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Women in politics

Ramya Kapoor

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LAST week a young woman was shot dead in Ballabhgarh area of Faridabad district that falls in Delhi National Capital Region (NCR) for a simple refusal that was unacceptable to an enfranchised man. The perpetrator belongs to a family with political clout. About a 100-kms away in Hathras of Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha’s mother Mahamaya that is known as birthplace of satirist Kaka Hathrasi, shot into national limelight after the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit girl. Violent crimes against women get their shameless justification from the structural notions about gendered roles and relations. Both these cases have been dissected from caste, class, religion, gender, legal and political perspectives. There is a need to refocus the lens on the security of women.

The disdain for women’s rights is not surprising in a country, where legislators who should be accountable to frame policies for women’s empowerment are accused of crimes against women. As per an Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) report, between 2009 and 2019, there was 231 percent increase in the number of candidates contesting and an 850 percent increase in the number of MPs with declared cases of crime against women in Lok Sabha. None was convicted though. All national and regional political parties have fielded candidates or have sitting legislators accused of crimes against women. It will be unreasonable to expect any concern for women’s issues, particularly, security from such powerful men, who can obliterate and manipulate the rule of law, interfere with police investigations, and eventually compromising court’s ability to deliver justice.

In 2017, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) won 325 out of 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh, way beyond the halfway mark. Soon after winning India’s most populous state, it declared “Implementation over mere lip-service – BJP has given maximum number of women MLAs in 17th UP assembly, highest since independence”. There was a marginal improvement from 8% (32 out of 403 MLAs) in 2012 to 10% (40 out of 402 MLAs) in 2017 assembly polls. It is noteworthy that 31 out of these 40 MLAs, i.e., nearly 75% are crorepatis.

The 2017 election was perhaps not an aberration. The 2019 General Elections mark a paradigm shift in terms of women’s representation in legislatures. With 78 women MPs from across the country, women’s representation in Lok Sabha improved to 14 percent from 11.3 percent in 2014. The improved representation notwithstanding, the diversity of this cohort leaves much to be desired. So far only women from political families and those belonging to the field of entertainment and sports or financially sound families have been able to sustain themselves in Delhi’s political panchayat. Others who stray into the arena are disparaged as ‘item girls’.

A March 2019 ADR report shows that about 85 percent of women MPs are crorepatis in both the upper and lower houses of the parliament. More than 75 percent of women parliamentarians of the BJP and the Congress were crorepatis. In some of the regional parties almost all women legislators were crorepatis. A Lokniti-KAS study too suggests that the socio-economic status determines women’s participation in elections with the upper caste and wealthier women being more active. More generally, the pathway to women’s political participation is impeded by patriarchal culture.

Government schemes such as Swachh Bharat Mission, Ujjwala Yojna, financial inclusion programmes such as Beti Bachao, PM Jan Dhan Yojana, Sukanya Samridhi Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana include emancipation of women as one of the goals. This approach has limited efficacy as women’s issues are tied to other agendas. Building toilets doesn’t ensure sanitation, just providing gas cylinder doesn’t ensure health, providing cycles won’t ensure accessibility, till a women feels tied down in her laaj and sharam, not secure enough to step outside her dahleez. Until then, achchhe din is a long time coming for women in India.

Women’s security, education, health and livelihood feature routinely in political discourse. However, it is difficult to prepare a conducive environment for women’s fearless political participation without systemic reforms. Unfortunately, none of the Indian political parties have addressed the challenge of lack of women in leadership positions. The process of ticket distribution is intrinsically linked to winnability instruments such as caste or religion, and not with women’s issues.

More women in leadership will transform policymaking by making it more inclusive. However, as per a January 2020 report by Inter-Parliamentary Union-UN Women, India was placed #134 on women in ministerial positions and #142 on women in parliament index. In absence of reservation, an enabling environment will remain a distant possibility. Indeed, countries with the high women’s representation in legislatures have enshrined it in a reservation system.

It has been ten years since the Women’s Reservation Bill was cleared by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010, but despite multiple reintroductions, it is still pending in the Lok Sabha. The impending Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. Only time will tell if tragedies such as Ballabhgarh and Hathras will be an issue during the assembly and general elections. Parties need to move beyond manifesto bullet points and symbolic roles to women as spokespersons and create safer spaces within their structures for women to become visible in the electoral scene. Along with the parties, the Election Commission of India (ECI), election funders, including private organisations and corporates, too need to step up and support free political participation by women.

Ramya is a public policy consultant and analyst. She comments on politics and international affairs of India.

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PIL to SC: Convert religious, charitable places into Covid Care Centers

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A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to convert the religious and charitable places that enjoy tax benefits, into Covid Care Centers as well as cease any further transactions with immediate effect and utilise their funds for Covid patients.

