moderate image of themselves to the world by vowing to respect women’s rights and freedom.

But in reality, each passing day has only brought a stream of bad news for women and girls in Afghanistan. Evidence emerging from the ground suggests that the group has been undertaking many regressive steps to reduce the spaces for women to freely express themselves.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Who are the Taliban and what is their Ideology?
  2. Rules during the 1996-2001 Taliban regime
  1. What is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan during their 2021 rule?
  2. Challenges Faced by Afghan women
  3. India’s reaction

Who are the Taliban and what is their Ideology?

  • The Taliban, or “students” in the Pashto language, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It originally drew members from so-called “mujahideen” fighters who, with support from the United States, repelled Soviet forces.
  • The promise made by the Taliban – in Pashtun areas straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan – was to restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, once in power.
  • Taliban captured power in Afghanistan in 1996. They captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, overthrowing the regime of President Burhanuddin Rabbani. By 1998, the Taliban were in control of almost 90% of Afghanistan. During its five years in power, the Taliban enforced a strict version of sharia law.

Rules during the 1996-2001 Taliban regime

  • Women were ordered to stay indoors unless accompanied by a male relative, girls were banned from school, and those found guilty of crimes such as adultery were stoned to death.
  • Men had relatively more freedom but were ordered not to shave, would be beaten if they didn’t attend prayers, and were told to only wear traditional clothing.
  • Afghanistan is deeply conservative and some rural pockets of the country adhere to similar rules even without Taliban oversight — but the insurgents have tried to impose these edicts even in more modern centres.
  • Women were predominantly barred from working or studying and were confined to their homes.
  • Public executions and floggings were common, Western films and books were banned, and cultural artifacts seen as blasphemous under Islam were destroyed. Opponents and Western countries accuse the Taliban of wanting to return to this style of governance in the areas it already controls – a claim the group denies.
  • The Taliban also banned television, music, and cinema, and disapproved of girls aged 10 and over going to school. They were accused of various human rights and cultural abuses.

What is happening to women and girls in Afghanistan during their 2021 rule?

  • The recent transfer of power from the former Afghan government to the Taliban has created a great deal of anxiety in Afghanistan.
  • Women and girls in Afghanistan continue to experience pervasive discrimination and violations of their human rights.
  • The country scores among the worst on the Gender Inequality Index, and women’s literacy rates are among the lowest in the world.
  • Violence against women and girls is rampant, and the majority of them do not attend school.

Challenges Faced by Afghan women

The diktat

  • The diktat is an example of how the Taliban, in the guise of upholding Islamic law, has begun to erode Afghan women’s rights.
  • The Taliban imposed new norms of conduct on Afghan women, limiting their movement and robbing them of their autonomy.
  • They required women to wear clothing that totally covered their hair, torso, and most of their face.
  • They also required men to accompany ladies when they left their homes.

Restrictions on jobs

  • The Taliban have set limitations on even female municipal government officials, forbidding women from returning to work; men are expected to fill the resulting gaps.
  • As a result, the new Taliban administration has exclusively male officials who are now in charge of all decisions, even those affecting women.

Restrictions on Education

  • The Taliban’s Ministry of Education issued an order for male students and teachers in Classes 6 to 12 to report to their schools, with no mention of schoolgirls.
  • According to a recent BBC report, a top Taliban leader has affirmed that girls would continue to be barred from attending secondary school.
  • Taking away girls’ access to education completely poses a serious risk of forcing them into poverty and backwardness.

Special decree

  • The Taliban released a special decree on women’s rights, including restrictions for Afghan women’s marriage and property.
  • The decree has some ambiguity with respect to the rights of “adult women” and makes no mention of the common problem of child marriage.
  • It also does not define how the Islamist organisation intends to put women rights into action.

Gender-based violence

  • According to studies, approximately 87% of Afghan women have experienced at least one type of violence, whether physical, sexual, or psychological, and nearly 62 percent have experienced numerous forms.
  • Women in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan do not have access to shelters or basic services such as medical treatment, psychological counselling, or pro bono legal representation.
  • Under the Taliban, inmates who have been convicted of crimes linked to gender-based violence are being freed from prison, putting survivors’ lives in jeopardy.

