1.A great divide (The Hindu)

2.An overhaul at seventy (The Hindu)

3.Preventing sexual harassment at workplace (Live Mint)

 

1.A great divide (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue how the protests for reservation to women in elections in Nagaland have highlighted the issue of women and representation. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India is ranked 131 of 189 countries listed in the United Nations Development Programme’s latest Human Development Report 2016. Categorised as having achieved ‘medium human development’, however India’s HDI value has increased 46 per cent between 1990 and 2015.
  • The robust health of India’s democracy is reflected in the increasingly large turnouts of women voters in progressive elections at both the national and state levels in the country. Gender inequality leading to deprivation of power among women continues to be a political reality in India today. It is believed that though increasing the number of women in national government may not guarantee an impact on governance but a critical mass of women in power can bring about transformation in leadership.
  • The incidents of protests and violence by tribal bodies in Nagaland earlier this year over 33% reservations for women in urban local bodies have once again highlighted the issue of women and representation.

Nagaland’s protest

  • Nagaland has been under strife since the announcement of civic bodies’ poll in December 2016, followed by extensive protests by traditional tribal bodies against the government. The tribal bodies including the Naga Hoho the apex body or all 18 tribes of the hill state have contended that granting 33 per cent reservation for women would infringe on Naga customary laws and tradition as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India.
  • Article 371(A) inserted in the Constitution when Nagaland state was created in 1963, provides “special provision” saying “Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, (a) no Act of Parliament in respect of (i) religious or social practices of the Nagas, (ii) Naga customary law and procedure, (iii) administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law, (iv) ownership and transfer of land and its resources, shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.”
  • The state government has reiterated that 33 per cent reservation for women did not amount to infringing upon Naga customary law and tradition, because the very concept of urban bodies was new. “Towns and municipalities are ne concepts and have nothing to do with tradition and customary practices of the Nagas,” the state cabinet which met has said. The “process of election to the ULBs as notified should be completed.”
  • The Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), which has been spearheading the movement for granting reservation to women, mentioned that 33% reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies elections aims to translate to full fruition the very idea of gender equity under the Naga Customary Law. The Constitution of India does not infringe upon the social practices of the Nagas.

Haryana Election Commission’s data

  • To remedy the low participation of women electors, India in 1994 established reservations vide the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in local governments for women.
  • The Haryana State amended the State Panchayati Raj Act, including criteria such as educational qualifications and standards for candidates to meet while seeking election to panchayat bodies. Academically, men from the general category had to be matriculates, women and Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates had to have passed out of middle school, while SC women should have passed standard five.
  • This raised criticism as it disqualified 68% of SC women and 41% of SC men. But quite interestingly, women’s representation increased to an average of 42% across all levels in comparison to 36% in the fourth panchayat election held in 2010.
  • State Election Commission (Haryana) data shows that Scheduled Caste (SC) women panches were 32.81% in comparison to women from the Backward Classes (BC) category who constituted 27.49% of elected women panches.
  • In fact SC women have higher representation than BC women at all levels of local governance except for the office of the sarpanch wherein the difference is 2.41% in favour of BC women when calculated as a percentage of the total number of elected women sarpanches.
  • Also, 9.24% of the total seats in panchayat elections were reserved for BCs (both men and women), while 10.87% were for SC women. Therefore, reservation for SC women did bolster their numbers, enabling them to overtake BC women representatives.
  • The representation of SC women exceeds that of SC men among the panches at the village level and among members of the zilla parishad. This is again heartening given that reservation for SC women as a total of SC reservations for panchayat member’s at all three levels was 48%, while for SC men it was 52%.

Comparison between Haryana and Nagaland

  • The Legislative Assembly, Haryana has the interesting distinction of electing the highest percentage of women representatives among all States, namely 14.44% or 13 out of the 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). There is no woman MLA in Nagaland, yet in terms of sex ratio and female literacy, Nagaland scores over Haryana.
  • According to the 2011 census, female literacy in Nagaland was 76.69% as against 66.77% in Haryana. The sex ratio in Nagaland was 931 women per 1,000 men as against 879 women per 1,000 men in Haryana, which is the second lowest in the country.
  • Clearly, there is disconnection between the low social status of women in Haryana and the comparatively higher political presence that they enjoy in representative bodies. While in the case of Nagaland, wherein women have formal agency in terms of literacy and numbers but lack a democratic voice as political representatives and decision makers.

Way ahead

  • Women’s political empowerment and equal access to leadership positions at all levels are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a more equal world.
  • Policies and programmes aimed at improving gender equality in local governance should not only aim at increasing women’s representation in terms of numbers, but they should also build women’s political leadership capacities, train women and build a network of social and political relationships in order to be effective.

Question– What are the contradictions between the provisions made by Constitution regarding reservation of women in local bodies and protection given to Nagas with regard to managing their own affairs?

 

2.An overhaul at seventy (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue that India still need to do much more to fulfill the aspirations of India’s constitution. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India is celebrating its 70th anniversary of independence, an event that shot through with both national pride and memories of the trauma of the partition that created it. Indian independence was a historic moment for the world. The largest and most important colony of the British Empire was freed. The route to freedom for India was unique in its capacity that it drew on the Gandhian theory of non-violence, something that went on to inspire several leaders across the globe.
  • India has made great strides in GDP growth, life expectancy, infant mortality, and literacy over the decades yet still lags far behind Brazil, China, Malaysia and South Korea.
  • Though India has achieved the miracle and remained a vibrant democracy. However Democracies face the greater difficulty that their very essence, the concepts, ideas and practices that engendered and developed democracy, are shaken and endangered. A handful of people at the top, elected or professional, are keeping our country going somehow, but the machinery for attending to our affairs is simply inadequate.

