Mitras Analysis of News : 9-05-2017

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1.Gender divide in India’s labour force (Live Mint)

2.Need of an anti-torture law (The Hindu)

3.Towards a unique digital South Asian identity (The Hindu)

4.Caring for prisoners (The Hindu)

 

1.Gender divide in India’s labour force (Live Mint)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the low labour force participation rate among women and how it can hamper the achievement of demographic dividend for India. (GS paper I and II)

Overview

  • In recent decades, India has enjoyed economic and demographic conditions that ordinarily would lead to rising female labour-force participation rates. However, this has not been the case for India.
  • In other regions, including Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa, similar trends have led to large increases in female participation. Yet National Sample Survey (NSS) data for India show that labour force participation rates of women aged 25-54 (including primary and subsidiary status) have stagnated at about 26-28% in urban areas, and fallen substantially from 57% to 44% in rural areas, between 1987 and 2011.
  • It is a disturbing trend given the Indian ambitions for higher and higher growth trajectory.

Current scenario of Labour force participation rate (LFPR) for women

  • Five years after India’s official statistics recorded a sharp decline in the share of women in India’s labour force, a new large-scale survey conducted in 2016 shows that the proportion of working women in the country has barely improved.
  • The proportion of women in the urban labour force is 24%, while that in the rural labour force is a bit higher at 29%, according to the Household Survey on India’s Citizen Environment & Consumer Economy (ICE 360° survey)
  • These findings broadly corroborate the findings of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2015-16, which shows that the proportion of working women who were paid for their work fell 4 percentage points over the past decade to 24.6%.
  • This is an important issue for India’s economic development as India is now in the phase of “demographic dividend”, where the share of working-age people is particularly high, which can propel per capita growth rates through labour force participation, savings, and investment effects. But if women largely stay out of the labour force, this effect will be much weaker and India could run up labour shortages in key sectors of the economy.

Comparison with the peers

  • The economic boom unleashed by liberalisation has bypassed many of India’s women. Even worse: with rapid growth, it appears that women have been dropping out of the workforce in large numbers rather than joining up.
  • Unlike its Asian peers, which saw a sharp increase in the proportion of women workers as their growth rates picked up, the Indian economy has seen the share of women in the labour force decline precisely when it has been growing the fastest.
  • India’s female labour force participation rate at 27% is among the lowest in the world, and far lower than Asian peers such as China (63.9%) or Nepal (79.9%), World Bank data shows. Only in Pakistan (24.6%) and the Arab World (23.3%), the proportion of women in the labour force is lower.

Reasons for low LFPR

  • Studies suggest the demographic transition has been a big part of the growth miracle in the east-Asian economies and has been important for India since the advent of liberalisation in 1991. However, for India to continue to reap the benefits of an ongoing demographic transition, it’s vital that women fin gainful employment.
  1. Research suggests it’s driven by both the demand and supply side of the labour market. On the supply side, economists have long noted a U-shaped relationship between years of education and FLFP. At very low levels of education and income, women have no choice but to work to help support the family. But as men in the family start earning more income, women tend to cut back their work in the formal economy to concentrate more on household activities.
  1. In some communities, notably upper caste Hindus and Muslims, there may be a stigma attached to women working outside the home – especially if it involves work considered ‘menial’ – which increases family and societal pressures to drop out if the men in the household are earning enough to foot the bills.
  1. Apart from the poorest and richest households, most women in India tend to forsake job opportunities in favour of their domestic duties. In a patriarchal society such as ours, a woman attending only to domestic duties is often deemed to be a marker of higher familial status across large swathes of India.

Way ahead

  • The role of rising female education needs further investigation, as it is not associated with a commensurate rise in labour market attachment.
  • When comparing India with Bangladesh, one notices how an export-oriented, manufacturing-centred growth strategy has led to increasing female employment opportunities there.
  • China, of course, also pursued such a strategy much earlier with similar impact on female employment. India’s growth strategy has focused on domestic demand and high-value service exports, which generate too few employment opportunities for women, particularly those with medium levels of education. Hence, policies will be needed to tackle the social stigma that appears to prevent particularly educated women from engaging in outside employment.
  • Moreover, public debates of this issue and its impact on women are clearly necessary.

Question: What reforms should be initiated to enhance the participation of women in India’s labour sector (both white-collar and blue-collar)?

