Front Page / NATIONAL
Front Page / NATIONAL
. Soon, search engines to blank sex selection ads
The Supreme Court has directed the Central government to constitute a nodal agency to monitor and trigger search engines to crack down on online pre-natal sex determination advertisements.
What has been ordered?
A Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra ordered that the nodal agency should receive complaints about illegal online advertisements under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act of 1994. It should communicate the tip-offs to online search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, which would delete these advertisements within 36 hours of getting the information.
Court further said that
This interim arrangement would continue till it took a final decision on the continued existence of online sex selection ads.
The court was hearing a petition filed in 2008 by Dr. Sabu Mathew George in the background of increasing instances of female foeticide.
- The petition contended that pre-natal sex determination tests continue with impunity despite being made illegal in 1994.
. Apex court refuses to lift ban on jallikattu
Court has dismissed a plea by Tamil Nadu to review a 2014 apex court judgment banning jallikattu
Court while refusing to lift the ban on Jallikattu said that,
- Tamil Nadu cannot explain jallikattu away as a mere act of “taming a bull.”
- It runs counter to the concept of welfare of the animal, which is the basic foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960
Tamil Nadu’s argument
The event was defined as an act of “taming” of bulls under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act of 2009 and did not amount to cruelty.
- The 2009 Act was introduced to stop any kind of torture. Taming a bull is not torture. You cannot ban jallikattu just because there was torture long ago. It is like a bank stopping all loans just because somebody had cheated it once long ago
. Plea against use of word ‘Dalit’ by media, HC seeks Centre’s reply
The Delhi High Court has sought the response of the Centre on a plea seeking a direction to restrain media houses from using the word ‘Dalit’ in news articles, alleging it creates “inequality” in society
What has been done?
A notice has been issued to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and it has been asked to take instruction on whether there is any law to prohibit the use of the word by media houses.
- The court has fixed January 13, 2017, for further hearing of the plea
What was the plea?
Pleas has specifically sought a direction to restrain media houses from using the word ‘Dalit’ in news articles, alleging it creates “inequality” in society.
- It has also sought a direction to the Press Council of India to restrain all print and electronic media from using the word ‘Dalit’.
A petitioner who was aggrieved by the excessive use of the words ‘Dalit’ and ’upper caste’, alleged that despite a law and guidelines in place, the media houses keep on raising the issue of ‘Dalit’ atrocities unnecessarily.
- Crime is community-neutral: Crime is crime and can be committed against or by any community and thus cannot be treated on a different footing compared to crime committed by or against the people of the general community, especially when people from the Scheduled Caste are involved
- Against equality: this kind of differentiation was an arbitrary act and against basic concept of equality enshrined in the Constitution of India
- Ensure compliance: Plea said compliance with laws related to prohibition of use of community related words be ensured by the authorities concerned.
- Penalty be imposed: The plea added that a penalty may be imposed on publishers for their act of creating an atmosphere in the country by presenting the news in a provocative and distorted manner
. UIDAI cautions against misuse of Aadhaar
With Aadhaar is being used widely in the wake of demonetization, the Unique Identification Authority of India has urged the public to indicate the purpose of providing photocopies of their Aadhaar letter to prevent its misuse.
A statement was issued by UIDAI which said that,
“Photocopies of the Aadhaar letter are being submitted by the public to banks. We urge them to clearly indicate the purpose for which they are submitting the same along with the date and time. This actually is a good practice whenever they submit photocopies of documents”
. A challenge and an opportunity
Article talks about the operationalizing of CPEC, the opportunities & challenges it presents for Pakistan while simultaneously warning India to have a closer look at the security implications of increased China-Pak co-operation.
The start of CPEC
On 20 April 2015, Pakistan and China signed an agreement to commence work on the $46 billion agreement
What has happened?
The first shipment moved from Gwadar port to Gulf and on to Africa thereby operationalizing CPEC
Opportunities for Pakistan
- Energy security for Pakistan: Agreement’s total worth is around $46 billion, out of which, $35-38 billion is committed in the energy sector, in gas, coal and solar energy across Pakistan, with the combined expected capacity crossing 10,000 MW. This is roughly double the current shortfall the country experiences now
- Generation of employment: The 3,000-km rail and roadway project is expected to generate 700,000 jobs by 2030
Challenges before Pakistan
- Domestic doubts: Apprehensions are being cast internally by some, with critics questioning the project’s viability, and some accusing China of launching a second “East India Company”.
