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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 03 May 2024

  1. Menstrual Leave as a Matter of Right
  2. Robust GST Revenues


Context:

Sometimes, elections can bring about recognition of and solutions to deeply ingrained gender biases and discrimination against women. Ahead of the 2024 general election, the ruling political party in Tamil Nadu has pledged that they will push for a law at the national level mandating menstrual leave for women, highlighting their commitment to advancing gender equality.

Relevance:

GS-1- Social Empowerment

GS-2-

  • Health
  • Issues Related to Women

Mains Question:

Amore pronounced stand by political parties on the issue of menstrual leave will boost women’s rights and gender equality. Analyse. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

Legislative Efforts in This Direction:

  • This pledge by the ruling political party in Tamil Nadu follows a discussion in the 17th Lok Sabha in December 2023 regarding menstrual leave, which did not yield any concrete results.
  • In terms of legislative efforts, in December 2021, S. Jothimani, a Member of Parliament (MP) from Tamil Nadu representing the Congress party, introduced a Private Member Bill named the ‘Right to Menstrual Hygiene and Paid Leave Bill, 2019.
  • This bill aimed to establish menstrual leave as a right for women and to classify the denial of such leave as a violation under The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. Additionally, it proposed penalties for refusal.
  • The bill, which aimed to secure menstrual rights for women, outlined various entitlements, including the right to self-perception of menstruation, encompassing aspects like menarche (first menstruation), menopause, menstrual cycle, primary or secondary dysmenorrhea (menstrual pain).
  • It also proposed remedies such as a three-day paid leave entitlement, a three-day absence allowance for students above class eight, 30 minutes of rest twice a day during the menstrual period for employees/workers, and access to menstrual hygiene management facilities, ensuring fairness for all women.
  • A former Congress MP representing Arunachal Pradesh, proposed a private member bill regarding menstrual leave in 2017, titled the Menstruation Benefit Bill, 2017.
  • This was followed by a similar bill introduced by a Congress MP from Kerala, named The Women’s Sexual, Reproductive and Menstrual Rights Bill, 2018.
  • Additionally, another Congress MP from Kerala, presented a private member bill titled The Right to Women to Menstrual Leave and Free Access to Menstrual Health Products Bill, 2022.

Supreme Court’s Stance:

In early 2023, the Supreme Court of India declined to entertain a public interest litigation in the case of Shailendra Mani Tripathi vs Union of India, which sought directives from the state regarding menstrual leave, stating that it falls under the purview of government policy.

No Place in Parties’ Manifestos:

  • By December 2023, the central government had also declined to adopt such a policy, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for the 2024 general election, the ‘Sankalp Patra 2024’, did not address the issue.
  • Similarly, the Congress party’s manifesto for the 2024 general election, the ‘Nyaya Patra‘, did not mention menstrual leave. However, under the topic of “Health,” it promised that “all employers must grant paid maternity leave to their employees” as a mandatory provision.

Relevant Case Studies:

State-Level:

  • Progressive States in India and various Asian nations have demonstrated forward-thinking approaches regarding menstrual leave and related issues.
  • For instance, historical records, such as the Kerala Sahitya Academy’s publication “Kerala in the 19th Century,” highlight Kerala (then Cochin State) as a pioneer in recognizing the necessity for “period leave” for students, permitting it during examinations as early as 1912.
  • Recently, Kerala has furthered its progressive stance by promoting the use of alternative menstrual hygiene products and ensuring their availability for students.
  • Bihar granted government employees two days of menstrual leave in 1992.
  • In January 2023, Kerala extended menstrual and maternity leave to all students aged 18 and above.
  • It is essential to remind other states that existing laws do not impede state governments from implementing menstrual leave policies.

Global Level:

  • In contrast, many Asian countries have addressed menstrual prejudices and stereotypes through legislation.
  • Japan introduced menstrual leave in 1947, followed by Indonesia in 1948. South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam have also implemented paid leave policies.
  • Compared to these advancements, progress in most Western countries, except for Sweden and Spain, remains inadequate.
  • Numerous international organizations advocate for menstrual leave as a fundamental women’s right.
  • For example, in 2003, the International Labour Organization urged nations to recognize menstrual leave.
  • Additionally, the World Health Organization endorsed the World Menstrual Hygiene Day, initiated by a non-governmental organization in 2014.
  • Despite these efforts, India’s new Social Security Code of 2020, passed by Parliament to consolidate existing labor laws (pending notification), does not address menstrual leave.