 

2.Need of an anti-torture law (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on the need of a legislation in sync with international commitments to provide safeguards against torture. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • It is common knowledge that in India torture is professionally sanctioned and practised as a potent means of criminal investigation.
  • There are honourable exceptions of course but in an alarming number of cases, the police and also paramilitary and military forces resort to this barbaric practice as a tool for extracting information from those in custody, circumventing the criminal justice system and undermining the rule of law. Therefore, a comprehensive anti-torture law is required in India to bring India in sync with International Human right abiding.

Background

  • India signed the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) in 1997 but is yet to ratify it.
  • The unfounded rationalisation is that existing laws are sufficient to prevent this gross human rights violation.

Present framework of anti-torture law in India

  • Our existing laws deal with torture as if it were a regular offence. Provisions in the Indian Penal Code such as Section 330 (grievous hurt) may apply to torture cases but are limited in two ways.
  • First, they apply only in situations where specific kinds of physical injuries are inflicted and fail to cover the gamut of ways in which torture is committed.
  • Secondly, for the purposes of such sections, it is of no relevance whether the perpetrator of the offence is a public servant or not.
  • Hence, a specific and separate law is necessary in the face of the widespread use of torture and the alarming number of custodial deaths caused by it

Renewed need of an anti-torture law and ratifying the convention

  • In recent times there is a fresh note of urgency attached to the need for early ratification, as the country has pending requests for the extradition of its nationals from other countries.
  • India will be better served if it is seen as adhering to international treaties, especially its obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which it signed in 1997.
  • Supreme court pointed out that the absence of a stand-alone law prohibiting torture may prevent many countries from agreeing to India’s extradition request. Such a law may be in the national. Interest.
  • The court also noted that India was subjected to close questioning during the Universal Periodic Review of its human rights obligations at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • A concrete step towards enacting a law was made when the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010, Thereafter the Bill lapsed.

Way ahead

  • According to the National Human Rights Commission, (till 2010) 2,318 cases of death in police custody and 716 fake encounters have been registered with it since 1993. Hence, given the pervasive nature of custodial violence and its complex policing requirements, the present legislative and administrative framework is obviously inadequate to prevent torture in a country of India’s size.
  • It is imperative that a strong law that criminalises torture, imposes stringent punishment for it and contains liberal provisions for those suffering torture to complain against their perpetrators, prosecute them and be compensated and rehabilitated, is passed at the earliest.

Question What are the implications for not abiding with international covenants with regard to framing an anti torture law?

 

3.Towards a unique digital South Asian identity (The Hindu)

 Synoptic line: It throws light on how Aadhaar could be become a central pillar of India’s ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system. Aadhaar could be Indian foreign policy’s biggest asset to promote economic and political convergence in the region.
  • With UIDAI, that offers a relatively low-cost solution, backed by the credibility of India’s information technology systems.  Many developing countries may find this more affordable than a similar biometrics-based enrolment programme executed by a Western company.
  • It can set a single region-wide platform to authenticate residents of South Asia; it could integrate its markets, bring communities closer and allow governments to offer a wider range of governance services.

Aadhaar

  • Aadhaar is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data by UIDAI.
  • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (“Aadhaar Act 2016”) by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).
  • UIDAI was created with the objective to issue Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”, to all residents of India that is robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and can be verified and authenticated in an easy, cost-effective way.
  • However, Aadhaar is not a proof of citizenship and does not grant any rights to domicile in India.
  • The UID project’s open architecture lends itself to innovative applications. Besides MGNREGA payments, Aadhaar can be linked to distribution of cooking gas and food grain, cash transfers, and identity proof for SIM cards. It has the potential to spur enterprise and consumer applications.

Exporting Aadhaar architecture

  • South Asian economies are in varying stages of conceiving or implementing their own “national identity” schemes, they are struggling to capture dynamic trends in their population. Current databases shine no light on urban mobility, data consumption patterns, or quality of life, because these are metrics that need integrated data sets and powerful analytical tools. To capture “multi-dimensional” data, India’s neighbours have moved towards digital identity schemes.
  • Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has seen limited success at last count, it had issued only 3.8 lakh ID cards to Pakistanis, in comparison to Aadhaar’s one billion-plus enrolments. However, in 2013, after the domestic success of NADRA, one of Pakistan’s most impressive post-9/11 initiatives, the Pakistani agency has gone about securing international clients, including in Bangladesh and in Sri Lanka, but that project appears to have stalled.
  • With Sri Lankan Constitution for the devolution of powers or federalist reforms in Nepal, digital identity schemes are need of an hour to implement and strengthen local governments and support the financial inclusion of marginalized sections.
  • South Asian governments have not been able to create digital ID-enabled applications; however, India’s Aadhaar has mastered that, making it a very valuable foreign policy export. India’s rapid Aadhaar enrolment has evoked much interest, not just in developing countries but even in first-world nations that are struggling with similar national database issues.
  • India’s ability to do it relatively cheaply has attracted attention. In the Gulf Corporation Council member-countries for instance, UIDAI could separately, enrol Indian citizens working there as well as expatriate workers from other countries for their national governments or for the host government.

