IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 7th January 2017
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Transgender and Related Issues
Indian policy makers have been progressing fast on the issue of transgenders. Recently, the cabinet also approved the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016. Government is also evolving mechanisms for their social, economic and educational empowerment. Efforts need to be put to mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against this marginalized section and bring them into the mainstream of society. It will lead to greater inclusiveness and will make the transgender persons productive members of the society.
Problems Faced by Transgender
Transgender community is among one of the most marginalized communities in the country because they don’t fit into the stereotypical categories of men or women. Consequently they face a lot of problems such as:
- Social exclusion and discrimination.
- Lack of adequate education and employment facilities.
- Dropping out of school for multiple reasons such as repeated violence.
- They are also required to hide their identity due to the fear of harassment and the stigma attached.
- Inability to take up the work of their choice.
- Various legislations such as Section 377 (which criminalizes non penile-vaginal intercourse) and Section 36(A) of the Karnataka Police Act (which allows the police commissioner to maintain a register of transgenders) allow room for discrimination of transgender.
- Forced marriages, caste oppression, sexual and physical assault are a few more challenges faced by the third gender.
The NALSA Judgement
In 2014, the Supreme Court passed a judgement which was a result of the petition filed by the National Legal Services Authority. The judgement also known as the NALSA Judgement allowed the transgender to avail benefits provided by the state in equality to the other citizens. It also gave them an option of identifying themselves as the third gender .
The judgement also required the Centre and States to take steps to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes and extend reservation for admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.
Also, all important identity documents such as birth certificate, passport, ration card and driving licence would recognise the third gender. Gender identification was very essential for further provision of many rights such as the right to vote, own property and marry.
Transgender Welfare Board
As a result of the NALSA judgement, a few Indian states such as Manipur, Odisha, Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka and Kerala have formed Transgender Welfare Board for the purpose of extending existing welfare schemes to transgender communities.
However, the creation of such boards and welfare measures has had its own set of limitations and obstacles:
- Owing to the federal structure of India, welfare in India is a matter of responsibility for both the Centre and State. As a result, the there is no uniform agenda in place for the transgenders.
- The existing welfare schemes for transgender are not completely suitable for them.
- In the process of policy formulation, the dialogue with the community has been inadequate to understand their needs and requirements.
Tamil Nadu also formed a Transgender Welfare Board, before the NALSA judgement was passed, for the welfare of a small community of transgenders known as Aravanis. This board also had flaws similar to those mentioned above.
Challenge of Certification
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 also has a provision for a district screening committee to certify a person’s third-gender identity in the form of a transgender card. The need for certification by a committee, could be for administrative purposes such as deciding the benefits under welfare schemes, allowing for a change of name etc but it is still against the promise made by the NALSA judgement, which allowed self-identification to be the basis of such certification.
Limitations of the Bill
Apart from the social challenges that the transgenders face, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 has the following shortcomings:
- Absence of provisions to recognize the violence committed by the natal family.
- The inadequate budget assigned by the Centre for this matter.
- Absence of awareness programmes to sensitize the general population.
- Lack of a clear mechanism through which transgender communities can access existing welfare schemes.
The need of the hour is to make all the stakeholders responsive and accountable for upholding the social principles necessary to safeguard the interests of the marginalised sections of the society. Through the Transgender Bill, we can bring greater accountability on the part of the Central Government and Slate Governments/Union Territories Administrations for issues concerning Transgender persons. Other than policy measures, sensitisation and awareness have to be raised significantly. If various stakeholders can come together, we can definitely make this world a better place for the third gender.
Connecting the dots
- What are the problems faced by the Transgenders in India socially and in terms of policy implementation? What are the corresponding measures that are needed to be taken to address problems in both the areas?
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Universal Basic Income: is it coming to India?
In news: the NDA government is seemingly considering the idea of ‘Universal Basic Income’ or a regular state payment to all citizens regardless of their employment status. This scheme is likely to be included in the Economic Survey. However, it is unlikely that the scheme will be implemented- just yet.
What is Universal Basic Income?
- The idea of UBI is that everybody should be given a basic minimum income as an entitlement and not as compensation for work.
- Even libertarians, generally wary of free riders and government handout programmes, agree that in the 21st century people cannot be left to die of hunger and malnutrition simply because they could not find a job.
- Even in most advanced countries, though social security systems are in place, but there are caveats which lead to exclusion of many. For example, as per a US think tank CATO, the present American welfare system is a disaster as despite federal and state governments spending around $1 billion annually, yet 16% of the population remains below the US poverty line.
The core idea
- The core idea of UBI is simple- Instead of having many different forms of welfare programmes targeted at the poor, and administered through government bureaucracy, there should be a simple unconditional regular cash transfer to every adult.
- Here, the individuals will retain any additional income earned over the basic income, subject to paying a fraction in taxes. So only those with zero income will receive the full basic income in net terms.
- For others, the net benefits will taper off and so even though the basic income is universal, the benefits of the non-poor are taken back through taxation and only the poor are net recipients of support.
Cash vs. Kind
- In a turnaround from anti-poverty policies pursued by all previous governments, the new approach seeks to topple the in-kind income transfers and bring in cash transfers.
- There have been two major in-kind poverty alleviation policies in operation — PDS (by FCI) and MGNREGA — which involve large scale government involvement. However, both are amongst the most corrupt schemes in the world.
