IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 3rd August, 2016
General Studies 1
Women related issues
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
A tricky debate on abortion
Why in news?
A case was presented before SC where a woman successfully obtained direction for termination of her 24 week old pregnancy. Her plea was that she was raped by her boyfriend on pretext of marrying her.
In another Delhi HC case, the court directed for a medical examination of 16-year old girl on her fitness for abortion after she informed the court that she was kidnapped by unknown persons, sexually abused for two years and finally let off.
In both the cases, the abortion was to be carried out beyond the permissible period in Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
The case of ‘abortion’
The abortion is treated as a criminal offence liable for punishment under IPC
According to it, the offence falls under ‘Offences Affecting the Human Body’
It provides that causing a miscarriage with or without consent for a purpose other than saving the life of the woman is punishable.
However, then came MRTP Act which made quantum difference in approach
It legitimises abortion as a health and family planning measure
It decriminalised abortion without bringing an amendment to the IPC or abrogating the penal provisions.
It set some limitation to the
circumstances where abortion is possible
the persons who are competent to perform the procedure
the place where it could be performed
Outside the boundary of MRTP, the IPC still operates
Understanding abortion in India
It is permissible
within 12 weeks at the option of the pregnant woman
within an extended period of 20 weeks with the permission of a Medical Board consisting of not less than two persons
in both cases, freedom of choice of women is limited to
continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman, or of grave injury to physical or mental health that includes rape;
a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped
The limitation of the second case is that even in a qualified and registered medical practitioner’s opinion, which is formed in a good faith to immediately carry out abortion to save life of women, is not applicable.
Most foetal abnormalities are by far detected around 20 weeks. Thus, the law applicable in second case gets limited to 20 weeks
An act of abortion or medical termination of pregnancy is killing a human being.
However, the question is: what makes killing a human being wrong?
Explanation in a religious tone says that all humans are made in the image of God or that all humans have an immortal soul.
In a 1973 case in USA, the US Supreme Court decided by a 7-2 majority that an implied constitutional right to privacy encompassed a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. But, it also gave state to declare the outer limit to carry out the procedure.
Abortion= avoiding disability?
When a child in womb is diagnosed with some mental or physical disability, it is critical decision for a mother to decide the termination of pregnancy.
The question asked now is not, ‘Do we want this child?’ but rather, ‘Do we want this particular child?’
This situation completely reframes the nature of parenting, where the parents establish their relationship with child which meets certain criteria.
The issue hence goes from health concerns to avoiding disability.
If crudely understood, then genetic technology does not promote community health but functions as a mechanism of social control for the incoming difference in society.
The modern woman
The health and avoidance of disability point of view is known
Apart from it, the modern woman believes that only she has the right and no one else to decide what she wishes to do with her foetus.
In today’s society, the woman doesn’t consider herself a mother unless the child is born
Late term abortion is justified by stating that she refuses to be in involuntary servitude.
When the partial birth abortion is carried out on foetus with chromosomal abnormalities in guise of reducing suffering, the best interest of mother and child seem to be threatened
Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration (2009)
A mentally retarded rape victim’s pregnancy case who was an inmate of a state-run protection home.
The state had approached the court to abort the foetus stating the mental condition of the rape victim
The Supreme Court declined the state’s request while delivering the order that “Empirical studies have conclusively disproved the eugenics theory that mental defects are likely to be passed on to the next generation.”
Eugenics: the science of improving a population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics.
V. Krishnan v. G. Rajan alias Madipu Rajan and The Inspector of Police (Law and Order (1993)
A minor girl married an adult man without family’s consent and got pregnant
Her father approached court for permission to abort stating that she was a minor. It implicitly meant that the girl was raped.
However, the Madras High Court ruled in girl’s favour citing that the girl was known of the consequences of preganancy and she was willing to conceive a child.
A forced abortion may negatively affect her mental and physical state.
Thus, the court asserted her fundamental right to have a child by becoming pregnant
Finding the middle path
The right of the woman over her foetus should be balanced with the right of the foetus to survive. Sadly, the foetus does not have the ability to exercise the option while the woman has.
It is true that a rape victim has all the right to choose to abort the child
The question is, why she has to wait when the foetus is starting to develop human form?
Why should the abortion take place at such belated stage where there is chance of harm to mother and child’s health?