India’s reaction

  • Reflecting the urgency and concern over the developing situation in Afghanistan, India said the world is “against seizure of power by violence and force”, and “peace negotiations in earnest are the only answer” at the meeting of foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • India called for “ceasing violence and terrorist attacks against civilians and state representatives”, settlement of conflict “through political dialogue”, respect towards “interests of all ethnic groups”, and ensuring that “neighbours are not threatened by terrorism, separatism and extremism”.
  • The challenge, the External Affairs Minister said, was to “act seriously and sincerely on these beliefs”, because there are “forces at work with a very different agenda” — in an oblique reference to Pakistan.
  • India has pulled out its officials and staffers from its consulate in Kandahar in the past few days and is monitoring the situation in Mazar-e-Sharif where it has another consulate.

-Source: The Hindu


The sustained attack on federalism

Context:

In 1948, B. Pocker Sahib, a Muslim League member from Kerala in the Constituent Assembly said that “to do away with Provincial Autonomy and to concentrate all the powers in the Centre really is tantamount to totalitarianism, which certainly ought to be condemned”.

Today, amid the pandemic, some elements of this statement resonate quite strongly with the States with some of them raising complaints about the Union government’s anti-federal moves.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Constitutional Provisions, Basic structure of the Constitution, Federal Structure)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Reasons for the increased focus on threats to federalism
  2. What is fiscal federalism?
  3. Challenges to fiscal federalism in India
  4. Way Forward

Reasons for the increased focus on threats to federalism

  • The Union government has taken a number of initiatives that challenged the ideas of federalism, particularly fiscal federalism, such as:
    1. Increasing monetary share of the States in Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS),
    2. The terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission,
    3. Imposition of demonetisation without adequate consultation with the States, institutionalization of the Goods and Services Tax (GST),
    4. Outsourcing of the statutory functions under the Smart Cities Mission,
    5. Delay in the transfer of GST compensation,
    6. ‘One Nation One Ration’.
  • The establishment of the Ministry of Cooperation, as well as the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines on cooperatives, are seen by the states as attempts to strangle a sector already reeling from the devastation of demonetisation.
  • Following this, measures such as the suspension and transfer of Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) money to the Consolidated Fund of India were made.

What is fiscal federalism?

Fiscal federalism is financial relationship between centre and states, it deals with the division of governmental functions and financial relations among levels of government.

Structure of fiscal federalism in India:

  • The Seventh Schedule to the constitution of India defines and specifies allocation of powers and functions between Union & States. It contains three lists; i.e., 1) Union List, 2) State List and 3) Concurrent List.
    • Union list: The Union Government or Parliament of India has exclusive power to legislate on matters relating to these items.
    • State list: The respective state governments have exclusive power to legislate on matters relating to these items.
    • Concurrent list: This includes items which are under joint domain of the Union as well as the respective States
  • Article 268 to 293 in Part XII deal with the financial relations.

Challenges to fiscal federalism in India

Horizontal imbalances

  • The horizontal imbalances arise because of differing levels of attainment by the states due to differential growth rates and their developmental status in terms of the state of social or infrastructure capital.
  • However, Replacing the Planning Commission with NITI Aayog has reduced the policy outreach of government by relying only on single instrument of fiscal federalism i.e., Finance commission.
  • This approach if not reviewed can lead to a serious problem of increasing regional and sub regional inequalities.

Vertical Imbalances

  • Vertical imbalance arises due to the fiscal asymmetry in powers of taxation vested with the different levels of government in relation to their expenditure responsibilities prescribed by the constitution.
  • Central Government collects around 60% of the total taxes, while its expenditure responsibility (for carrying out its constitutionally mandated responsibility such as defence, etc.) is only 40% of the total public expenditure.
  • Such vertical imbalances are even sharper in the case of the third tier consisting of elected local bodies and panchayats.
  • Vertical imbalances can adversely affect India’s urbanization, the quality of local public goods and thus further aggravating the negative externalities for the environment and climate change.

Way Forward

  • In a cooperative federalist framework, it is critical to have provisions for further devolution to state governments in order to economically empower them to fulfil the aims of the New India-2022 national development programme.
  • In reality, rather than using a top-down strategy, all levels should be economically empowered to accomplish state-specific fiscal deficit objectives.
  • Central Government legislation relating to states should include additional provisions for cost-sharing to assist them in carrying out their responsibilities.
  • States should seek the establishment of a formal institutional structure to require and promote dialogue between the Union and the States in the areas of legislation covered by the Concurrent List, as suggested by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution.
  • State governments may also consider deploying human resources to assist them in formulating replies to the Union’s consultations, particularly with an emphasis on the federalism issue.
  • Chief Ministers should endeavour to establish regular venues for discussion of this topic.

-Source: The Hindu

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