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1.The gaps in the Mental Healthcare Act (Live Mint)

2.Where does monsoon get over 200 lakh crore buckets of water from? (Down to Earth)

3.Rethinking the paternal leave (General)

1.The gaps in the Mental Healthcare Act (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on how the Mental Healthcare Act suffers from several gaps that the original Bill had covered. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The need for legislation which secures the rights of people with mental illness is a necessity for a nation like India. The neglect of mental health is evident from a World Health Organization report which estimated that 50 million Indianssuffered from depression.

Mental heath care Act 2017

  • The enactment of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 by the current government is an attempt to protect the rights of the mentally ill and enable citizens to decide on the method of treatment in case of mental illness, lest they are mistreated or neglected.
  • India ratified the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities in October 2007. The United Progressive Alliance government (UPA-II) initially introduced the Mental Health Care Bill in August 2013 to replace the Mental Health Act, 1987 to bring the law in consonance with the obligations of the UN convention. The Bill lapsed due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
  • The 16th Lok Sabha led by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) reintroduced the Bill in August 2016 with 134 amendments. The modifications led to a complete overhaul of the intent, structure and provisions of the original Bill, and the spirit of the UN convention was missing. The overhaul of UPA-II’s Bill creates serious doubts about whether the objectives would be met.
  • During the discussion on the reintroduced Bill in March 2017 in the Lok Sabha, I proposed four crucial amendments relating to changes in definitions, and to ensure clarity and strengthen the provisions of the Bill. The reintroduced Bill was passed by both Houses; it has received Presidential assent and is in force as the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
  • The draft rules and regulations to be framed under the Mental Healthcare Act were prepared and put out for public scrutiny. The requirement of garnering comments from stakeholders and experts on the proposed rules is mandated by law but it is not binding upon the ministry to adopt and implement them.

The shortcomings

  • Various mental health experts and non-governmental organizations initiated public debates and raised the lacunae in the draft rules and regulations with the ministry of health and family welfare.
  • First, the Act recognizes mental illness as a clinical issue which can only be treated by medicines and clinical procedures. The important issue of prevention and promotion of mental well-being has been neglected. Research shows that in cases of mental illness, medical interventions occur at an advanced stage. Illness is also a result of one’s social setting and preliminary treatment can be provided by qualified psychotherapists, counsellors and psychoanalysts.
  • This concern was flagged in the Lok Sabha and the House urged the minister to expand the definition of a ‘mental health professional’ to include psychotherapists, counsellors and psychoanalysts.
  • The current definition of ‘mental health professional’ is restricted to clinical psychiatrists and professionals holding a postgraduate degree in Ayurveda, homoeopathy, Siddha and Unani all on the clinical side. Although including specialists from non-allopathic fields of medicine is laudable, it is unclear why psychotherapists and psychoanalysts were excluded. The minister in charge said on the floor of the House that the expansion of the definition would be taken up, but the draft rules and regulations failed to address this.
  • Second, the Act proposes an ‘advance medical directive’ through which individuals can dictate how they “wish to be” and “wish not to be treated” and can nominate a member who can make decisions on their behalf should they lose their mental capacity. But it is unable to provide a clear procedure for preparing it. The original Bill of 2013 outlined how and when a person could create an advance directive, including ascertaining mental insolvency through a standardized process before the application of the directive, and subject to approval by a competent authority.
  • These clauses have been deleted from the Act and do not find mention in the rules. The Act fails to provide for the full list of treatment options available, so that a decision can be taken by the individual without information asymmetry.
  • Third, the Act provides for the constitution of an expert committee for periodic review and effective implementation of the Act. Neither the Act nor the rules define the constitution, procedure and terms of reference of the committee. Such an important body should be more transparent and subject to public scrutiny.

Way ahead

  • The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 is an important legislation that is indicative of a progressive nation. The ministry must listen to stakeholders who have submitted responses on the draft rules and regulations before finalization. The legislation will be effective only if the gaps pointed out by the stakeholders are discussed and solved. Tardy implementation will cause more harm than good.

Question What type of interventions are needed at the part of government to rectify the shortcomings in the mental healthcare regime?

2.Where does monsoon get over 200 lakh crore buckets of water from? (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the hidden mechanisms of the monsoon. (GS paper I)

Overview

  • It rains about 900 mm during a normal monsoon year over India and if we assume that about 80 per cent of India is covered by this rain, then the estimated volume of water is well over 200 lakh crore buckets. It comes to 2 lakh buckets per person.

Where does all this water come from?

  • Scientists have explored has explored moisture sources of the summer monsoon. It is generally assumed that most of the water comes from the Indian Ocean. But surprisingly, a significant amount of rain over the Ganga basin and northeast India is derived from evaporation of water that’s already on land.
  • So recycled rain occurs over the Ganga basin and the Ganga basin also supplies moisture to the northeast region that accounts for nearly 25 per cent of its rain. They have prepared a map (see below) that shows the warm Indian Ocean temperatures in colors and thin contours and blue thick contours that delineate major moisture sources for the monsoon. The main moisture sources are – the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), Central Indian Ocean (CIO), Upper Indian Ocean (UIO), and the Ganga basin.

