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
General Studies 1
Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
Triple Talaq declared unconstitutional
The discriminatory practice of instant triple talaq was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Three of the five judges on the Constitution Bench have not accepted the argument that instant talaq, or talaq-e-biddat , is essential to Islam and, therefore, deserves constitutional protection under Article 25.
It is important to note that the majority decision is only to set aside talaq-i-bidat and not to set it aside as unconstitutional. This is because only Justice Nariman and Justice Lalit — two of the five judges — have held the practice to be arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. The third judge who agrees to set aside the practice seeks to do so on completely different grounds. Justice Joseph holds that after the introduction of Section 2 of the Shariat Application Act, 1937, which made Muslim personal law (shariat) as the “rule of decision” where the parties were Muslims, “no practice against the tenets of Quran are permissible” and talaq-i-bidat, which is not permitted by the Quran is not part of shariat and consequently not applicable to Muslims in India.
Thus, while three judges agreed to set-aside the practice of talaq-i-bidat, they have chosen to do so on very different sets of reasons. Justice Joseph straddles both these majorities, siding with two judges on setting aside the practice of talaq-i-bidat while siding with two others in effectively holding that most personal law that applies to Indian Muslims is beyond a constitutional challenge.
At the same time, the “minority view” of two judges, which includes, notably, Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, urged the courts to approach matters of personal law with “absolute restraint”, underlining that these laws have constitutional protection.
In effect, no wide, overarching or immutable principle was laid down by the court — it has not held that all personal laws must henceforth meet the constitutionality or fundamental rights or essential practices test.
This verdict comes three decades after a government with a decisive majority in Parliament overturned a progressive court intervention on Muslim personal law in the Shah Bano case. Since that moment in 1986, the demand for reform has only grown louder within the Muslim community, particularly among its women, and it has compelled even the All India Personal Law Board to pay attention, and, in many cases, to bend.
But more recently, the coming to power of another government with a large mandate has sparked fears of majoritarianism among the minority. The verdict sent out a clear message that personal law can no longer be privileged over fundamental rights.
Parliament, historically, has refrained from legislating on Muslim personal law, in part because it did not want to give the impression of majoritarian intimidation; and it did not feel it was as representative on these matters in relation to Muslims as it did to others. The net result was that personal law remained exempt from the burdens of justification, enforced by an obdurate Muslim Personal Law Board. With the verdict, it will now be possible for our politics to calmly discuss issues of personal law reform and gender justice across all communities, without communalising our politics. The silver lining in this moment is the fact that there is such a strong movement for reform among Muslims.
The net effect of the judgment is that while the practice of talaq-i-bidat is gone, any future change in Muslim personal law as it presently applies will have to come from Parliament and not from constitutional challenges. A comprehensive legislation of Muslim personal law — as opposed to a uniform civil code — taking into account the global developments in Muslim personal law and the social realities of Indian Muslims today, after a detailed discussion with all stakeholders is the way forward. That is the space for the Muslim women’s movement to engage with next.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, and all those who supported its regressive opinion that even an unworthy practice should not be dislodged by judicial verdict, should now accept the verdict in the interests of a modern social order. And there is no reason to contend that their faith has been unduly secularised. For, as Justice Joseph concludes, “what is bad in theology is bad in law as well.” The cause of gender justice within the framework of personal laws and the Constitution still has a very long way to go.
Connecting the dots:
In a landmark judgement the Supreme Court declared the practice of Triple Talaq as unconstitutional. Discuss the grounds on which the decision was made and its implications.
The Supreme Court judgement declaring triple talaq as unconstitutional is just the beginning. The Parliament now needs to act proactively and bring in a comprehensive legislation for Muslim personal law. Discuss.
TOPIC: General studies 3:
Banking & related Issues; Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
Ensuring financial inclusion: Addressing real problems
Background: Finance is the glue that holds all pieces of our life together. Financial inclusion is about providing financial tools to people — tools they can afford, are safe and properly regulated, that people can access conveniently from institutions that treat them with respect. These tools enable them to save and to responsibly borrow — allowing them to build their assets and improve their livelihoods.
In India, financial inclusion received a steroidal boost with Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY). By 4 January, 2017, there were over 265 million accounts under the scheme. But a disquieting feature is that public banks, regional rural banks (RRBs) and 13 private lenders have reported that as on 24 March 2017, 92,52,609 accounts were frozen under the PMJDY owing to inactivity. A survey of these accounts found that only 33 per cent of all beneficiaries were ready to use their Rupay cards.
Lack of literacy:
Merely opening physical accounts as flag posts of financial identity won’t help unless they are actively used by people for managing their money. To make this possible people have to be imparted an ability to understand and execute matters of personal finance, including basic numeracy and literacy, budgeting, investing, and risk diversification. Financial literacy is a combination of financial awareness, knowledge, skills, attitude and behaviours necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve individual financial well-being. According to a global survey by Standard & Poor’s, less than 25 per cent of adults are financially literate in South Asian countries. For an average Indian, financial literacy is yet to become a priority. India is home to 17.5 per cent of the world’s population but nearly 76 per cent of its adult population does not understand even the basic financial concepts. On account of lack of proper awareness and failure of institutions to properly guide them, people buy insurance policies without proper planning and give up midway because they don’t have money to pay the premium. Aggressive selling prevents the agents from properly assessing the consistency n income streams of the buyers for servicing their policies. The customers end up losing heavily as penalties are very harsh.
Challenges in going digital:
Today, digital technology and mobile phones offer an unprecedented opportunity to connect poor people to services such as savings, loans, insurance and payments.
But owning a phone or even opening a digital account does not ensure the account is used. Two-thirds of world’s 299 million mobile money accounts are dormant.
India remains among the most cash-intensive economies in the world, with a cash-to-GDP ratio of 12 per cent. Around 97 per cent of all transactions in the country are carried out in cash, which explains why India remains among nations with the lowest access to digital payments.
In a digital world, safety and security is important for everyone. Remaining safe is an individual’s own responsibility which has to be taken seriously. Payment providers can put in the most fool proof systems in the world but the human element of payments and hence actions resulting in fraud cannot be emphasised enough. Whether it is reducing risk, improving uptake and usage, enhancing consumer protection or avoiding over-indebtedness.
Remodeling financial education programmes:
Financial education programmes focused on just imparting knowledge rarely deliver unless they are backed by a suitable product, including the support to use the product. A recent UNDP survey on financial literacy programmes in India revealed that in areas where a service provider was involved in the programmes, the participants had better understanding of products and they had been using the products regularly. Some banks use a decision tree to help customers open the saving accounts that match their needs. The process of going through the decision tree in itself leads to understanding of improved product features by customers. Similarly, in one model, a bank undertook a project to deliver financial education training to young women in rural communities through a cascade training model where core trainers trained peer educators, who in turn trained community members. These examples provide evidence that using a model that involves experiential learning and use of products has greater chances of success.
To use financial services to their full potential, the low-income people need products well suited to their needs and appropriate training and education for adapting to these financial services. Bringing this about requires attention to human and institutional issues, such as quality of access, affordability of products, familiarity and comfort in use, sustainability for the provider of these services, proper training and outreach to the most excluded populations.
Financial inclusion is thus much more than just opening of bank accounts. We need to address real pains like lack of financial literacy and of financial products well suited to needs of the poor. Only then we will be able to create a financial inclusive society.
Connecting the dots:
Financial inclusion is about providing financial tools to people — tools they can afford, are safe and properly regulated, that people can access conveniently from institutions that treat them with respect. Though PMJDY is a major step but financial inclusion is still elusive for Indian society. Discuss.
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