Benefits and problems

  • India Stack APIs (application programming interface), which include the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) and Aadhaar e-KYC, allow applications to be built atop (for example, the Bharat Interface for Money or BHIM app) and enable identity-driven transactions. Such platforms are invaluable to an economy working to integrate its communities.
  • Over the next decade Chinese companies will likely to provide the digital networks for much of South Asia need. Aadhaar like platforms catalyze innovations by tailoring Big Data for governments and businesses alike. The political and economic leverage India will accrue as a result of enabling such entrepreneurship will surpass fixed investments by China.
  • India’s best response to China for pumping its infrastructure will be that App developers, handheld manufacturers, and even Internet Service Providers will work around Aadhaar’s encryption standards and data protection guidelines.
  • However, concerns of surveillance and privacy that animate the Aadhaar debate in India would no doubt be reflected in South Asian societies. Despite the best efforts of the UIDAI, residents still face grievances from time to time regarding both the enrolment process and with regards to the receipt of their Aadhaar Cards.

Way ahead

  • The lack of transparency, functionality and structuring in the government’s administration suggests how fragile and vulnerable our identities have become. We need to educate people on the risks involved and highlight examples of ID thefts and fraud.
  • With robust system and proper execution Aadhaar could become a central pillar of India’s “neighbourhood first” policy, culminating in the creation of a unique digital South Asian identity.
  • South Asian countries that have not digitised their public databases fully can create secure ones to link to unique ID programmes. A national ID programme would also be a trigger for them to enact strong data protection laws.

Question Examine the role of Aadhar with respect to India’s neighbourhood policy.

4.Caring for prisoners (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the Nelson Mandela rules and need to safeguard the mental health of prisoners. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Country prisons are often neglected with respect to physical and mental health care of the inmates and institution as a whole.
  • There is social apathy in the entire prison hierarchy, such as in the social order of public servants, prison officials command less recognition than their peers, prison inmates are neglected of basic health care and it has far reaching concerns.

Nelson Mandela rules

  • The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2015 after a five-year revision process. They are known as the Nelson Mandela Rules in honour of the former South African President Nelson Mandela.
  • The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were adopted in 1955. Over time, the rules became out of date, and did not reflect the current best practices.
  • One of the main thrust areas in the Nelson Mandela rules is the prisoners’ healthcare. The new rules say that the principles and ethics of people delivering healthcare in prisons should be the same as that of professionals in hospitals or in the community. Every prisoner will undergo a health screening to assess his/her needs on arrival at a prison, the needs of treatment will be recorded, and the prison administration has the obligation of providing treatment.
  • One aspect that the rules draw attention to is searches. “Prisoners, their visitors, and children are searched. Previously, there were no guidelines about how and who should carry out searches. Now, the rule says that searches should be conducted privately and a member of the same gender should carry out searches.

Mental illness in jails

  • National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics in 2015 identified a total of 5,203 inmates (1.2% of total inmates) as those having mental illness.
  • The recently passed Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, is a welcome sign because it has provisions that aims to protect rights of such individuals. However, inmates with mental health-care needs are more vulnerable than others. Adapting to the prison environment is challenging.
  • Prisons are not designed for therapeutic care and cannot become a default facility for those with mental illness. The stigma and discrimination they experience is excruciating, to say the least.

Way ahead

  • When the state deprives inmates of their liberty, it takes on a sovereign duty to provide for their health care without any discrimination based on their legal status. It is time to entrench health policy of inmates as an integrated component of the national health policy and ensure that they receive the support, care and treatment.
  • First, prison officers should improve their self-esteem. As they do not interact with the outside world, and live amidst the high walls of the prison, gradually, their self esteem comes down.
  • Moreover, to address the issue, most important step is early and proactive detection. Police being the first responders, periodic training on mental health is imperative. Equally significant is to train prison staff and reimagine prisons as ‘correctional centres’ in order to bring about transformative changes and reduce recidivism. Mental health needs of prison staff are often overlooked and this deserves adequate attention too.
  • It is a cause for concern that even basic care is not available in prison hospitals. Hence, prison hospitals should be equipped with all the basic facilities

Question “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones”. Discuss this statement in light of reforms needed for prisons.

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