Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues
Effects of globalization on Indian society, Social empowerment
General Studies 2
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Medical termination of Pregnancy Act (Part II)
Health being a major issue of concern in India has areas like abortion and medical termination where lack of clarity and societal discourses that has resulted in many divergences. Especially abortions being a sensitive issue, pro-choice versus pro-life remain at the centre of an often acrimonious ethical, legal, theological and political debate across the world.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 relaxes the legal limit for abortion. The Supreme Court declined a woman’s plea to abort her 26-week-old foetus detected with Down’s Syndrome.
A senior advocate Colin Gonsalves argued that it was the woman’s constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy.
It was contended that the congenital abnormality found in her foetus and the woman’s anguish about the future were the reasons for her decision.
The court refused permission for abortion, calling the foetus “a life”. It said the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 places a 20-week ceiling on termination of pregnancy.
However, this case is different from the ones that have preceded it.
In January, the same Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and L. Nageswara Rao had relaxed the 20-week cap to permit another woman to terminate her 24-week pregnancy.
The foetus in that case was diagnosed with anencephaly — a congenital defect in which the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull.
The court had said abortion was necessary to preserve the woman’s life. In the case of the foetus with Down’s syndrome, the court said the foetus posed no danger to the woman’s life.
If the draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill of 2014 been implemented as law, this case would not have come to court at all.
The Bill amends Section 3 of the principle Act of 1971 to provide that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities as may be prescribed”.
Besides increasing the legal limit for abortion from 20 weeks to 24 weeks, the draft Bill allows a woman to take an independent decision in consultation with a registered health-care provider.
Under the 1971 Act, even pregnant rape victims cannot abort after 20 weeks, compelling them to move court.
With the 2014 Bill in limbo, the Supreme Court has agreed to look into whether a wider interpretation ought to be given to phrases like “risk to the life of the pregnant woman” and “grave injury to her physical and mental health”.
Legal experts have argued that medical science and technology have made the 20-week ceiling redundant and that conclusive determination of foetal abnormality is possible in most cases after the 20th week of gestational age.
Gonsalves has led arguments that at least 3% of the 26 million births annually in India involve severe foetal abnormalities.
Women rights are matter of concern and with laws not being conclusive it adds to the confusion. Further in the debate between choice and life it is important to emerge at a middle ground. Underlying all these initiatives has to be the primary message, that each pregnancy is a potential human being. Even as the provisions of the MTP Act have to be treasured by Indian women, it has to be used with responsibility and respect towards the unborn life.
Connecting the dots:
Critically analyse the need for a change in mindset and hence the comprehensive change in legislation w.r.t. MTP act.
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
GDP numbers post demonetisation
GDP estimates for third quarter of FY 2016-17 have surprised many. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has kept its January estimate for growth in GDP in 2016-17 unchanged at 7.1%.
This can be a signal that independent economic forecasters may have overstated the drag on the economy post demonetisation.
However, GVA growth for full year has been pegged at 6.7% as against the 7% projected in the first advance estimates. But it is important to note that growth in the first two quarters of the current fiscal was also lower than comparable quarters of the last fiscal.
Since CSO has not revised downward the annual estimate, it is expected that there should not be further changes on account of demonetisation.
The CSO numbers vindicate the stand that demonetisation didn’t have a major impact on the economy.
The reason why GDP has maintained is because the reduction in GVA has been compensated for by an improved estimate in net indirect taxes.
The numbers come as a surprise as they are in stark contrast to various estimates, including the International Monetary Fund’s which had expected economic growth to fall to 6% in the second half of the current fiscal year.
CSO estimates in many segments are in line with market expectations for Q3 FY17.
Financial and real estate– Grew at only 3.1% compared to 7.6% and 8.7% in previous two quarters.
Construction– Grew at 2.7% compared to 3.4% in previous quarter.
Exports– Grew at 3.4% compared to -0.9% in previous quarter (Global demand strengthened)
Agriculture– Recorded 6% growth as compared to 3.8% in previous quarter. It is estimated to grow at4.4% compared with the first advance estimates which had predicted a growth of 4.1%.
Reason- Increase in sowing and output of rabi crops due to good moisture content in the soil following a near-normal monsoon
Government provided relief to farmers by allowing them to purchase seeds with the old notes from government-affiliated centres.
Mining and Quarrying– Expected to expand at 1.3% in 2016-17, instead of prediction of a contraction of 1.8%.
The government might have strategically mitigated the adverse impact of demonetisation through the timing of announcement and fiscal policy.
PM said in Parliament that the government waited for the festive season to get over before announcing demonetisation.
Government spending has also increased when investment starts going down and the stimulus is withdrawn once the situation improves. Thus, post demonetisation, Government spending is being used to revive investment in the economy.
It could be now expected that government would slow down on government spending for the good part of forthcoming fiscal year and be active with 2019 LS elections.
Critics view point
However, according to few experts, GDP numbers would probably not capture the impact of demonetisation as India’s official statistical machinery has limited capability to measure its huge informal economy.
The GDP numbers have already begun debate about if the full impact of demonetisation was captured or not. There are some scepticism in CSO estimates
The gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), an indicator of private investment in the economy, grew at 3.5% in spite of having contracted for the previous three quarters.
Given the overall capacity utilisation of companies in India at around 70% and the negative impact of demonetisation on short-term demand, this number surprised markets.
The private final consumption expenditure (PFCE), an indicator of consumption of individuals in the economy, grew by 10% compared to 5% and 7% in previous quarters
Though it is said that strong consumption during Diwali and 7th pay commission awards play a role, there is lack of strong evidence to justify a 10% increase in private consumption.
Manufacturing sector – It grew at 8.3% compared to 6.9% in previous quarter.
Mining sector– One of the biggest surprises is its growth of 7.5% compared to -1.5% in the previous quarter.
An increase in the prices of commodities, ranging from oil to metals, may be driving the strong growth in mining and manufacturing.
Industry GDP– Grew at 6.6% even when other indicators like the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dipped in November and December.
To get a more accurate picture, the revised estimates of CSO should be look forward to. The advance estimates are largely based on data from the formal sector and may underestimate the impact of demonetisation, since the informal sector is said to have suffered a larger impact.
Connecting the dots:
In your opinion, critically analyse the demonetisation effect the Indian economy? Consider it in light of recently released CSO advance estimates for growth in economy.