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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 25 October 2023

CONTENTS:

  1. Crossing a line
  2. Beyond compliance for disability inclusion

Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra


Context:

The government has directed all departments to deploy officials for a nationwide roadshow named Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, taking place from November 20 to January 25, 2024, to highlight its achievements, primarily those from the past nine years corresponding to the two terms of the ruling party starting in 2014. This campaign is conveniently scheduled around the expected Lok Sabha election in April-May 2024.

Relevance:

  • GS2- Role of Civil Services in a Democracy.
  • GS4- Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration.

Mains Question:

The convergence of politics and administration should be harmonized, if not completely segregated, in order to establish the credibility of democratic politics. Analyse. (15 marks, 250 words).

More on the roadshow:

  • The Ministry of Defence is establishing 822 ‘selfie points’ where citizens can take photos with an image of the Prime Minister.
  • These selfie points are meant to be strategically located in high-traffic areas to garner public attention, such as war memorials, defense museums, transportation hubs, educational institutions, tourist spots, and festival venues.
  • Opposition parties, led by Congress President, have criticized the government for what they view as the overt politicization of the bureaucracy and the military.

Involvement of the bureaucracy and military:

  • Joint Secretaries, Directors, and Deputy Secretaries will act as “Rath Prabharis” in charge of the roadshow.
  • India’s constitutional framework emphasizes a clear separation of powers among the executive, judiciary, and legislature. It also maintains a distinction between the bureaucracy and the military, separating them from the political executive.
  • While both the bureaucracy and the military are under the authority of the political leadership, they are expected to remain impartial and avoid engaging in partisan politics. This impartiality has been a key element in maintaining the credibility of India’s electoral process.
  • Involvement of the military in domestic politics is strongly discouraged, and both civil and military officials are supposed to prioritize their loyalty to the government elected by the citizens, regardless of their personal beliefs. However, recent directives have compelled them to assume partisan roles to further the interests of the ruling party.
  • The ruling party’s strategy of disregarding established norms to gain electoral advantage has been successful, but it leaves a lasting negative impact.

Conclusion:

If institutions are undermined, the harm may prove to be irreversible. It is crucial for the ruling party to prioritize the nation’s interests and practice what it preaches.


Beyond Compliance for Disability Inclusion


Context:

Inclusivity has consistently been championed as a fundamental pillar of progressive societies, a principle that our nation strives to uphold repeatedly. Yet, as we assess the employment landscape in India, we often neglect a significant portion of our population—people with disabilities—when discussing inclusivity.

Relevance:

GS2- Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Mains Question:

The road to equality for disabled individuals in the workplace in India has been paved with both promise and pitfalls. Comment. (15 marks, 250 words).

Challenges and Opportunities

Unemployment:

  • Nationwide, 36% of the total disabled population is employed. Among male individuals with disabilities, 47% are part of the workforce, while for females with disabilities, the figure is only 23% (DEPwD, MSJE). These statistics underline the gender disparity in disability employment, underscoring the immediate need for more inclusive policies.
  • Rural India exhibits promise, with 25% of female disabled individuals actively participating in the workforce, compared to a lower 16% in urban areas. This rural-urban contrast underscores the necessity for region-specific strategies to enhance employment prospects for disabled individuals.

Non-inclusive workforce:

  • According to the most recent workforce data from Nifty 50 constituent companies, the situation remains grim. Only five out of these 50 companies have more than 1% of disabled individuals in their workforce, and four of them are public sector enterprises.
  • Notably, public sector companies are mandated to reserve 4% of all jobs for disabled individuals in compliance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016—a target that all the analyzed companies fall short of.
  • A research paper titled ‘Moving Beyond Compliance: Inclusion of Persons With Disabilities in Business’ (2019), published by Oxfam India in collaboration with NCPEDP, revealed that low literacy levels, limited access to skills and technology, misinformation, and prejudice, among other factors, pose significant challenges for disabled individuals seeking employment.

Hurdles in workplace:

Furthermore, the study brought to light the various hurdles faced by disabled individuals in their workplace. These challenges encompass ineffective integration processes, limited career advancement, skill-related job losses, inadequate grievance mechanisms, poor job identification, inaccessible workplaces, insufficient budget allocation for disability-related technology, and a tendency to restrict inclusion efforts to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Ongoing obstacles include negative attitudes, difficulties in social integration, feelings of indebtedness, and transportation issues.

Way Forward:

Addressing these challenges necessitates a fundamental shift in mindset and practices within the government and corporate sectors. It requires acknowledging that disabled individuals bring valuable skills, unique perspectives, and a strong work ethic to the table. Overcoming attitude-related hurdles demands a commitment to changing workplace cultures, nurturing empathy, and championing diversity and inclusion.

Accommodation:

  • One effective approach to effecting the transformation is the practice of reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation involves making necessary adjustments to the workplace environment and job responsibilities to enable disabled employees to perform their tasks effectively.
  • This can encompass various measures, including providing assistive technologies and accommodating flexible work schedules.

Generating awareness:

To tackle the current challenges, India must adopt a multifaceted strategy. Public and private sector organizations should conduct awareness campaigns and sensitivity programs to combat stereotypes and biases against disabled individuals. Changing perceptions represents only the first step in creating a more inclusive work environment.

Implementing legislation:

  • The private sector should actively implement the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 and offer reasonable accommodations to disabled employees.
  • Mandatory reporting on the hiring and inclusion of disabled individuals can ensure accountability.
  • Private sector companies should not only meet legal requirements but also set ambitious goals for disability inclusion, aiming to surpass the minimum standards.

Self-employment:

  • As India establishes itself as a thriving hub for startups and entrepreneurship, it is vital to focus on self-employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. This calls for significant investment.
  • Tailored training programs and skill-enhancement initiatives can equip disabled individuals with the tools needed for success in the job market.
  • Empowering individuals with disabilities to choose between remote and in-office work acknowledges their diverse capabilities and needs. Instead of assuming remote work as the sole solution, it’s crucial to offer choices and decision-making power.

Conclusion:

The current status of people with disabilities in India’s employment landscape presents a blend of challenges and prospects. We have a considerable distance to cover to establish a genuinely inclusive workforce. However, this path is illuminated by promising initiatives and the potential of disabled individuals to make meaningful contributions to society and the economy. By embracing reasonable accommodation and promoting an inclusive culture, organizations can unlock the untapped potential of persons with disabilities and contribute to building a more inclusive India.


June 2024
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