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Current Affairs 03 January 2022 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS

Contents

  1. UN Women report on COVID-19 relief for women
  2. China’s new border law: Explained
  3. HC allows woman to terminate 28-week pregnancy
  4. Punjab’s new mining policy
  5. Telangana tops in highest number of ODF villages

UN Women report on COVID-19 relief for women

Context:

Women were significantly less likely to report receiving pandemic-related cash relief from governments or non-profits, according to a new report by United Nations Women.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Women, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the “Women and girls left behind” report (Global level)
  2. Data: Unequal Impact of COVID-19 on Women in India (W.R.T., Lockdown till early 2021)
  3. Growing domestic work as a primary cause?
  4. Constraints in Female Labour Force Participation

Highlights of the “Women and girls left behind” report (Global level)

  • The report titled Women and girls left behind: Glaring gaps in pandemic responses compiled and analysed the results of Rapid Gender Assessment surveys (RGA) from April 2020-March 2021, which include 58 countries across all regions.
  • Women and girls disproportionately suffered the socio-economic impacts of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), be it through lost jobs and reduced work hours, increased intensity of care and domestic work and strains on their physical and mental health.
  • Almost 30% of working mothers living with children lost their jobs compared to only 20% of working men living with children.
  • Young women living with children were also hard-hit, with more than 55% seeing reduced paid work hours as opposed to less than 45% of young men living with children.
  • Single women living with children were particularly left behind, being less than half as likely as single men living with children to receive cash relief (12% of women versus 25% of men).
  • Women without children (single, widowed or partnered) were also less likely to receive cash relief (8% of women versus 17% of men).
  • The report revealed that government cash relief was not associated with losing one’s job in most countries. In 25 out of 34 countries surveyed, loss of jobs had no impact on whether women reported receiving cash relief from government.
  • Nearly 95% women in Asia and almost 90% of women in sub-Saharan Africa earn income through informal labour, characterised by insecurity and insufficient social protection. It is often not counted by governments and aid agencies.

Data: Unequal Impact of COVID-19 on Women in India (W.R.T., Lockdown till early 2021)

  • Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. show that 61% of male workers were unaffected during the lockdown while only 19% of women experienced this kind of work security.
  • Women have lost more jobs irrespective of the industry in which they were employed.
  • Unlike men who had the option of moving into fallback employment arrangements like self-employment and daily wage work, women seemed to have far fewer options.
  • 47% of employed women who had lost jobs during the lockdown, had not returned to work, while the number stood at only 7% for men.
  • Nearly half of the women workers, irrespective of whether they were salaried, casual, or self-employed, withdrew from the workforce, as compared to only 11% of men.
  • Even as new entrants to the workforce, women workers had poorer options compared to men. Women were more likely to enter as daily wage workers while men found avenues for self-employment. This leads to more precarious work and lower earnings as compared to men.

Growing domestic work as a primary cause?

  • With the lockdowns in place and almost everyone limited to the confines of their homes, household responsibilities have increased for women. There has been a massive increase in the burden of household work for women.
  • The India Working Survey 2020 found that among employed men, the number of hours spent on paid work remained more or less unchanged after the pandemic. But for women, the number of hours spent in domestic work has increased manifold. This increase in household work came without any accompanying relief in the hours spent on paid work.
  • This could lead to a situation where married women and women from larger households are less likely to return to work, suggesting that the burden of care may be a reason for poor employment recovery.

Constraints in Female Labour Force Participation

  1. Stereotyping in Society: India’s societal norms are such that women are expected to take the responsibility of family care and childcare. This stereotype is a critical barrier to women’s labour force participation. Due to this, women are in constant conflict over-allotment of time for work and life is a war of attrition for them.
  2. Digital Divide: In India in 2019, internet users were 67% male and 33% female, and this gap is even bigger in rural areas. This divide can become a barrier for women to access critical education, health, and financial services, or to achieve success in activities or sectors that are becoming more digitized.
  3. Technological Disruption: Women hold most of the administrative and data-processing roles that artificial intelligence and other technologies threaten to usurp. As routine jobs become automated, the pressure on women will intensify and they will experience higher unemployment rates.
  4. Lack of Gender-Related Data: Globally, major gaps in gendered data and the lack of trend data make it hard to monitor progress. In India, too, significant gaps in data on the girl child prevent a systematic longitudinal assessment of the lives of girls.
  5. Impact of Covid-19: Owing to Covid-19, global female employment is 19% more at risk than male employment (ILO estimates). For India, several estimates show that, compared to men, women were 9.5% less likely to be employed in August 2020 compared to August 2019.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


China’s new border law: Explained

Context:

On December 30, 2021, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said it had issued “standardised” names for 15 places in the Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh.

