Q) The recent Supreme Court judgement on the Hindu Succession Act, paves the way for the long term empowerment of women in India. Critically examine.
In August 2020, the apex court of India expanded on a Hindu woman’s right to be joint legal heir and inherit ancestral property on terms equal to the male heirs. The judgement pertains to the Hindu Succession (amendment) Act, 2005. The court declared that the daughters would have coparcenary rights in a joint Hindu family equal to that of the male heirs irrespective of the father being alive (or not) before the date of enactment of Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005. The Mitakshara school of Hindu law is codified as the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 and it governs succession and inheritance of property but only recognised males as legal heirs.
Significance of the judgement
- It upholds the constitutional value of equality among all.
- It is a step towards the empowerment of women who were at times abandoned by the family.
- It is a step to ensure economic independence of a lot of women in India.
- It is aligned with the present day needs of the society where women have been contributing significantly to the economy.
- Through this ruling, the SC has now categorically ruled that the daughters’ right flows from their birth and not by any other factor such as the existence of their fathers.
- The ruling acts as a clarification on the previous confusions related to succession by women.
India has since ages been a male dominated society where women were looked down upon. women have traditionally been facing issues like female foeticide, infanticide, child marriages, domestic violence, sexual harassment, unequal treatment at home and workplace, unequal pay for equal work, etc. the judgment is in sync with a larger churn in Indian life, that has seen women extract similar concessions from families and religions, that involves citizens and communities using constitutional promises to push institutions towards change. This ruling is a seal on a substantive change in the Hindu undivided family.
The above Supreme Court judgement is a forward step towards ensuring gender justice and women empowerment. however an equal amount of behavioural change is required for achieving the desired objectives. It is now the government’s and the civil society’s role to increase awareness among the society and ensure gender equality
Q) Secrecy and anonymity provide fertile grounds for lobbying and capture of governments by big donors. In this context, critically examine the viability of electoral bonds in India.
Electoral bonds are instruments or securities that are used for the purpose of donating funds to the political parties. It was introduced in India in 2018. They are based on the lines of bearer bonds or promissory notes wherein the issuer (bank) is the custodian and pays the one who holds the bonds (political party).
Significance of Electoral Bonds
- They are aimed at rooting out the current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties.
- They are made to curb the practice of using black money for electoral funding.
- Since the donor buys electoral bonds after furnishing KYC details to the bank, it is a more transparent tool for electoral funding than cash.
- It protects the donors against any post-poll intimidation or harassment by political opponents, as their anonymity is assured.
- Since the validity of these bonds is 15 days from the date of their issue, the chances of misuse are reduced.
- The bonds also offer tax advantage to donors, thus making them an attractive tool for political donations.
Concerns related to Electoral Bonds
- The bonds that were introduced to ensure transparency have promoted opacity since the ordinary citizens do not know who is donating how much money to which political party, and the bonds increase the anonymity of political donations.
- It does not allow the Election Commission of India to check violation of provisions in the Representation of the People Act, as any donation received by a political party through an electoral bond has been taken out of the ambit of reporting under the Contribution Report.
- The amendment of 2018 to the FCRA allows political parties to receive funding from foreign companies with a majority stake in Indian companies. It can lead to Indian policies being influenced by foreign companies.
- Elimination of a cap of 7.5% on corporate donations, elimination of requirement to reveal political contributions in profit and loss statements and also the elimination of the provision that a corporation must be three years in existence, undercuts the intent of the scheme.
- It conceals from public scrutiny the identity of the corporates and moneybags, thus defeating the objective of transparency.
- Since these bonds assure secrecy and anonymity, it can encourage cases of round tripping and tax evasion.
- Switching to complete digital transactions for electoral funding.
- Donations above a certain limit can be made public to break the corporate-politico nexus.
- Political parties should be brought under the ambit of RTI.
- Establish a national electoral fund where donors contribute and funds are distributed among different parties.
Electoral bonds tend to promote transparency in electoral funding but the concerns associated with it have somehow not let this objective be achieved. The need of the hour is to pair them with other reforms needed in the electoral system to bring down the role of money power in Indian politics.
Q) What do you understand by the Abraham Accord? How do you think it will impact the larger geopolitical order around the world and India? Critically analyse.
Recently, UAE, Bahrain and Israel signed a US brokered agreement that has come to be known as the Abraham accord that aims at establishing formal relations between These Arab countries and Israel. According to the accord, UAE, Bahrain and Israel and in exchange Israel would suspend its plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
Significance of the accord
- For UAE and Bahrain- The deal signifies a strategic advantage over Iran and access to better technology including biotech, healthcare, defence and cyber surveillance.
- For Israel – Israel gets a diplomatic and economic opening with the big power In the Gulf, that could open other doors given its security interests. It will also provide Israel a secure presence in the Gulf and the larger region.
- For Saudi Arabia bloc- The bloc sees its interests being aligned with the US and Israel over Muslim Brotherhood, etc. and their support for Palestine, which Arab powers had historically upheld.
