Q) Of all the impacts that COVID has had on the Indian society, 'Gender inequality' shall be the most lasting. Do you agree? Suggest measures by which these impacts can be mitigated. 150 words
Source: The Hindu Education Plus: Build a better future
Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has opened many challenges in front of the society, from unemployment and lower wages to health and psychological issues. Of these the impact of girls' dropout rates would have he most lasting impacts.
Recovery form Overall Societal Impacts of the Pandemic:
i. Unemployment: There is a greater degree of unemployment in the informal sector economy. However, as the economy recovers, there is a greater chance of employment getting back.
ii. Migration crisis due to Lower Wages: The lower wages have forced many labours to shift to the rural areas. This is evident from the increased demand for MGNREGS work. This too would improve as the shape of the economy improves.
iii. Psychological problems: There is an increased risk of mental illness such as home sickness due to increased number of hours that had to be dwelled in the confines of. As COVID situation subsides, this would improve.
iv. Health Issue: There is an increased risk of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hearth attack. This challenge can be addressed with better diets and routine.
v. Malnourishment: Due to shortage of food. This however has been handled with increased spending on PDS.
vi. Increased inequality: This can be a lasting impact as the COVID-19 has pushed a great proportion of population into poverty.
vii. Higher school dropout rates: due to lockdown, the dropout rates have shot up. There is a growing evidence that boys have been engaged in the petty jobs and the girls have been engaged in the domestic work.
Impact of the Pandemic on Gender inequality:
i. Trapped in household work or married of: It is seen that the girls who drop out of school are were forced into household work can't easily get back to school.
ii. Curbs on Liberty: The Pandemic has put curbs on their mobility. The closure of schools has also led to a lack of a safe space for girls.
iii. Domestic Abuse: Further, a high number of adolescent girls reported that they felt vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual harassment during the lockdown.
iv. Digital and Educational inequality: The usage of mobile phones by girls is less than the boys. Thus due to the lack of optimal access to the Internet, they are more likely to be lagged behind in educational status.
Thus out of all the social problems that COVID-19 has created, gender inequality would be hardest to tackle.
Possible Solutions for solving girl education/gender inequality are:
i. Incentivising Girl Education: There are various schemes such as PM Kaushal Vikas Yojana, on the lines of which girls can be incentivised by the means of direct benefit transfer so that they come to school.
ii. Making use of Television: Kerala State Education Department’s ‘First Bell’ initiative, launched on June 1, 2020. Over 600 classes are now running via the ‘KITE Victers’ television channel, making lessons accessible to students without smartphone and internet access.
iii. Awareness Programs & Community engagement: Such as on the level of Beti Bachao Beti padhao(BBBP) campaign influence community to put stress on the girls' education.
Possible Solutions regarding other issues:
i. Health and Psychological issues: Government can enhance the spending on the National program on Mental Health and National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) under the national Health Policy.
ii. For employment and Migration Crisis: The revenue expenditure on employment generation needs to be enhanced. For this MNGREGS can be utilized. Further, capital expenditure can be enhanced in the infrastructure sector to serve dual objective of employment generation and capacity utilization.
iii. Take a community and school-based approach towards health, nutrition, gender equity, injuries and violence, non-communicable diseases, mental health, and substance misuse. The Government of India’s ambitious Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) and School Health and Wellness programmes, for instance, can be harnessed to address the pandemic-induced challenges.
Conclusion: The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating. Tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, while the number of undernourished people. Of these the Gender inequality is the greatest. However this can be handled with better planning and policy interventions.