The names are to be used henceforth on all official Chinese documents and maps, which show Arunachal as “south Tibet”. The issuing of the names came ahead of a new land border law taking into effect on January 1, 2022, which India has also voiced concern about.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Border Disputes, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is behind the move to issue ‘standardised’ names?
  2. What is the new law?
  3. Significance of the new law
  4. Does it concern India?
  5. What impact can it have on India-China relations?

What is behind the move to issue ‘standardised’ names?

  • In 2017, Chinese authorities first issued six “official” names for places in Arunachal Pradesh. That move was seen at the time as a retaliatory measure after the Dalai Lama visited the State.
  • Following the issuing of the names, all official Chinese maps will have to mark the locations using the Ministry of Civil Affairs list. The naming is a largely symbolic gesture that will not change facts on the ground.
  • It is, however, indicative of a broader new Chinese approach to territorial disputes.
  • Chinese experts told that the renaming, coupled with a new land border law, were “important moves made by the country to safeguard national sovereignty, better maintain national security and manage border-related matters at the legal level amid regional tensions, including frictions with India.”

What is the new law?

  • China has claimed that it has passed the law for the “protection and exploitation of the country’s land border areas”.
  • Under the law, China is mandated to “take measures to safeguard territorial integrity and land boundaries and guard against and combat any act that undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
  • The law calls for the Chinese military to carry out border drills and to “resolutely prevent, stop and combat” what it calls “invasions, encroachments and provocations”.
  • It mandates the state to take measures:
    • to strengthen border defence,
    • support economic and social development as well as opening-up in border areas,
    • improve public services and infrastructure in such areas,
    • encourage and support people’s life and work there, and
    • promote coordination between border defence and social, economic development in border areas.
  • The law lays down four conditions under which the state can impose emergency measures, including border shutdown.
  • The new law prohibits construction of permanent infrastructure close to the border without China’s permission.
  • However, the law also asks the state to follow the principles of “equality, mutual trust, and friendly consultation, handle land border related-affairs with neighbouring countries through negotiations to properly resolve disputes and longstanding border issues”.

Significance of the new law

  • This law reflects Beijing’s renewed concerns over the security of its land border while it confronts a slew of unsettled disputes on its maritime front.
  • This move is an indication that confrontations on the Sino-Indian borders in recent years may have reminded Beijing that as a classic land-sea power China must always ready itself to cope with threats in both the continental and maritime domains.
  • The law also reflects Beijing’s thinly-veiled worries about the stability of its hinterland bordering Central Asia. This is relevant as the withdrawal of the US forces and Taliban takeover could have aggravated Beijing’s concerns that Afghanistan may become a hotbed for terrorism and extremism that could spread to Xinjiang.
  • Domestic politics too may have been a contributing factor to the law being put in place – to bolster President Xi Jinping’s standing in the lead-up to the 20th Party Congress later in 2022.

Does it concern India?

  • Although the law is not meant specifically for India, it is bound to have some impact as China and India share a disputed 3,488-km boundary, the third longest among China’s 22,457-km land boundaries with 14 countries, after the borders with Mongolia and Russia.
  • Besides India, Bhutan (477 km) is the ONLY other country with which China has a disputed LAND border. (There are other border disputes of China which are unresolved such as: Senkaku islands and Diaoyu Islands with Japan, Paracel Islands with Vietnam, Taiwan province and Kinmen and Matsu islands with Taiwan).
  • There is a growing suspicion that China may have been stalling further negotiations on the standoff in eastern Ladakh for this new law to come into force.
  • Both, India and China have been building new roads, bridges and other facilities near the border and the new law prohibits construction of permanent infrastructure close to the border without China’s permission. Hence, there is a definitely at least one point where the new law concerns India.

What impact can it have on India-China relations?

