- Push for More Women, this Time in the Police
- ‘Sacred Groves’ are Vanishing Fast
Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023
In the coming years, a minimum of 33% of all lawmakers in India will be women, as per the recently passed Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, approved by both Houses of Parliament. The current representation of women Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha is approximately 14.4%, a significant increase from the 4.9% observed in the first Lok Sabha in 1952. But due to certain conditions attached to the amendment, experts suggest that its implementation may occur no earlier than the general election of 2029, contingent upon the timely completion of Census 2021 and the delimitation process.
GS2- Government Policies and Interventions.
Why is the present status of representation of women in police a matter of concern? What can be done to create a more gender inclusive police force in India? (15 marks, 250 words).
Women in Police:
- Regarding police forces, most states adopt policies to fill 30% or 33% of vacant posts with women through horizontal reservation.
- The ‘Data on Police Organizations’ by the Bureau of Police Research & Development (BPR&D) indicates that, while the total strength of State police forces has increased, the representation of women has also seen an uptick.
- As of January 1, 2022, women constitute 11.7% of the total State police force, as per information presented in February 2023.
- Notably, some states like Kerala, Mizoram, and Goa lack a reservation policy for women in the police force, yet their representation ranges from 6% to 11%.
- Bihar mandates a 35% reservation for women and 3% for backward caste women, but the actual representation is around 17.4%.
- Chandigarh boasts the highest percentage of women (approximately 22%) in the police force, while Jammu and Kashmir has the lowest (about 3.3%).
- Despite the Ministry of Home Affairs’ repeated calls for states to increase women’s representation in the police force to 33%, actual progress remains slow. Many states lack a permanent police recruitment board, hindering regular recruitment.
- Assuming a 2.5% to 3% attrition rate and an annual sanction of new posts at 1.5% to 2%, recruitment only occurs for about 4% to 5% of total posts. Given this pace, achieving an increase in women’s representation from 10% to 30% in the entire police force would likely take at least 20 years.
- Various legal amendments mandate the involvement of women officers in certain procedures, and crime data indicates that the existing women force is insufficient, even for cases related to women.
- Efforts to reform the police system primarily fall under the purview of states, as ‘police’ is a ‘State’ subject. The Ministry of Home Affairs has incentivized police reforms by reserving a portion of modernization funds for states meeting specified criteria.
- However, states have shown mixed enthusiasm for implementing these reforms.
- A uniform Police Act for the entire country could establish consistent standards for women in the police force.
- Each state can establish a recruitment board to ensure regular hiring and proposes a special recruitment drive across states and Union Territories to increase women’s representation in the police force, similar to the constitutional amendment for women in legislatures.
Although the number of legislators may not directly correlate with the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies, the representation of women in these institutions serves as an indicator of their societal inclusiveness. To encourage more women to join the police force, there is a need to create a conducive environment and provide basic infrastructure.
‘Sacred Groves’ are Vanishing Fast
‘Sacred groves’ are rapidly disappearing in the country due to the erosion of the traditional belief system that historically helped conserve them. These groves, ranging from 2 to 25 hectares, are revered by local inhabitants who worship them and declare them as no-go areas. However, an in-depth study by the Chennai-based CPR Environmental Education Centre reveals that sacred groves are being rapidly destroyed.
Explaining the cultural and environmental significance of sacred groves, enumerate the reasons for their degradation. What can be done to preserve them further? (15 marks, 250 words).
About Sacred Groves:
- Sacred groves, spread from Surat to Silchar and Kashmir to Kanyakumari, are repositories of natural biodiversity, boasting rare medicinal plants, shrubs, and trees.
- Sacred groves are associated with local deities or tree spirits, and the local population installs clay statues of gods to whom they pray as saviors.
- Dr. Nanditha Krishna’s research emphasizes that the degree of sanctity varies across regions, with some groves remaining untouched even by dead foliage and fallen fruits.
- The groves often have a vital role in supporting water sources, recharging aquifers, improving soil stability, and preventing soil erosion.
- While there is no comprehensive study of sacred groves in the entire country, experts estimate their numbers to be between 100,000 and 150,000.
Status of forests and sacred groves in India:
- India, which had nearly 40% forest cover in the 1950s, has irreversibly destroyed its evergreen forests, particularly the rainforests, in the name of development.
- The unfortunate reality is that there is neither forest preservation nor genuine development. Despite politicians planting numerous saplings on leaders’ birth anniversaries, the lack of a system to care for these saplings results in their neglect, often ending up in dustbins.
- India’s forest wealth is giving way to development under the guise of infrastructure development, urbanization, industrialization, and commercialization.
- Proposed projects, such as a railway line to Sabarimala, a holy shrine in the Western Ghats, threaten to destroy sacred groves. The destruction extends to cannabis cultivation atop the Anamalai Hills, serving as a catalyst for demands for a railway track.
- Common threats to these groves include the disappearance of traditional belief systems, encroachment leading to forest shrinkage, and invasion by exotic weeds.
- Many forests are adversely affected by ‘Sanskritisation,’ wherein primitive forms of nature worship are transformed into formal temple worship.
The invasion of exotic weeds like Eupatorium odoratum, Lantana camara, and Prosopis juliflora poses a significant threat to certain groves. Protecting these groves does not require compromising scientific temper and secularist credentials. Instead, they should be viewed as nature’s armed guards, safeguarding the land.