- Security challenges: In the western areas near the key Gwadar port, militants ranging from Baloch nationalists to the Taliban and the Islamic State have carried out attacks thus causing security problems
- Systemic challenges: project delays in the CPEC’s first year, which the World Bank warns could prove to be an impediment to Pakistan’s overall growth. Pakistan-India tensions, unless contained, too could endanger sectors of the project where Pakistani troops are engaged in providing security
- Economic slowdown in China
- Political instability in Pakistan
India’s stance on CPEC
Author states that India’s initial reaction when CPEC was announced was of dismissal which transformed into complete opposition later on. India raised concerns over the projects in disputed Gilgit-Baltistan at the UN General Assembly.
Note: It should be noted that Gilgit-Baltistan area is in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) & India has opposed any projects inside this disputed territory
Author points out that China considers CPEC as an important link between OBOR (One Belt One Road) initiative and Maritime Silk Route (MSR) but India is a part of neither and the fact that countries like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are all a part of these initiatives should make India ponder upon its future strategy.
- In this age of increased economic cooperation and dominance, India runs the risk of being isolated in Asia if it doesn’t recalibrate its policy to suit present day exigencies. Already our old friend and ally Russia is inching closer to Pakistan. It is time that India rethinks its strategy to maintain a dominating role in South Asian geopolitical space.
. Violence that’s not gender-neutral
Author warns that the recent judgement of Supreme Court has diluted the protection of Women from Domestic Violence (PWDV) Act
What is the decision?
In Harsora v. Harsora case on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA) the words ‘adult male’ in Section 2(q) of the Act have been deleted
What is PWDVA?
It is a gender-specific law that was enacted to protect women against domestic violence at the hands of men.
- Core provision: The core provision in this law is that complainants can only be women. The law also restricts under Section 2(q) that complaints can only be filed against adult males, or their relatives, who could be women.
What entails Section 2q?
Section 2(q) states: ‘Respondent’ means any adult male person who is, or has been, in a domestic relationship with the aggrieved person and against whom the aggrieved person has sought any relief under this Act. Provided that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner.
Note: Respondent, in legal terms means a party against whom a petition is filed, especially one in an appeal or a divorce case
Above is the situation before the judgement. Let us try to simplify it a little.
Situation before the judgement
- Complaints can be filed by: A wife or a female living with a male partner (live-in relationship)
- Respondent will be: adult male person
- Complaint can also be filed against: a relative of the husband or male partner
Note: Respondent in any case will be an adult male person. His relatives can be named in the complaint
Situation after the judgement
Words adult male have been deleted
What court said?
Court in its judgement said that such violence is gender-neutral & it ruled accordingly.
Author contests this assumption that the violence perpetrated against women is gender-neutral.
Reality of domestic violence
Author states that a vast majority of domestic violence is experienced by women at the hands of men
NCRB stats: As per the National Crime Records Bureau, reported cases of domestic violence in India went up from 50,703 in 2003 to 1,18,866 in 2013. These are all cases of domestic violence against men
Historical basis ignored
In 1983, Section 498A was introduced in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and for the first time made domestic violence to married women a criminal offence. Section 498A is only against the husband and husband’s relatives because it recognised the gendered nature of the crime.
- When the PWDVA was drafted, the question as to whether the definition of ‘respondent’ should be restricted to men or should be gender-neutral was heavily debated and finally Section 2(q) was drafted to keep it consistent with Section 498A
Author says that this history has been completely ignored while delivering this judgement
Formal equality vs substantive equality
Formal equality: It is a type of equality prescribed by the law under which all are subject to equal rights irrespective of their circumstances
Substantive equality: This is a type of equality which takes into account any past instance of discrimination. The policy of reservation is based on this concept. Reservation for women is provided on this basis because they have suffered as a gender due to patriarchal notions built into our society.
- Article 15(3) of the constitution which states that “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children” is also based on this principle.
Author states that court seems to have considered only the formal equality while delivering this judgement.
