News & Events
In this section, we are presenting our readers/aspirants compilation of selected editorials of national daily viz. The Hindu, The live mint,The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Economic Times, PIB etc. This section caters the requirement of Civil Services Mains (GS + Essay) , PCS, HAS Mains (GS + Essay) & others essay writing competition
1.Get to the bottom of the Pegasus snooping allegations
Fresh allegations of snooping in India using the Pegasus spyware developed by an Israeli company, which reportedly sells only to government agencies around the world, have raised quite a stink. The alleged victims include Cabinet ministers, opposition politicians, judges, journalists and businessmen. Coming at the start of the monsoon session of Parliament, government, despite refuting any involvement, will have many uncomfortable questions to answer.
The capabilities of the spyware include just about every functionality that a user performs on his or her cellphone. It can surreptitiously extract contact lists and call logs, read SMS and other text messages, turn on the camera, and more worryingly perform file management operations that can be even used to plant evidence. The existence of companies like NSO Group, which claim legitimacy by working with governments, is just as worrying as rogue hackers attacking governments.
A rising international laxity in governmental regard for democratic proprieties calls for a global audit of such companies and greater civil society activism. Domestically, India must revive discourse on judicial and legislative accountability when it comes to surveillance of its own citizens. The current bureaucratic safeguards must be reviewed. Democracy can wither from within. With more tools like Pegasus out there, it must be safeguarded even more strongly.
2.Show the way, house: Parliament session comes in the middle of a crisis. Govt, opposition must conduct themselves accordingly
With Parliament back in session, government and opposition must remember that this is a particularly testing time for ordinary citizens. Usual political preoccupations with scoring brownie points matter even less now. Unemployment and high fuel prices are real issues, much more important than MPs’ verbal jousts over superficial controversies. A constructive Parliament session will be one that discusses and debates the Covid-induced economic debacle and, hopefully, even evolve a national consensus on reforms that can propel a turnaround. Treasury benches finding ways to run away from crucial debates or opposition disruption will be particularly unedifying at this moment.
If BJP controls the Centre, many influential states are today governed by opposition parties. So, governance should be on everyone’s minds. The run-up has witnessed a flurry of political activity in both government and opposition camps. A major Cabinet reshuffle has given the government a much-needed facelift. The main opposition party, Congress, is also abuzz with speculation of major organisational changes. Recently victorious TMC and DMK will also be keenly watched. Key portfolios have new ministers, which may help blunt to an extent opposition criticism of government failures. But opposition should ask tough questions, and government should be responsible enough to answer them.
The health ministry, which couldn’t anticipate the second wave or its devastating impact, has a new helmsman. Mansukh Mandaviya is new to his job but he should address the vaccination strategy. Inoculating all adults by December and bolstering public healthcare facilities to tackle future Covid waves is key to recovery. If the Supreme Court could be informed of vaccination plans through affidavits, Parliament deserves to get all the answers too.
Nine pending bills are listed for consideration and passing, and 17 bills listed for introduction. The JPC report on the data protection bill is also keenly awaited. But the legislative agenda is not heavy-duty. That means there’s enough time to discuss everything from China to Afghanistan, state revenue shortfalls to adverse international arbitration awards, UAPA to sedition law, farm reforms to statehood for J&K.
Parliament offers a valuable sounding board to GoI. The value of this session will be gauged by its success in moving the national conversation forward. The coming 30th anniversary of reforms, which found their first expression in the 1991 budget read out in Parliament, is a powerful reminder of the House’s ability to change our lives. We are in another crisis, another Lok Sabha must show the way.
3.Leaving the past behind: On Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s neighbours must help it protect the democratic gains of the last two decades
Two events in Central Asia last week, which India attended, saw Afghanistan’s neighbours seeking solutions to the conflict there. The first was a meeting in Dushanbe, of the Contact group on Afghanistan of SCO Foreign Ministers, and the second, a Central and South Asia connectivity conference in Tashkent. The meetings also took on a special salience due to their timing. Just days after the U.S. and NATO completed their pullout from the Bagram air base, and most other key locations, it is clear that the Taliban are making advances to return to power, by force if necessary. Of particular concern are the Taliban’s attacks on border posts, particularly the border with Central Asian countries, and the Spin Boldak-Chaman border with Pakistan, which are for territorial control and to cut off crucial supply chains to the government in Kabul. At such a time for the SCO Ministers’ grouping that includes Russia and China, India and Pakistan, and four Central Asian countries to have issued a joint statement, albeit without naming the Taliban directly, that decried the violence by terrorist groups, was significant. At Tashkent, the host, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, also gave Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani the opportunity to confront Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for Pakistan’s failure to keep its promises on stopping the Taliban from crossing over and ensuring the Taliban conduct peace negotiations in earnest. Despite Mr. Khan’s protests, the message is that the region, and global players, will not support the Taliban to enforce its brutal regime in Afghanistan through violent means. For India and the Central Asian States, the worries are about the violence at the frontiers and the resultant refugee influx, extremism, and support to transnational groups such as al Qaeda, LeT, JeM, ETIM and IMU, as it happened earlier under Taliban rule.