The rape victim who is capable to make her decisions has sufficient time to consider the option of abortion.
For parents who are informed of the foetus’s deformities, can adhere to perinatal hospice.
Perinatal hospice: is an innovative and compassionate model of support for parents who find out during pregnancy that their baby has a life-limiting condition and who choose to continue their pregnancies.
It recognises the value of upbringing infants by treating them as beings conceived with a tangible future.
It is a preferable alternative because of presence of post-termination psychological distress as well as emphasizing the dignity and worth of each foetus.
Creating an inclusive society
A child born with disability should not be eliminated.
The child has to be nurtured in an inclusive society with a n approach of dignity to even a child with disabilities
In Germany, the law permits abortion after mandatory counselling and a three-day waiting period.
There is no criminalisation of abortion.
The law focuses on counselling, employment security, social welfare, and financial support to persuade pregnant women to give birth to their children.
Thus, the law gives the foetus a degree of protection to survive by taking voluntary recognition of personal responsibility and respect for the personhood of the unborn.
There is a need to ask few questions
Is there a need for a change in law for easy availability of option to abort without frequent court intervention?
Does a woman have a right to seek abortion any time she wishes?
Should state have a say in personal matter of a woman’s body and her desires?
The need is of counselling rather than rushing to amend laws now and then.
Connecting the dots:
A woman has the right to decide the fate of her pregnancy. But it is the foetus’s right also to survive. Critically analyse.
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
General Studies 3
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Vocational Education and Training (VET)
India has one of the largest technical manpower in the world. However, compared to its population it is not significant and there is a tremendous scope of improvement in this area. In India, the emphasis has been on general education, with vocational education at the receiving end. This has resulted in large number of educated people remaining unemployed. This phenomenon has now been recognised by the planners and hence there is a greater thrust on vocationalisation of education.
There are four places where VET is imparted in India:
In secondary/higher secondary schools and polytechnics;
In industrial training institutes (ITIs, both public and private);
In private vocational training providers publicly financed and incubated by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC); and
In in-firm, enterprise training (either of government-funded apprentices or large firms conducting training for their own new recruits).
Major concern with VET is its ‘funding’
Financing technical vocational education and training (TVET) is costlier than general education due to its technical nature.
Installation of equipments for pre-service training
Trained instructors to train youth
A lot of TVET is pre-employment, and funded by the government (kind of paid internship)
All this raises the cost of TVET and remains a factor preventing pre-service training from expanding more rapidly.
How TVET is financed?
There are four ways in which technical vocational education and training (TVET) is financed in India at the above listed four locations:
General tax revenues, used to fund public and private vocational training providers;
In-firm financing and provision of training by and for a firm conducting such training;
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) requirements by the government, mandating a certain proportion of CSR funds to be spent on vocational training; and
Levy on firms by the government, held in a special fund, resources from which are earmarked for vocational training.
The last two financing mechanisms (3 and 4) are proposed, but is currently not the practice in India.In India, only the first two forms of financing have been used.
Below article discusses each funding mechanism and concerns associated with it.
General tax revenues
Government ITIs, polytechnics and secondary schools (classes IX-XII) offers VET and these are funded with general tax revenues.
Even the NSDC is funded with general tax revenues.
The NSDC also finances (in the form of equity and debt) training by private for-profit vocational training providers.
However, its scale is too small, training too short, and it is being expanded too rapidly at the cost of quality/employability of trainees.
This variant of financing VET from general tax revenues provides for tax deduction of the expenses incurred on skills projects.
Problems with this form of financing:
Since, funding VET through General tax revenues provides for tax deduction, there are following concerns –
India’s (Union and States combined) tax revenue-to-GDP ratio has hardly improved since the economic reforms in 1991 and remains below 17.5 per cent, the level achieved in the peak year of 2007-08. Giving a tax deduction for VET further reduces tax revenues rather than increasing it.
The Income Tax Act, especially corporate taxes, is regularly criticised for already being too accommodative by providing too many exemptions, reducing the effective corporate tax rate to 23 per cent.
Hence, financing from General tax revenues is not an appropriate method of financing VET, and has not shown much promise.
This form of financing was confined to merely 16 per cent of all Indian firms in 2009, and still only 39 per cent of firms in 2014, and that too only the very large ones.