The plea also requested for a district-wise data collection of Covid-19 patients across the country containing the details of demand for oxygen, medicine, hospitalisation etc. It should be developed through a dashboard /web portal enabling the Covid-19 patients to register and search for their respective medical requirements, said the plea, adding that district-wise nodal officers should be appointed for this work.

The petition filed by Manu Gaur, President of Taxpayers Association of India, also urges to open the use of necessary drugs and medicines and to waive the GST on the same during the Covid period and/or to invite the other companies to come manufacture and distribute for saving lives of citizens of India.

Demanding to convert religious places into Covid centres, the plea said their funds should be used in Covid-19 relief “as this money has been given by the public for social and religious work and in today›s time there is no greater social work and religion than saving the lives of people from Coronavirus.”

Along with this, it was also requested in the petition that all the Ayurvedic, Homoeopathic, Unani and Naturopathy hospitals of the country should also be converted to Covid-19 Care Centers.

The petition also emphasised that 100 percent vaccination of home delivery staff, public transport etc. should be done.

“Also, the business institutions/industries, etc. who get all their workers fully vaccinated, should be given the freedom to run their Organisation. The vaccination certificate of those who have been fully vaccinated should be recognised as a pass in the Lockdown period. Similarly, there should be an incentive for vaccination and will also slow down the infection spread. A Covid-19 control room should be made in every district like a usual police control room, which can make necessary arrangements for the citizens,” the plea said.

The petition also called for making MPs and MLAs accountable with the local administration for the Covid-19 arrangements in their constituencies as salaries, allowances and pensions to them are paid from taxpayers› money so somehow they should be responsible. ANI

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PIL SEEKS TO VACCINATE STUDENTS APPEARING FOR BOARD EXAMS, DELHI HC ISSUES NOTICE

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Union of India and Government of NCT of Delhi on a PIL seeking direction to provide and administer COVID-19 Vaccination free of cost to the students of class ‘XII’ in Delhi, who will be appearing for their board exams in an off-line mode.

The Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh on Friday sought responses from the Union Ministry of Health Family and Welfare, Union Ministry of Education and the Government of NCT of Delhi and slated the matter for 4th June. The Petitioner, Jyoti Aggarwal practising lawyer in Delhi HC submit that, all the students of Class XII’ appearing for the off-line written and practical board exams for the session 2020-2021 from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), be given the Covid-19 vaccination on urgent basis.

According to the petition, 2.5 Lakh students for class ‘XII’, have enrolled for appearing in the Board exams for the Session 2020-2021 in Delhi. It is also highlighted that students will be appearing for their off-line written and practical exams.

The plea states that there are reports that the new strain of Covid is affecting the youngsters the most. The studies also suggest that the new strain of novel coronavirus has led to an increase in concerns due to its ability to high transmission.

The Class XII Board exams were expected to be held in May. However, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Central government decided to postpone these exams until further orders. 

—Correspondent WITH ANI INPUTS

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RBI’s Rs 50,000 crore liquidity facility can increase hospital bed capacity by 20%: Report

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The Rs 50,000 crore liquidity window offered by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to banks under priority sector lending to augment Covid-19 healthcare infrastructure will help raise treatment capacity, availability of medicines, and medical equipment, said Crisil Ratings on Friday. 

Hospitals can be among the biggest beneficiaries as incremental funding can potentially increase bed capacity in the country by 15 to 20 percent, it said.

Loans under the scheme for tenures up to three years are available to banks at a repo rate till 31 March 2022. Such loans will also be classified under the priority sector.

Consequently, banks are expected to extend these loans below current interest rates for companies engaged in healthcare activities. These include makers and suppliers of vaccines and drugs; hospitals; pathology labs; suppliers of oxygen; makers of emergency medical equipment; logistics firms; and Covid-19 patients.

As many as 354 Crisil-rated companies with aggregate bank exposure of Rs 40,000 crore will be eligible for such loans. Though pharmaceutical firms account for 68 percent of rated bank exposure, hospitals (24 percent of rated exposure) are likely to avail the majority of the funding available.

The borrowing cost of hospitals rated by Crisil is 10.5 to 11 percent and new loans taken for expansion under this RBI scheme could be 300 to 350 basis points cheaper, leading to substantial interest savings.

Subodh Rai, Chief Ratings Officer at Crisil Ratings, said increased availability of funds at low cost will incentivise hospitals to augment beds, oxygen storage, ICUs and critical medical equipment. “Even if half of the funding available is used to add hospital beds through brownfield expansion, it will mean five lakh incremental beds or 15 to 20 percent of India›s current capacity.”