As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, Afghanistan’s past cannot be its future, and in an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Ghani made it clear that the Afghan forces will not simply crumble this time. The emergence of the regional consensus to shun any attempt to take power by force will also give the Taliban and its backers in Pakistan reason to pause, and the high-level intra-Afghan talks in Doha over the weekend, and the Taliban’s Eid announcement that they will pursue a political solution “seriously” and to assure neighbours they will not allow Afghan territory to be “used against any other country” may be evidence that the message has been received. As the future of Afghanistan is decided in the weeks ahead, it is necessary for the neighbourhood’s voice, Central and South Asia included, to emerge more united and determined to protect the gains the nation has made over two decades.
4.Sensitive and precise: On anti-trafficking bill
Trafficking needs a wholesome approach that is cognisant of the causative factors
Undoubtedly, trafficking is a pernicious offence, one that societies and governments must have zero tolerance for, and yet, handling the offence of trafficking needs precision, not a sledgehammer. In its current form, the draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 seems to be lacking in nuance, even if well intentioned to stamp out exploitative trafficking. The Bill, which will shortly be introduced in Parliament, aims at preventing and countering trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, to provide for care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them. This is the Bill’s second iteration, the first being passed in the Lok Sabha, in 2018, but then meandered into nothingness as it was never introduced in the Upper House. Notably, the Bill has expanded the area under coverage to include offences taking place, not only within India but also outside of the country. It envisages the setting up of anti-trafficking committees at the State and national levels to implement the provisions, when passed. In the days the Bill was up in the public domain for comments, civil society activists and legal experts have criticised various provisions, and submitting that an overzealous approach would blur the nuances and an understanding of the contributing factors, including vicious poverty, debt, lack of opportunity, and development schemes missing their mark.
Vociferous opposition has arisen over the key aspect of handing over investigation in trafficking crimes to the NIA both by those who believe that it would burden the already stretched unit further, and those arguing that this move would be an attack on federalism, by removing local enforcement agencies out of the picture. Another key criticism of the Bill has been its broad definitions of victims, smacking of refusal to consider consensual sexual activity for commerce. This would only land up criminalising sex work and victimisation of the exploited. Bringing pornography into the definition of sexual exploitation would not allow even for any adult consumption of non-exploitative, consensual material. Reporting of offences has been made mandatory with penalties for non-reporting, but those with an understanding of the tortuous processes, point to the fact that victims often do not want a complaint to be recorded. The mention of the death penalty for various forms of aggravated trafficking offences needs to be flagged too. The Government would do well to scan and incorporate the responses to its Bill in order to ensure that the fence does eat the crop. While sexual exploitation and trafficking can be ghastly crimes invoking public horror, for the state to not employ a wholesome approach, cognisant of the causative factors, one that would be sensitive and precise, would be equally horrific.
5. The Kabul dilemma
The good guys are losing. The bad guys are winning. And India stares at a crisis. Between the right side and winning side, India will have to strike a balance to protect its core national interests and citizens.
The civil war in Afghanistan came home on Friday, with the formidable Indian photojournalist, Danish Siddiqui of Reuters, who was embedded with Afghan security forces, killed by the Taliban in Kandahar. Siddiqui’s tragic death has led to an outpouring of grief globally, but it is the latest symbol of the tragedy that is unfolding in Afghanistan. The Taliban remains a monstrous force, committed to a medieval form of an Islamic Emirate, but it is winning. The Afghan government remains determined to preserve the Republic, with its democratic values, but is struggling to hold on to power. The international community (read the United States and its western allies) is still holding on to the fiction of a peace process and political settlement, but can’t wait to flee after having ravaged the country for 20 years and left it without any sustainable and resilient institutions to defend democracy. And India is stuck, caught between its values and principles it holds dear and immediate strategic interests and imperatives.
Distilled to the core, at the cost of being simplistic, here is a 20-year history of Afghanistan. Wounded by the 9/11 terror attacks, the United States (US) decided it was time to invade Afghanistan to kill Osama bin Laden, dismantle al Qaeda and oust the Taliban, which had provided State support and sanctuary to the terror outfit. The last objective was met fairly quickly, and a new interim authority led by Hamid Karzai took office. But it took the US 10 years to find and kill bin Laden; al Qaeda changed its form and its ideology and leaders also found a home in other terror outfits; and the Taliban went to Pakistan and waited.
Islamabad and Rawalpindi, compelled to take part in the US-led “war on terror”, figured that eventually the Americans would go back home. Uncomfortable with a democratic regime in Kabul which wanted to reorient Afghanistan’s domestic and external trajectory and have balanced ties with other South Asian countries, particularly India, Pakistan harboured, supported, funded, and armed the Taliban and other proxies — even as it pretended to be with the US in cracking down on terrorism. Washington, first distracted by the flawed invasion of Iraq and then war fatigue back home, vacillated between the objectives of merely defeating terror and nation-building. It achieved neither successfully. And as the politics of nationalism intensified in the US, Washington began looking for an exit. Pakistan then pretended to be the good guy facilitating peace, and a staggering degree of spin about how there is a good Taliban and bad Taliban began doing the rounds. The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in a desperate bid to emerge as peace-maker irrespective of the terms of the peace, appeased the Taliban, even as the Afghan government got weaker every day.