  • The broader aim of the land border law, in the view of New Delhi, is to give legal cover and formalise the Chinese military’s transgressions across the LAC in 2020.
  • The border law also appears to give fresh impetus to civilian agencies in China to continue carrying out the construction of infrastructure, including “frontier villages”, in border areas, including some in disputed territories along the border with India and Bhutan.
  • Under the border village construction plan, launched in 2017, China is building 628 “first line and second line villages” in border areas and moving residents, mainly herders, to live in the new dwellings along the borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal as well.
  • In November 2021, satellite images surfaced showing a second Chinese cluster of 60 newly built dwellings on what India sees as its territory in Arunachal Pradesh, around 100 km east of another village built in late 2020.

Considering all this, the impact of the new law much depends on China’s actions, regardless of the new law.

Some experts feel the new law will make China dig its heels in, on the ongoing standoff as well as for resolution of the larger boundary issue. Others feel the new law is only a tool China government will use if it wants, as its actions have been aggressive even before this law.

-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express


HC allows woman to terminate 28-week pregnancy

Context:

The Delhi High Court has said that reproductive choice is a facet of reproductive rights of a woman and a dimension of her ‘personal liberty’, while allowing a woman to terminate her 28 weeks’ pregnancy as the foetus suffers from a rare congenital heart disease.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to women, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Background on Abortion in India
  2. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
  3. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act, 2021
  4. Significance of the amendment
  5. Criticisms of the 2021 amendment to the MTP act
  6. Way forward

Background on Abortion in India

  • Abortion in India is legal in certain circumstances. It can be performed on various grounds until 24 weeks of pregnancy. In exceptional cases, a court may allow a termination after 24 weeks.
  • When a woman gets a pregnancy terminated voluntarily from a service provider, it is called induced abortion. Spontaneous abortion is when the process of abortion starts on its own without any intervention. In common language, this is also known as miscarriage.
  • Before 1971, abortion was criminalized under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, describing it as intentionally ‘causing miscarriage’.
  • It was in the 1960s, when abortion was legal in 15 countries, that deliberations on a legal framework for induced abortion in India was initiated.
  • The alarmingly increased number of abortions taking place put the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on alert.
  • To address this, the Government of India instated a Committee in 1964 led by Shantilal Shah to come up with suggestions to draft the abortion law for India.
  • The recommendations of this Committee were accepted in 1970 and introduced in the Parliament as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 provides the legal framework for making CAC services available in India.
  • Termination of pregnancy is permitted for a broad range of conditions up to 20 weeks of gestation as detailed below:
    1. When continuation of pregnancy is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or could cause grave injury to her physical or mental health;
    2. When there is substantial risk that the child, if born, would be seriously handicapped due to physical or mental abnormalities;
    3. When pregnancy is caused due to rape (presumed to cause grave injury to the mental health of the woman);
    4. When pregnancy is caused due to failure of contraceptives used by a married woman or her husband (presumed to constitute grave injury to mental health of the woman).
  • The MTP Act specifies
    • who can terminate a pregnancy;
    • till when a pregnancy can be terminated; and
    • where can a pregnancy be terminated.

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act, 2021

  • The Act increases the gestation period of women seeking abortion up from 20 weeks to 24 weeks – It allows abortion to be done on the advice of one doctor up to 20 weeks, and two doctors in the case of certain special categories of women between 20 and 24 weeks.
  • The “special categories of women” include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently-abled and minors.
  • In case of the gestational period beyond 24 weeks, pregnancy may be terminated only in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by the Medical Board or if there is a threat to the life of the mother.
  • Opinion of only one provider will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation. (Opinion of only one doctor will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and two doctors for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.)
  • Under the Act, a pregnancy may be terminated up to 20 weeks by a married woman in the case of failure of contraceptive method or device. It allows unmarried women to also terminate a pregnancy for this reason.
  • All state and union territory governments will constitute a Medical Board. The Board will decide if pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks due to substantial foetal abnormalities. 

 

Significance of the amendment

  • It will provide greater reproductive rights and dignity to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women.
  • Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.
  • The rape victims and vulnerable victims will also be benefitted from Privacy Clause.
  • Many cases which were filed in High Courts to seek permission for abortion beyond 20 weeks will be reduced. Also, often 20 weeks were spent in completing the legal procedures and formalities – hence, there was a need to increase the upper limit of time.