In contrast to Indian firms, 85 per cent of Chinese firms provide in-firm financing to conduct in-house training.
In India, even the smaller of large firms, and certainly the medium and small enterprises, don’t conduct much in-house training. Hence, the problem of shortage of trained personnel continues.
Problems with this form of financing:
In India, there is a rising need for skilled personnel but there is limited financing available for skill development.
Since, in-firm or enterprise funding is limited, there is shortage of skilled personnel and as a result the wages and salaries of skilled and highly skilled staff have been rising sharply in the past decade.
Firms (especially large firms) which are spending on in-firm or in-house trainings are facing rising input costs on account of human resources. This tends to raise recurrent costs for the firm.
Therefore, large firms decide to invest in machinery, substituting capital for labour, thus reducing the potential for increasing jobs.
Thus, the current situation is neither efficient from a micro- nor from a macro-economic perspective.
CSR funds for skill development
A third form of financing for skill development has been under discussion: CSR.
The policy for CSR in India is governed by Clause 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, which is applicable to companies with an annual turnover of Rs.1,000 crore or more.
The Act encourages companies to spend at least 2 per cent of their average net profit in the previous three years on CSR, and a minimum of 6,000 companies will be required to undertake CSR projects to comply with the Act.
Problems with this form of financing:
The provision in the Act is ‘indicative’, not mandatory. There is nothing that will ensure companies undertake such activities.
Besides, putting skill development in the category of CSR activity assumes that it is not directly beneficial to the company in its core business. Many large companies are already undertaking skill development activities as they require skilled staff that no else can provide.
In other words, putting skill development in the category of CSR may enable such companies to transfer the costs of normal skill development activities the firm is running in any case as CSR activities now, substituting for other equally worthwhile activities eligible for such initiatives.
Moreover, the Rs.1,000-crore threshold of the Act absolves even medium-sized companies, let alone smaller ones, of conducting training.
Finally, skill development is often undertaken by a company for meeting its own requirements for skilled HR, and the training hence may be overly specialised and may leave the trainee not particularly employable if he or she were to move jobs.
In sum, while CSR could be used as a means of enhancing financing for skill development, the Government of India has to be careful that it does not end up subsidising activities by the firm that it might have undertaken in any case.
Earmarked tax to finance training
Given the above concerns related to the first three forms of financing for skill development, 62 countries of the world have adopted an option that seems to have served them well.
A tax is levied on companies that goes into an earmarked fund meant exclusively for TVETpurposes.
Firms can be reimbursed the costs of training from such a fund.
A second objective such a fund would serve is to provide a stipend to students who receive TVET, given that the demand for TVET is lower than for general academic education.
Levies can provide a steady and protected source of funding for training, particularly in the context of unstable public budgets. Early training funds (e.g. Brazil) tended to be single purpose aimed at financing pre-employment training. Others focused on expanding the volume of in-service training within the enterprises. There are 17 countries in Latin America, 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (including South Africa), 14 in Europe, seven in West Asia and North Africa, and seven in Asia that have such funds.
Skills and knowledge are the engines of economic growth and social development of any country. Countries with higher and better levels of knowledge and skills respond more effectively and promptly to challenges and opportunities of globalisation.
India is in transition to a knowledge based economy and its competitive edge will be determined by the abilities of its people to create, share and use knowledge more effectively. This transition will require India to develop workers into knowledge workers who will be more flexible, analytical, adaptable and multi skilled.
To achieve this goals, India needs flexible education and training system that will provide the foundation for learning, secondary and tertiary education and to develop required competencies as means of achieving lifelong learning.
Keeping in mind that the education system should cater to the needs of the manpower requirement for the economic development of the country. Government of India has accorded high importance to vocational education and training.
Besides, it is also being ensured that the marginalised sections of the society, including women, get adequate representation in these courses. It can thus be hoped that TVET will play a major role in improving the lives of the people of India.
A levy on firms, resources from which are earmarked for vocational training, is what could help the country bridge the skill gap in its workforce.
Connecting the dots:
What are the major concerns associated with providing vocational education and training (VET)? Can India take advantage of its demographic window by providing in the next couple of decades and benefit from it?
Government of India has accorded high importance to vocational education and training (VET) to convert its quantitative demographic dividend into a qualitative one. Discuss the initiatives taken by the government in this regard?