Reliance on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
Author points out that court seem to have relied on the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, wherein a respondent need not be a male but it surprisingly ignores the criminal offences of sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism and rape under the IPC which are all gender-specific and against men
Men can also be victims
Author admits that even men can be victims but evidence shows that whenever domestic violence is committed victims in most cases are women
- Used against women: With this judgment, there is a real danger that the PWDVA would be used against women and minors and not against the real perpetrators of domestic violence
- Further dilution: It could lead to a further dilution of the PWDVA and also dilute other women-centric laws
SC’s decision will have serious repercussions on the lives of women in India
. Moody’s keeps India outlook ‘positive’
Moody’s Investors Service has retained its positive outlook on India, the company said, predicting a continued reform push and lowering of debt levels.
Why a positive outlook has been retained?
Reform push: It highlights an expectation that continued policy reform implementation will allow balanced growth to support a reduction in the government debt burden
- A number of policies have already been put in place to moderate inflation and limit the current account deficit
Private investment is low
Private investment has still not picked up, despite the government’s efforts, which shows the limited effectiveness of government policy in this regard
Factors bolstering India’s up-gradation to a higher rating, include its
- Growth potential
- Increase in income levels
Factors constraining India’s rating
- Income & consumption levels remain vulnerable to external shocks like a poor monsoon
- The high debt levels of the government also play a part in weakening India’s position
. Bank deposits to increase by 1-2% once stability returns
As per Moody’s investor service, banks stand to gain the most from the demonetization efforts due to the impetus it provides for people to enter the formal banking system.
The demonetization scheme could result in bank deposits increasing by about 1-2 per cent
Why an increase?
The withdrawal of the Rs.500 and Rs.1000 denominations may provide a strong impetus to greater use of the formal financial system — the banking system — for the commercial transactions, especially in the retail segment
- The government move has meant that a large proportion of the population will have to access banking channels at least once, so as to convert their existing holdings into the new legal tender
Moody’s points out that studies have shown that first-time users of banking systems tend to keep using them once they start. Therefore, it is expected that a material proportion of the first-time or very infrequent users would become more sticky customers of the banks.
- This could benefit banks through an increase in low-cost deposits, although this benefit may not be apparent in the short-term
. Gender justice, in fact
Arguments in favour of a uniform civil code often project Hindu law as just, in spite of the evidence of its anti-women practices.
What is Uniform Civil Code?
UCC is the proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major religious community in India with a common set governing every citizen
Why in news recently?
All this debate started when Shayara bano, a Muslim woman, filed a petition before SC challenging the constitutional validity of Triple Talaq (specifically Talaq-e-bidat or instantaneous triple talaq).
- Centre’s response: Centre filed its response in an affidavit to the apex court taking a stand against the practice of triple Talaq and polygamy
- Questionnaire: Same day the centre submitted its affidavit law commission of India came out with a questionnaire seeking public opinion over the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code
Author in this article is suggesting that everywhere whether in public discourse or in media, the debate around UCC is specifically centered on regressive practices ailing Muslim personal law, conveniently ignoring the evils that Hindu law is riddled with. He tries to address this issue here.
Issues ailing the Hindu Law
- Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) property: Author says that the main lacuna of Hindu law is the continuation of HUF property
For more info: Please read this article
- The notion of kanyadaan (sacrificial offering of the bride to the groom
- the notion of girls as paraya dhan
- the holy obligation of a Hindu father to marry off his daughter, which then gives boost to dowry
- Sacred Hindu marriage: Author states that despite being transformed into a social contract in 1955 via Hindu Marriage Act 1955, the sacred aspects of Hindu marriage continue to rule the social relationships in Hindu religion. It is a part of this understanding that parents prefer to send their daughters back to their matrimonial homes despite them running the risk of getting beaten up or even being driven up to suicide
Divorce is seen as a taboo
Divorce is still seen as a mark of disrepute in Hindu society. Even judges in the family courts advise women to return home to save their marriages even when they face great risks
- Discarded women: Statistics show that divorce among Muslims is higher. But it is seldom highlighted that desertion among Hindus is far higher. In Maharashtra, a popular term used to describe such women is “paritatya mahila” or “discarded women”.
Roots of dowry system in upper-caste Hindu cultural tradition cannot be overlooked.
Mehr: In Muslim tradition an amount must be stipulated in the marriage contract (nikahnama) as a future security to the bride.