Criticisms of the 2021 amendment to the MTP act

  • One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights. Another is that the state should protect life and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
  • It enhances the gestational limit for legal abortion from 20 to 24 weeks only for specific categories of women. A woman who does not fall into these categories would not be able to seek an abortion beyond 20 weeks.
  • The Act does not provide a time frame within which the Board must make its decision. Also, the shortage of specialised doctors will further delay the case.
  • There may be cases where persons who identify as transgender (and not women) can become pregnant even after receiving hormone therapy to transition from female to male, and may require termination services. The Act is silent over this.
  • The boards are unnecessary and an invasion of privacy of the pregnant women which pushes the laborious process a woman had to undergo in order to get an abortion.
  • Many are still not aware of their reproductive rights and the amendment does not show concerns towards the need for awareness.

Way forward

  • The Supreme Court has recognised a women’s right to make reproductive choices and said that their decision to abort is a dimension of their liberty (in Mrs X v. Union of India, 2017). The SC also laid that this right to make reproductive choices falls within the realm of the fundamental right to privacy. Hence, there should be more emphasis on giving reproductive choice in abortions to women.
  • The state needs to keep a watchful eye for cases where sex-selective abortions are performed to prevent the sex ratio from nosediving further.
  • Legislations must be broadened to encompass Transgenders.
  • Trained medical staff including ASHA workers are to be ensured.
  • There is a need to encourage the role of men in family planning to ensure that women do not face the burden alone.

-Source: The Hindu


Punjab’s new mining policy

Context:

The Punjab government had recently come up with the new sand and gravel mining policy 2021, which states that landowners can dispose of ordinary earth extracted or removed during the leveling of their Agricultural fields up to 3-feet.

Several farmers were already into illegal sand mining in their fields and this new policy now allows all farmers to extract up to 3 -feet earth from their fields without any environment clearance certificate.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology, GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Constitution and Legislations on Rules regarding mining
  2. What is Sand mining?
  3. Concerns regarding sand mining
  4. Guidelines by the Government of India

The Constitution and Legislations on Rules regarding mining

  • The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 has empowered state governments to make rules to prevent illegal mining, transportation and storage of minerals.
  • However, there was a large number of illegal mining cases in the country and in some cases, many of the officers lost their lives while executing their duties to curb illegal mining.
  • Illegal and uncontrolled illegal mining also leads to loss of revenue to the State and degradation of the environment.
  • The entry at serial No. 23 of List II (State List) to the Constitution of India mandates the state government to own the minerals located within their boundaries.
  • The entry at serial No. 54 of List I (Central List) mandates the central government to own the minerals within the exclusive economic zone of India (EEZ). In pursuance to this Mines & Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act of 1957 was framed.
  • Also, the Central Government notifies certain minerals as ‘minor’ minerals from time to time for which the absolute powers for deciding on procedures of seeking applications for and granting mineral concessions, fixing rates of royalty, dead rent, and power to revise orders rest only with the State Government. Example of minor minerals include building stones, gravel, ordinary clay, ordinary sand.

What is Sand mining?

  • Sand mining is the process of extracting sand through an open pit but sometimes mined from inland dunes from oceans, riverbeds and beaches.
  • It is defined under section 3(e) of the mines and mineral development and regulation act,1957.
  • The extracted sand can be used for various types of manufacturing, such as concrete used in the construction of buildings and other structures.
  • The use of sand for cement-making in industrial projects has generated significant demand in India.
  • The sand can also be used as an abrasive or can be mixed with salt and applied to icy roads to reduce the melting point of ice.

Concerns regarding sand mining

  • Sand mining damages the ecosystem of rivers and the safety of bridges, weakens riverbeds, destroys natural habitats of organisms living on riverbeds, affects fish breeding and migration, and increases saline water in the rivers
  • Lack of enforcement for sand-mining regulations and insufficient subsidy programs for affected communities detrimentally impact coastal welfare. The sand mafia, a network of criminal syndicates that illegally mine sand, has proven especially destructive, with attempts to curtail their behaviour often leading to violent altercations.
  • Beaches, dunes, and sandbanks act as barriers to flooding. When sand mining removes such barriers, areas near the sea or river become more prone to flooding.
  • Sand mining destroys the aesthetic beauty of beaches and river banks, and also makes the ecological system in these areas unstable. If such beaches and riverside areas are popular tourist destinations, then the tourism potential of such areas will be lost.
  • A recent study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) shows mining is responsible for a 90 per cent drop in sediment levels in major Asian rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna, Mekong and Yangtze. This has resulted in the shrinking of the delta regions of these rivers, leaving local people extremely vulnerable to floods, land loss, contaminated drinking water and crop damage.