New battles

  • The domestic problems Indian leaders need to overcome will make it an even more complex country to negotiate with and partner with than smaller nations which have already reached higher income levels.
  • The everlasting eternal India’s culture behave very differently now than at Independence. Gandhiji called off his civil disobedience movement because of violence erupted. But still we used to live far more on the basis of Reason: rigorous, methodical, sedulous argumentation used to shape our thought, without our being dogmatic about it, ours is perhaps the only country with a religion believing there are other ways to God. Such a cast of mind leads to a live-and-let-live acceptance of diversity essential to our unique nationhood.  But two current manifestations hardly fit our traditions that are violence and intolerance.
  • Knowledge is the medium to change beliefs and practices; it enables people, societies, nations to improve their conditions and circumstances. Leaving aside the endless debate on modernity-versus-tradition, modernity means simply readiness to benefit from additions and corrections to existing knowledge rather than suffer from the outdated.
  • Till the 1980s, China and India hardly differed in various economic parameters or the pace of progress. But India suffered foreign humiliation far more extensively, and directly, but the determination ‘Never again’ galvanised China into modernity. China adamantly aims to outdo others in all fields. We Indians blame the distractions of democracy but there is a deeper fault, there is no thinking-out of vital priorities, no acceptance of modern ways.
  • According to French Premier Pierre Mendes-France observed “To govern is to choose.” Building up state power to establish and sustain our position in a troubled and troublesome world should long have been our topmost priority. How do you govern a country if it not chooses overall development as its leading objective?
  • Our defence situation need more attention, whether in organising appropriate weapons supply, developing our internal infrastructure or in ensuring effective management, our defence situation suffers from cumulative amateurishness and neglect.
  • India’s economy, now the world’s third largest in purchasing power parity terms, has given it greater global heft, and is powering the expansion and modernization of the country’s military capabilities.

Way ahead

  • In its 70 years of independence, India indubitably has several achievements to its credit. It has built a modern economy, remained a democracy, and lifted millions out of poverty. But in its essential duty of uniting its citizens, the state is not only failing but even appears at times to deliberately turn one section of Indian society against another.
  • Over the past decade India has become a much larger factor in foreign and international economic policy around the world. But still there is much to do to fulfill the aspirations of India’s constitution and the promise of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity that it resolves to secure for all its citizens.

Question– Constitution of India is a living document as it evolves and develops according to the need of time and space. Comment.

 

3.Preventing sexual harassment at workplace (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the aspects of preventions of sexual harassment at workplace. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Despite advances, including legislation, over the past few decades, many companies still don’t do enough to contain workplace sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment at workplace

  • In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, a saathin(social worker) in Rajasthan, was gang-raped for stopping the marriage of an infant girl child. Her prolonged legal battle saw activists and lawyers coming together to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court.
  • This PIL brought to light the vulnerabilities that Indian women were exposed to in the workplace. In 1997 came the Supreme Court’s landmark judgement, which came to be known as the Vishakha Guidelines. These guidelines have now been superseded by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, making them mandatory for companies with more than 10 employees.
  • In addition, Bhanwari Devi’s case led to a clearer definition of sexual harassment; earlier, it was left to the subjective understanding of the authority assessing the incident.

Ground realities

  • Sadly, a 2015 study suggested that 36% of Indian companies and 25% of MNCs in India were not compliant with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. 
  • Delayed compliance with this law is due to a lack of awareness, coupled with misconceptions about implementation. There are three common myths surrounding the law.
  1. The first is that the law will change the dynamics of an informal company culture. Organizations are increasingly subscribing to informal work cultures. Work is now seen as an extension of the home, with one encouraged to bring their “whole self to the workplace”. This description of an open culture is not in conflict with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act. Implementing this law offers a tangible strategy to ensure safety and respect as defined by an open culture. Thus, the approach for communicating the policy or conducting awareness training must include a holistic focus on culture, a respect for consent and an empathetic conversation on different cultural beliefs of what is acceptable and what isn’t. It should have an emphasis on bringing the best version of one’s whole self to the workplace.
  1. The second myth involves worrying about false complaints. If that is the very first thought that comes to mind when reading this Act, it indicates how little the organization knows about the enormity of the issue. Making a complaint demands immense courage from the complainant. A survey by the Indian National Bar Association (Inba) of 6,047 participants suggested that 38% had faced harassment at the workplace and 69% of them did not complain about it. These unreported incidents can be attributed to a lack of faith in the organization or ability of the internal committee, fear of retaliation, self-doubt, and the stigma of seeming like you cannot take care of yourself.
  1. The third myth is that awareness workshops will increase the number of complaints. But isn’t this level of comfort the basis of an open culture? Given the hurdles in making a complaint, if an employee does report to the internal committee, it is a sign that employees have faith in the organization. Inclusive organizations are concerned not about the additional paperwork involved in an inquiry but about the best way to help employees understand the company’s commitment to safety. This commitment communicates two messages to employees. One, that any careless action has consequences and two, the company is invested in the employee’s safety and well-being.

Way ahead

  • A key aspect of prevention is the development and promotion of a written policy which makes it clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Some employers incorporate information on sexual harassment into a general workplace harassment policy which covers other forms of unlawful harassment (such as harassment on the grounds of race, disability, sexual preference or age).

Question–  Sexual harassment at workplace is a huge problem as it inhibits the participation of women in workforce in India. What solutions can can be adopted in this regard?