- Author says that this practice has been transformed into a mere tokenism as amount of Mehr has dropped to a minimum while dowry amounts have skyrocketed
Practice of killing their own daughters for transgressing rigid caste boundaries is another social evil that ails Hindu society despite Hindu law allowing marriage across all Hindu castes.
At times, young couples are also killed for entering into sagotra and sapinda marriages, concepts unique to Hindus that have been incorporated in the codified Hindu law, while in parts of South India marriages between first cousins and uncle and niece are the norm
Bigamy in Hindus
Official reports reveal that despite the statutory restraint, incidents of bigamy are more frequent among Hindus than Muslims
- Status of Hindu second wife: A Hindu second wife is not only stripped of her maintenance & marital rights, but also deprived from her status as “wife” and humiliated as mistress or concubine (a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives) in judicial discourse
- Status of a Muslim second wife: Muslim woman in a bigamous relationship is entitled to rights of maintenance, shelter, dignity and equal status
Conclusion: Despite monogamy being codified in the Hindu Law, the ground reality is very different. Bigamy is still prevalent and women continue to suffer in such cases as they are denied any rights if matter is taken to court. So, law has failed to bring about any social transformation in Hindu society then is it right to assume that a uniform codification of law will bring any changes in the ground realities? We leave you with this question.
. Use by date
India’s food safety authority has not been sure-footed on the matter of issuing standards for fortified foods.
What is the news?
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has announced that it is working on fortification standards for packaged food products such as cereals and biscuits.
What is fortification?
Fortification means increasing the nutritional content of a food product by increasing essential micronutrients such as minerals and vitamins.
History of fortified products
- USA: The first documented evidence of food fortification was in the early 1900s in the US when vitamin B3 was added to coarsely ground corn — the staple of the poor in the country — to help combat the rise of pellagra, a disease caused by the deficiency of this vitamin
- Britain: In Britain, after the WW1, the government ordered vitamins A and D to be added to margarine because butter had become a scarce commodity in the country
- India: In India, food fortification began in the early 1960s when iodine was added to salt to combat goiter
In countries like UK and the US there exist stringent standards on food fortification, but no such standards exist presently in India
The FSSAI has issued draft guidelines for five fortified products rice, wheat, salt, flour, milk and edible oil
FSSAI has not specified a deadline for setting standards for packaged foods yet but India needs such standards because of following reasons,
- As in India the unorganized sector plays a huge role in production, processing and packaging of food products. Packaging is the first step in ensuring the quality of a product
- On October 16, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare announced that fortified food would be a key element in the government’s fight against malnutrition. Programmes such as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme and the Public Distribution System would be mandated to buy and distribute fortified food.
For more benefits of packaging: Please visit this link
. User-centred financial inclusion
Author talks about the new age of financial inclusion and suggests ways as to how the millions of poor can be made a part of this drive by offering tailor-made products to them
Author states that with the launch of key initiatives like Aadhaar, the licensing of new institutions (payment banks and small finance banks), the emergence of a vibrant fintech (financial technology) sector & the launching of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the platform to roll out digital financial services to the poor is all set.
Author states that two dilemmas exist that are stopping the fintech companies and other institutions to deliver innovations in respect of creating digital financial services that suit the needs of the poor (Base of the Pyramid (BoP) customers). These are,
- User-Experience (UX) dilemma: This confusion is that should the poor be provided with cheaper variants of standard products or should they be provided with customized financial products as per their needs and situation?
Example: Author lists an example of a daily wage laborer whose income is not constant and if he doesn’t find work on some days then he has to borrow the money from neighbor or a moneylender. Such conditions require a flexible loan product rather than a product that assumes a fixed income pattern, which most financial institutions offer today
Author’s view: Author states that instead of smaller versions of standard financial products, such segment requires fundamentally redesigned products
Opportunity: A company investing considerably on a user-centered service design can easily capture a sizeable market share in this segment
- User-Interface (UI) dilemma: whether to focus on creating special products and interfaces that are intuitive for the poor or create standardized interfaces that can be used by people with “moderate financial literacy”?
Author’s view: Author states that most modern day banking apps are designed keeping in mind a high level of financial literacy. The underlying assumption is that a user will mould himself according to the app. No app is being designed which is centered on BoP customers
Behaviours of BoP customers need to be kept in mind while designing apps for their usage. The poor manage money significantly differently from the affluent.