Other Aspects:

  • Women laborers in Maharashtra’s sugarcane fields and agricultural workers in Telangana have resorted to hysterectomies due to menstrual-related absences risking their livelihoods.
  • Menstruating individuals frequently encounter discrimination, constraints, and social exclusion, which can evoke feelings of shame and discomfort.
  • Such stigma tends to hinder open dialogue, restrict access to essential information and resources, and perpetuate negative perceptions regarding menstrual hygiene.

Way Forward:

  • Enhanced awareness and sensitivity towards gender dynamics are imperative. Addressing gender disparities through policy measures that acknowledge the diverse experiences of women due to socio-cultural and biological factors is essential not only for achieving fairness but also for fostering progressive societal changes.
  • Public policy initiatives and dialogues surrounding menstruation play a crucial role in dispelling stigmas and cultivating a gender-inclusive environment that embraces issues previously deemed taboo by conservative social norms.

Conclusion:

In the realm of politics, the acknowledgment of such issues by political parties during this election season will mark a significant stride towards advancing women’s rights and promoting gender equality.



Context:

In April, revenues from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) surpassed the milestone of ₹2 lakh crore for the first time. Traditionally, April yields the highest GST collection as it encompasses taxes paid for activities conducted in March, when taxpayers finalize their financial records for the year, rush to meet tax filing deadlines, and make adjustments to settle outstanding dues requested by the revenue department due to oversights or differing interpretations.

Relevance:

GS3- Inclusive Growth

Mains Question:

In the context of recent GST revenue collection data, discuss why does April yields the highest GST collection traditionally? What is the impact of higher collection and what reforms can further improve the revenue targets? (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Relevant Statistics:

  • With gross revenues slightly exceeding ₹2.1 lakh crore, last month’s GST collection marked a 12.4% increase compared to April 2023’s total of ₹1.87 lakh crore, which previously stood as the highest monthly intake before the latest data.
  • Excluding the year-end effect, revenues in the following months are expected to stabilize, so the ₹2 lakh crore figure might not become the new standard for monthly GST collections just yet.
  • Nevertheless, if the current economic momentum persists and GST revenue growth remains within last year’s range of 11%-12%, the high of ₹1.87 lakh crore recorded last April could potentially become this year’s monthly average.
  •  It’s important to note that the average monthly revenues last year amounted to ₹1.68 lakh crore, and prior to the beginning of that year, the highest monthly collection was observed in April 2022, totaling ₹1,67,540 crore.

Significance of the Feat:

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hailed the recent GST revenues surpassing ₹2 lakh crore as a significant achievement, attributing it to a robust economy and efficient collection methods.
  • This achievement lays to rest concerns raised by the government a few years ago regarding the GST regime’s underwhelming returns, despite being in operation for 82 months.
  • Measures such as combating frauds like fake invoicing and implementing stricter compliance norms have undoubtedly contributed to bolstering revenue.
  • With central GST revenues exceeding last year’s targets, achieving the goals outlined in the interim Budget for 2024-25 now requires less than 10% revenue growth.

Way Forward:

  • For the incoming government, revising revenue targets in the full Budget would be relatively straightforward.
  • However, the more crucial task is to strategize and implement the expansion of the GST base and expedite the much-awaited overhaul of its intricate rate structure to simplify the tax system for consumers and investors.
  • This becomes especially pertinent as concerns over revenue have somewhat subsided. Interestingly, the BJP’s election manifesto, which takes credit for introducing GST, pledges to streamline its portal for easier use by small businesses.
  • On the other hand, the Congress has promised a transition to a single, moderate tax rate with minimal exceptions, no taxes on agricultural inputs, and revenue sharing with local governing bodies.

Conclusion:

Smart GST reforms, formulated through stakeholder consultations, should be prioritized by the incoming administration to address existing anomalies hindering consumption and lay the groundwork for the next phase of investment and growth.


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