In comparison, for entities in other healthcare-related sectors such as pharmaceuticals, the capital requirements for enhancing the production capacity of critical Covid-19 related drugs is not very high.

Further pharmaceutical companies, owing to their strong credit profiles and availability of export credit facilities, have a relatively lower average cost of borrowing (8 to 8.5 percent). Thus a majority of pharmaceutical companies may not be keen to take on substantial debt under the RBI window to fund expansion.

Also, only a few companies are manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines and these have availed of government advances/ grants for funding their requirement of Rs 5,000 crore.

While incentives under the liquidity window are attractive, hospital firms will carefully evaluate decisions considering the sustainability of demand and availability of critical resources like manpower and equipment. WITH ANI INPUTS

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EARLY SUMMER VACATIONS IN UTTARAKHAND COLLEGES

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DEHRADUN: In view of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, Uttarakhand’s Department of Education, on Friday, announced summer vacation in all higher education institutes from 7 May to 12 June.

Earlier, the state education department announced that all colleges and universities will remain closed from 3 May until further orders. In wake of the surge in Covid-19 cases, the Uttarakhand government extended the ‘Corona curfew’ in Dehradun, Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar, and Nainital districts till 10 May.

“Corona curfew’ has been extended till 10 May in the districts of Dehradun, Haridwar, and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand,” said state government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal.

Uttarakhand reported 9,642 fresh cases, 4,643 discharges and 137 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the State health department today.On 5 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat to enquire about the pandemic situation and assured further help from the Centre. In a tweet, Rawat had informed that PM Modi enquired about the steps taken by the state government to control the spread of the virus. 

-Correspondent ANI 

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41 NAVAL PERSONNEL DEPLOYED AT PM COVID CARE HOSPITAL IN AHMEDABAD

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The Ministry of Defence has deployed 41 naval personnel from Western Naval Command to PM Cares Covid Hospital, Dhanvantari in Ahmedabad to enhance the health care system amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

In an official press release, the ministry informed that the team has been deployed for two months and will assist the hospital administration in handling COVID-19 patients. These Naval personnel comprises medical officers, nursing officers, paramedics, and support staff.

According to the ministry, a 57 member naval medical team was already positioned at the hospital on April 29. This team consisted of four doctors, seven nurses, 26 paramedics, and 20 supporting staff. It was said earlier that the deployment of this team was for two months and would be extended based on the requirement. ‘PM Cares COVID Hospital’ at Dhanvantari is a special hospital set up to manage the COVID crisis in Gujarat. The state currently has 1,47,525 active Covid-19 cases, as per the Union Health Ministry. 

WITH ANI INPUTS 

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AMBULANCE OWNER ARRESTED FOR CHARGING RS 1.2 LAKH FROM COVID PATIENT’S DAUGHTER

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The Delhi Police arrested an owner of an ambulance service company for allegedly charging Rs 1.20 lakh to shift a patient to a hospital, the police said on Friday.

The patient travelled from DLF Gurugram to Ludhiana on Wednesday. According to a statement from the Delhi Police, acting on the specific information, the Inder Puri police station team nabbed the accused Mimoh Kumar Bundwal, who was running an ambulance service company in the name of Cardiacare ambulance Pvt Ltd and was looting needy people by charging 2/3 times above the actual rent for transportation of Covid-19 patients in its ambulances.

During the investigation, it was revealed that he was in this profiteering business for the last one month and has cheated numerous people.

“The accused himself is an MBBS doctor who is involved in the ambulance business for the last two years,” the police said.

During the investigation, the bank account of the ambulance service company was also obtained and is being analysed. The accused has returned the cheated money to the victim after being nabbed by the police.

The police have also seized one ambulance given by him to numerous patients over the last month in the case. “My mother is Covid-19 positive and was in very critical condition. We were not getting a bed in Delhi-NCR, Gurugram and Faridabad. So we came to know about one hospital in Ludhiana where there was one empty bed. We contacted them and gave all the details about my mother’s condition and they agreed to take her. So we looked for the ambulance but no one has the oxygen and I needed an ambulance with an oxygen supply,” said Amandeep Kaur, the patient’s daughter.

“In the end, I contacted the Cardiacare ambulance service and they agreed to go but they asked Rs 1.40 lakh. Later when I told them that I have my own oxygen cylinder then they said that they will take Rs 1.20 lakh,” Kaur said.

She said that the ambulance driver took 20,000 initial amount in cash from her and later her husband transferred 95 thousand to their bank account. “Later, when I reached here one of my friends circulated the bill on social media and at the end reached to Human Rights department in Ludhiana and investigation started. I have also lodged a complaint in Delhi’s Inder Puri police station,” she added. A case has been registered under section 420 Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Inder Puri police station. Further investigation is in progress.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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