- For USA- it allows US to pivot away from Trump's Peace to Prosperity Plan for resolving the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The agreement is interpreted as a counter to the Iran China deal.
Significance of the Accord for India
- The agreement opens doors to the first big rapprochement between traditional adversaries in West Asia (Israel and the Arabs). It is beneficial for India as it has deep stakes in terms of energy supplies expatriate populations
- Israel suspension of its plan for annexation might lead to early resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine. India has always supported Two state solution as part of a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine.
- The deal also opens new opportunities for India to play a much larger role in the regional security and stability of the region as India enjoys special relations with both the Arabs and Israel.
Geopolitically, India has welcomed the move by UAE, Bahrain and Israel, calling them its strategic partners. This gives India an opportunity for a bigger multidimensional role in a region which is its strategic backyard, than merely playing the balancing act.
Q) One of the fundamental steps in achieving gender equality is the increase of women’s participation in the STEM sectors. Discuss.
The STEM Sector refers to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector. In India this sector to a large extent continues to be male dominated despite efforts over the years. According to the global gender gap report, 2020 India ranks 112 out of 150 three countries in gender equality.
Causes of low participation of women in the STEM sectors
- Historical inequality -historically, women have been considered inferior to men in terms of intelligence, capability, etc. and the same thinking continues till date.
- Not considered fit- females are considered to be soft spoken and gentle and hence kept out of the STEM sectors which requires rough and tough people with sharp minds.
- Lack of education- female education in India is considered less important over male education as females are expected to get married and take care of their families.
- Imbibed Sexism- The cultural and gender norms that engendered discrimination is a major reason why India lost out on an important opportunity to build a culture of including women in STEM fields.
- Less women specific science institutes- Only 11% colleges in India which are exclusively for women, majority of which offer arts and commerce rather than science
- Glass ceiling- even when the women get into these fields, the male dominated sector tries to curtail their growth by not considering them fit for higher positions.
Significance of Increasing Women’s Participation in STEM sectors
- It will be a step towards achieving gender equality in India in consonance with the principle of the Constitution.
- It will help the women in becoming socially and economically empowered.
- It will not only improve the financial condition of the women themselves but also of the economy. India could boost its growth by 1.5 percentage points to 9 percent per year if around 50% of women could join the workforce.
India needs to promote the growth of females in the STEM sectors under government should take adequate measures for that, which include promotion of female education at the higher level, encouraging females in research, incentivising their participation, etc. Female participation in all the sectors including the STEM sector would enable India to realise its goal of self reliance or being ‘Atmanirbhar’ as well as that of being a $5 trillion economy by 2024.
Q) An enhanced regulatory regime that focuses on increasing insurance coverage in India is the need of the hour. Discuss.
Insurance is the main element in the operation of national economies throughout the world today. It protects health and assets of the people and stimulates business activities to operate in a cost-effective manner. The insurance industry in India has been growing dynamically, with total insurance premiums increasing rapidly, as compared to global counterparts. The insurance penetration (ratio of total premium to GDP (gross domestic product)) and density (ratio of total premium to population) stood at 3.69% for FY18 , which is low in comparison with global levels.
Significance of Insurance
- A life insurance that assures an amount on the death of an insured person helps in maintaining the financial stability of the family of the deceased person.
- Health insurance minimizes out of the pocket expenditure done on health care by individuals.
- Crop insurances help farmers in overcoming the distress caused by crop failures due to various reasons.
- Asset insurance eg.- vehicle insurance helps in meeting the unforeseen expenditure that usually becomes a burden on the owners and their families.
- It overall helps to maintain the economic stability of people especially the middle and the lower income groups by helping meet the extra expenditures.
Challenges in the insurance sector
- Rural- Urban divide- Rural participation of insurers remains deficient, and life insurers, especially private ones, gravitate towards the urban population, to the detriment of the rural population.
- Lack of Capital- Insurers in India lack sufficient capital, and their financial health, particularly that of the public-sector insurers, is in a precarious state.
- Dominance of the public sector- though the monopoly of the government in the insurance sector has ended, the public-sector insurers hold a greater share of the insurance market even though they are fewer in number.
- Nascent Non- Life insurance- Life insurance dominates the sector with a huge share of 74.7%, with non-life insurance accounting for the remaining 25.3%. Moreover, products catering to specialty risks such as catastrophes and cyber security are at a nascent stage of development.
- Adopting a rural centric approach for increasing the penetration of insurance in rural areas. This will also need products catering to specific rural needs.
- There is a need for complementary thrust to spread awareness and improve financial literacy, particularly the concept of insurance, and its importance.
- Integration of the role of technology in the insurance industry to design special products according to special needs.
- Enhancing the role of the insurance regulator- the IRDA, to ensure the reach of insurance products to those who need it most, to facilitate easy availability of insurance both online and offline, etc.
The government has made significant efforts to increase the insurance coverage like the Saral Jeevan Bima, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, etc. However, the goal of making insurance accessible to all will remain difficult to achieve, until the above mentioned issues are addressed.