Guidelines by the Government of India

  • To address the issue of unregulated extraction of sand, the Union ministry of mines prepared a uniform set of framework that can be followed by the states as per their suitability and applicability. The framework document charts out suggestions for various elements of the process chains, starting from the objectives of the states, demand-supply situation, operations, monitoring, transportation and sales of sand, etc.
  • The Union environment ministry released some guidelines in 2016 that laid emphasis on monitoring of the mined-out material. It recommended alternative sources of extraction of sand and gravel. Yet, several cases against illegal sand mining are pending with the National Green Tribunal (NGT). 
  • The current system has not been fruitful and powerful in helping the circumstances. The current mechanism needs to be revised for effective monitoring of sand and rock mining.

-Source: The Hindu


Telangana tops in highest number of ODF villages

Context:

Telangana stood first in the country in the list of highest number of open defecation free (ODF Plus) villages under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) Phase-II programme till December 31, 2021.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Health and Poverty, Government Policies and Initiatives, Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Telangana’s Success story
  2. About Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase-II
  3. Highlights of the report by the Wash Institute (a global non-profit organization) on open defecation
  4. ODF, ODF+, ODF++ Status (for Town and Cities)
  5. National rural sanitation strategy

Telangana’s Success story

Around 96.74% of the villages in Telangana have been declared ODF Plus.

  • The state government’s stress on garbage collection and scientific disposal is said to be contributing to the success of the state in the rankings.
  • The Telangana government has enacted a new Telangana Panchayat Raj Act to ensure holistic development of villages. Under the Palle Pragathi programme a secretary has been posted in every panchayat for smooth execution of welfare programmes, close monitoring and digital reporting to ensure prevalence of good governance in villages.

About Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase-II

  • The Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen Phase-II  was approved in February 2020 by the Ministry of Jal Shakti
  • It emphasizes the sustainability of achievements under phase I and to provide adequate facilities for Solid/Liquid & plastic Waste Management (SLWM) in rural India.
  • The SLWM component of ODF Plus will be monitored on the basis of output-outcome indicators for 4 key areas:
    1. Plastic waste management,
    2. Biodegradable solid waste management (including animal waste management),
    3. Greywater (Household Wastewater) management
    4. Fecal sludge management.
  • The fund sharing pattern between Centre and States will be 90:10 for North-Eastern States and Himalayan States and UT of J&K; 60:40 for other States; and 100% for other Union Territories.
  • It will continue to generate employment and provide impetus to the rural economy through construction of household toilets and community toilets, as well as infrastructure for SLWM such as compost pits, soak pits, waste stabilisation ponds, material recovery facilities etc.
  • It will also help rural India effectively handle the challenge of solid and liquid waste management and will help in substantial improvement in the health of the villagers in the country.

Highlights of the report by the Wash Institute (a global non-profit organization) on open defecation

  • India was responsible for the largest drop in open defecation since 2015, in terms of absolute numbers.
  • Within India, open defecation had been highly variable regionally since at least 2006 and in 2006 the third round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) found open defecation to be practiced by less than 10 per cent of the population in four states and the Union Territory of Delhi, but by more than half the population in 11 states.
  • By 2016, when the fourth round of the NFHS was conducted, open defecation had decreased in all states, with the largest drops seen in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.

ODF, ODF+, ODF++ Status (for Town and Cities)

  1. ODF: An area can be notified or declared as ODF if at any point of the day, not even a single person is found defecating in the open.
  2. ODF+: This status is given if at any point of the day, not a single person is found defecating and/or urinating in the open, and all community and public toilets are functional and well maintained.
  3. ODF++: This status is given if the area is already ODF+ and the faecal sludge/septage and sewage are safely managed and treated, with no discharging or dumping of untreated faecal sludge and sewage into the open drains, water bodies or areas.

National rural sanitation strategy

  • The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti has launched the 10-year Rural Sanitation Strategy starting from 2019 up to 2029.
  • It lays down a framework to guide local governments, policy-makers, implementers and other relevant stakeholders in their planning for Open Defecation Free (ODF) Plus status, where everyone uses a toilet, and every village has access to solid and liquid waste management.

-Source: The Hindu

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