  • When sea surface temperatures are warmer than 28 degree centigrade, atmospheric convection is fired up over the ocean. But the warm temperatures are also conducive for evaporation that pumps moisture to the monsoon system. The ocean temperatures are warming further due to global warming and impacting the evaporation, atmospheric convection and the rain-band called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or the ITCZ over the Indian Ocean. This zone also generates moisture-laden low-pressure systems called Monsoon Intra-seasonal Oscillations that propagate towards the Indian subcontinent at timescales of 30-60 days.
  • Additional moisture is carried by strong winds that sweep in from the southwest across the Arabian Sea as a strong low-level jet, called the Findlater jet.We know that the monsoon has a majestic onset with the June month accounting for about 20 pe cent of the total rain while the main seasonal rain occurs over July-August. The monsoon withdrawal typically occurs at the end of September.
  • The monsoon tends to occur in the so-called active and break spells which can be in the range of 10-20 days or 30-60 days. While the researchers and forecasters have focused on the dynamics of the active/break spells, shifts in onset and withdrawal and the variability and trends in the monsoon and its extremes, not much attention has been paid to the role of moisture sources in these processes. Pathak’s work provides a set of baseline that can be used to diagnose the models in greater detail with a focus on moisture source rendition.
  • Most of the moisture during the initial phase of the monsoon is supplied from the WIO and CIO and this creates a north-south see-saw in rain between the ocean and land. As the season progresses into July-August, the Ganga basin begins to be a significant source and generates an east-west see-saw in rainfall between the Ganga basin and northeast India. Monsoon withdrawal is, in fact, delayed by the moisture recycling over the Ganga basin.
  • The oceanic sources are dominant in the 30-60 day active/break cycles which tend to propagate north-westward from the Indian Ocean into the subcontinent. These sources are weaker during El Niño years. The Ganga basin is dominant in the 10-20 day lifecycle of active/break events and is a critical moisture source for the monsoon during dry monsoon years.
  • The vicissitudes of the monsoon include a later onset and withdrawal in the recent decades resulting in a shorter rainy season while the mean monsoon has been decreasing at the same time. But the warming of the Arabian Sea is enabling a threefold increase in widespread floods. The more we understand the variability of these moisture sources at daily to decadal timescales, the better we will be able to model and predict the monsoon in addition to producing more reliable future projections.

Question: What does the recently conducted studies conclude about the origins of the monsoon?

3.Rethinking the paternal leave (General) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on why there is a ned of recognising paternity leave along with maternity leave. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha that makes India third on the list of countries with most maternity leave, after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks respectively.
  • However, the issue of paternity leave is not much discussed and thus it leaves a wide gap open.

Brief highlights of Bill

  • Bill provides that women working in the organized sector will now be entitled to paid maternity leave of 26 weeks, up from 12 weeks.
  • The Bill also provides for maternity leave of 12 weeks to mothers adopting a child below the age of three months as well as to commissioning mothers (defined as a biological mother) who uses her egg to have a surrogate child. In such cases, 12-week period of maternity leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or commissioning mother.
  • The bill made mandatory for every establishment with (more than 50 employees) to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed four visits to the creche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
  • The new law will apply to all establishments employing 10 or more people and the entitlement will be for only up to first two children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.
  • The Bill has a provision under which an employer can permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits her to do so. This option can be availed of, after the period of maternity leave, for a duration that is mutually decided by the employer and the woman.

Why paternal leave?

  • Parental leave is an evolving concept where child-rearing is seen as a shared responsibility. This ties in with the growing awareness of gender equality. The intent here is to ensure that women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all areas of life.
  • While the amendment rightly recognizes some contemporary social developments and introduces provisions around surrogacy and adoption leave, it fails to address childcare leave for fathers, thus reinforcing the belief that child-rearing is solely a woman’s responsibility.

How paternity leave will will ensure gender equality

  • One of the compelling reasons for introducing parental leave is linked directly to a major criticism of longer maternity leave: that it can have a negative impact on hiring practices.
  • With the increase in maternity leave to almost six months (paid by the employer), there is bound to be an increase in questions around the woman’s marital status and her plans to start a family.
  • Many companies will prefer to hire a male candidate instead. But if we have a system where men are equally likely to take childcare leave, we place men and women on an equal pedestal and eliminate this bias.

International models for paternity leave

  • Sweden currently offers almost 70 weeks of parental leave. Of this, each parent gets a non-transferable share (of approximately 12 weeks each) and the rest can be shared between them as per their convenience.
  • UK has a similar policy, under which women get the option of utilizing a part of their maternity leave as shared parental leave.
  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have supported such policies as providing the right amount of incentive and flexibility for parents.
  • They encourage men to take leave, helping break gender norms about the role of men and women in child-rearing. They also help spread the career break between the parents, thereby ensuring that the career aspirations of neither parent are compromised.

Challenges for paternity leave in India

  1. Economic feasibility of the model is a question. In countries with expansive childcare benefits, the government often shoulders the financial responsibility. However, in India, a completely government-funded initiative may not be possible at present.
  1. India may not be ready to embrace leave for fathers and that most men would treat it as a holiday.
  1. There are deep-rooted prejudices that are still prevalent in society. The idea of childcare is invariably linked with mothers and idea may not be acceptable

Way ahead

  • The question of economic feasibility can be solved as there is scope to create a model along the lines of the provident fund or the employees’ state insurance fund where the employer can make contributions on behalf of every employee, man or woman, and the funds so collected can be used to pay the employees availing childcare leave.
  • Law may play an active role for creating the right atmosphere for bringing about a positive change in the cultural mind-set of society.

Question: Paternity leave can fulfil the goal of SDG(s) related to gender equality. Comment.