- As Rajiv Gandhi had said in 1985 that no more than 15% of PDS food distribution reaches the poor, the same holds true even now with only 50% of food procured and stored by the government reaches anybody, rich or poor. Similar is the case with MGNREGA.
- However, DBT has now captured people’s imagination with implementation of technology and Aadhar card.
- Hence, a logical expansion of the DBT is the policy of Universal Basic Income (UBI) whereby there will be a guaranteed income to all (population, adult, worker or variant thereof).
- It provides a new method towards efficient redistribution of income.
If there is no change in consumption since 2011-12, there can be calculations made about the magnitude and efficacy of income transfer policy. (It is made on reasonable assumption as the real distribution did not change between 1983 and 2011-12).
The data of 2011-12 from NSS survey and assumptions of 2016-17 based on approx. consumption data from wage data for ploughman and carpenters.
- There has been 58% and 69% growth in the wages of the poor and semi-skilled respectively in last five years. But the consumer prices just rose by 40% between 2011-12 and 2016-17. This background information for India, 2016-17, yields important policy conclusions.
- The national poverty rate stands at around 20% where the average poverty gap with the higher poverty line is about Rs 300 per poor person per month.
(Poverty Gap= difference between the average consumption level of the poor and the relevant poverty line)
- To reduce this new absolute poverty level from 20% to 0%, the government needs to transfer Rs. 1lakh crore (lc) on an annual basis. This is only 0.7% of the GDP
- At present, the government spends Rs 1.75 lc — PDS 1.35 lc and MGNREGA 0.4 lc.
Hence, there is an efficient way for the government to eliminate poverty on an ongoing basis, and to help the lower middle class as well.
- The defining line for the absolute poor should not be absolute — it should increase with the level of per capita income and should include the lower middle class.
- The demonetisation will allow increased personal income tax collections around Rs 1 lc to Rs 1.5 lc annually.
- Thus the government has total 3 lakh crores to redistribute (if PDS and MGNREGA are discontinued).
- If the government uses income tax data and data on consumption of automobiles and two wheelers, the government can easily identify the bottom 50% of the Indian population which includes the poor and the lower middle class.
- Without any strain on the budget, the government can transfer Rs 3 lakh crore to 265 million people, or approximately Rs 1,000 per person per month. This will result in a 50% increase in consumption for the (median) 50th percentile consumer and a 65% increase for the 25th percentile consumer.
Professor Guy Standing of Europe-based advocacy group Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) has been closely involved with three major pilot schemes in India—two in Madhya Pradesh and another in West Delhi.
In Madhya Pradesh, UBI was launched in 2010 where every man, woman, and child across eight villages were provided with a modest basic income for a period of 18 months.
This scheme improved nutrition among the children, healthcare, sanitation, and school attendance and performance.
The most striking thing observed was that emancipatory effect was greater than the monetary effect. It enabled people to have a sense of control. They pooled some of the money to pay down their debts, they increased decisions on escaping from debt bondage. Even the women developed their own capacity to make their own decision about their own lives.
Three pillars of possible existence
Administrative and technical viability
- Targeted beneficiary programmes have seen lot of corruption, inconsistency and falsehood which ultimately denied the ‘targeted beneficiary’ the ‘intended benefits’.
- Here, UBI completely does away with targeting and all the challenges that come with it.
- It would be simpler, easier to administer, prone to less discretion, hence less rent-seeking, and have zero misdirection since everyone would be an eligible beneficiary.
- Leakages would also be minimized if UBI is administered using the JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and mobile connectivity) trinity.
- Explained above
- This is the most challenging aspect of the UBI proposal as financing it involves elimination of existing benefits to some powerful interest groups.
- However, it is one of the few policies where there is support from both the left and the right end of the political spectrum.
- From the right viewpoint, it allows the recipient to decide how to spend money, there is less bureaucracy and less prone to corruption and exclusion and inclusion errors.
- From the left viewpoint, it is a smart redistribution policy where the redistributed income directly reaches the poorer section, avoiding the leaky bucket problem.
- The belief that in-kind transfers and subsidies are ridden with corruption, while a cash transfer system using mobile banking to a largely poor and uneducated population will be corruption-free has to be backed by solid digital infrastructure.
- The complete linkage of Aadhar with the bank accounts is still pending. Hence it will disadvantageous to population which is yet to have Aadhar card or bank account.
- The income guarantee may adversely affect work incentives. Though it may be fundamentally and worryingly, negative view of humanity, UBI is actually expected to address some issues of insecurity. With a secured income in hand, there is chance for greater work choices for individuals than the current system offers. However, this still has to be contemplated upon.
- It is afterall income and not welfare programme. So, there ought to be continuance of welfare programmes too. This might increase the financial burden on economy.
The governments of Canada and Finland are identifying the possibilities and exploring the aspects of UBI through pilot projects. The old system of income redistribution has broken as wages will continue to decline and insecurity will continue to grow. Though UBI is not a panacea but there is a need for a new income distribution system. Hence, there is a requirement to believe in progressive change wherein this debate is enthusiastically taken up to explore various dimensions which can have possible major impacts on socio economic canvass of the country, especially its poor population.
Connecting the dots:
- Do you agree that Universal Basic Income will facilitate a more inclusive society with reduced inequalities? Give reasons for your answer.
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