26 Dec 2019: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) On gender gap: Mind the gap
- Assessing women’s access to equal opportunity and resources against the access that men have would be a scientific way of evaluating a nation’s commitment to the advancement of its citizens.
- But going by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020, released last week, questions can easily be raised about whether this government is doing the right thing by the country’s women.
- India has dropped four points from 2018, to take the 112th rank on the Index. The Index measures the extent of gender-based gaps on four key parameters - economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
- Notably, it measures gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in countries, rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities.
- Despite a small score improvement, India has lost four positions as some countries ranked lower than India have shown better improvement.
- The country has reportedly closed two thirds of its overall gender gap, with a score of 66.8%, but the report notes with concern that the condition of women in large fringes of Indian society is ‘precarious’.
- Of significant concern is the economic gender gap, with a score of 35.4%, at the 149th place, among 153 countries, and down seven places since the previous edition, indicating only a third of the gap has been bridged.
- The participation of women in the labour force is also among the lowest in the world, and the female estimated earned income is only one-fifth of male income.
- An alarming statistic is India’s position (150th rank) on the very bottom of the Health and Survival subindex, determined largely by the skewed sex ratio at birth, violence, forced marriage and discrimination in access to health.
- It is on the educational attainment (112th rank) and political empowerment (18th rank) fronts that the relative good news is buried. There is no question that the Gender Gap Index presents India with an opportunity to make the necessary amends forthwith.
- Doing what the government is currently doing is clearly not going to be sufficient; it needs to engage intimately with all aspects indicated by the Index to improve the score, and set targets to reduce the gender gap in the foreseeable future.
- It will have to drastically scale up efforts it has introduced to encourage women’s participation, and increase opportunities for them. To do so it also needs to make sure there is actual implementation at the ground level.
- While a good score on any global index is a target worth pursuing, what is being questioned here is basic - is the state reneging on its commitment to half its population?
- The commitment to ameliorate the conditions for women is a non-negotiable duty of any state. A rounded approach is necessary to ensure women’s access to resources, opportunities.
2) On government’s NPR-NRC talk: Dangerous doublespeak
- The Centre appears to have marginally mellowed its position on rolling out a National Register of Citizens (NRC), going by the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah this week.
- But the Prime Minister’s contention that the widespread concerns about the NRC are merely fear-mongering by his political opponents is disingenuous and lame.
- The Prime Minister said no discussion on NRC had taken place in the government, which may be a clever statement but is certainly not reassuring. The plans for a countrywide NRC were announced repeatedly by senior functionaries of the government including Mr. Shah, even in Parliament.
- The concern that such an exercise, in combination with the recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, could lead to disenfranchisement and harassment of the poor and undocumented segments of the population was not born out of anyone’s imagination.
- Such a link has been stated by the ruling dispensation. The political thought behind the CAA-NRC fusion is the distinction that Mr. Modi makes between “infiltrators” and “refugees”, as if they could be separated on the basis of their religion.
- This argument was advanced in the 2014 campaign and it is ironical that the Prime Minister reiterated it in the same speech in which he accused the Opposition of spreading misinformation on the NRC.
- If the government has a rethink on its strident position on the NRC, it must say so upfront, and at any rate desist from denigrating critics. So far, what has come as clarification has only added to the confusion.
- In fact, the government must seriously reevaluate its position. India has a host of serious national challenges to tackle, the economy being the most critical. In his first Independence Day speech as Prime Minister, Mr. Modi had in 2014 called for a 10-year moratorium on communal and caste conflicts.
- He also promised to run the country on the basis of consensus and not of legislative majority. It is time he redeemed that pledge, and worked to heal the deep wounds inflicted by his misguided policy priorities.
- The intolerance towards opposing views and political opponents is expressed in horrifying terms down the ladder. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, vowed to take “revenge” against CAA-NRC protesters who turned violent.
- The Uttar Pradesh police have not explained satisfactorily how several people died of bullet injuries, while claiming that their personnel did not fire a single bullet. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA threatened to “wipe out” critics of CAA-NRC.
- Several other BJP functionaries have continued to make menacing statements regarding the NRC, even after the Prime Minister blamed the Opposition. The Prime Minister must demonstrate he is a man of his word, and that his writ runs in the party and the government.