General Studies 1:
- Social empowerment
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
Molestation of women at BHU
An incident of alleged molestation of a women student of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has triggered a set of events which show the central university, particularly its vice-chancellor, the police and administration, in poor light. Images of male policemen charging female students have gone viral on social media, further fuelling anger over inaction of the authorities against the original complaint.
Note the difference: A new wave and a greater assertion
- It is important to distinguish what is happening in BHU from similar struggles in elite universities in cosmopolitan Mumbai, Delhi or even Hyderabad. In JNU, for instance, even if the students belong to subaltern India, the institutional sub-culture promotes progressive ideas and collective bargaining with structures of power.
In places like Benares, closer home for a majority of the protesting women students, an ultra-conservative culture permeates down to hostel messes where there is reportedly gender discrimination in quality and quantity of food served.
These women in small towns and nondescript cities are battling structures and attitudes several shades more rigid and oppressive than in big cities where modernity has started to be viewed in the context of gender equality.
- Greater assertion: The BHU phenomenon is more noteworthy, more symbolic of the assertion of a new female identity in small-town India. The defiance exhibited by women students of BHU in the face of authority is a welcome collective assertion of their identity.
- The demand for a safe campus from young women from Gorakhpur or Deoria who simply want to walk alone, sometimes late in the evening, to think, or to chat with friends without fear of being molested shows a collective assertion for their own rights.
- A new wave- Of course, there are classes among women, and for every Akanksha Gupta there are countless others who are denied even primary school education, are married off at puberty and die in childbirth. But for those who do manage to break through these barriers, university education and learning are no longer just a certificate in the marriage market. These women are asserting their identity through attire, language and conduct.
Certainly, the image of furious young women dismissing arguments curbing their freedom of movement and demanding safety, law and order, and dignity symbolises a new assertion.
The comments of the proctor and Vice-Chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi, reflect an inability to grasp the strength of these young women’s resolve to assert their freedom of movement in and outside the campus.
If something happens to daughters, who is answerable? Security for boys and girls can never be at par. If we are going to listen to every demand of every girl, we won’t be able to run the university. All these rules are for their safety, all in favour of the girl students,” the VC asserted in response to the women’s demand for a safe campus.
These official responses fit into the mindset that leads to the clamping of curfews, the tacit instructions for dressing “modestly”, and the setting up of ‘Romeo Squads’ supposedly to ensure safety for young women in a State that has reported a staggering 33 per cent rise in sexual harassment cases from 2014 to 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The VC has sought to underplay the complaint as a case of “eve-teasing” and not molestation. Such blind and bigoted view of a students’ protest is unlikely to help the university understand why the campus has become restive.
The university seems to think that it can address the student unrest by somehow clamping down on legitimate demands for dialogue. It reeks of a mindset predisposed to fixed ideas about how adult female students should behave and a clear attempt to refuse them agency in matters concerning their life on the campus.
Deep- seated problems:
The case and the way it has been handled draws attention to the many problems that plague one of the country’s most revered institutions of higher education.
- University policies that discriminate against women.
- A campus environment that seemingly allows cover for rampant sexual harassment and violence.
- A state administration whose law enforcement officials have effectively proven themselves incapable of handling a sensitive situation.
- The official statements shows that the problem is more deep-seated. It goes beyond the BHU campus and manifests itself in just about every public space, from the college canteen to the office boardroom to the train station and the public park—the routine threatening and compromise of a woman’s safety and her dignity.
- Internalizing of patriarchal norms:
The authority seeing no problem with different security protocols for men and women is an example of how it has internalized the many misogynistic and patriarchal norms of society.
Indeed, it is this mindset that has also fuelled the other ongoing instance of campus unrest in the country.
Justice for women:
As the Vishakha guidelines had noted, there are structural barriers that prevent women from seeking justice.
Several studies conducted across India by NGOs working on women’s issues, such as Saheli, Sanhita, Sakshi, the South Asian Research and Development Initiative, the Lawyers Collective and the Yugantar Education Society, have shown that sexual harassment goes largely unreported.
A student abused by her teachers or a junior assistant molested by a senior partner in the office is often reluctant to speak out for fear of being penalized in class or losing a promotion.
Those who still come forward to lodge a complaint are often faced with a system loaded against them—where an internal committee of nominated members, for example, has little incentive to pursue justice.
- The idea should be to address the issue of institutional failure that has shockingly resulted in as many as 74 per cent of such cases going unpunished rather than shifting the blame onto the women.
- Authorities and institutions need to alter their attitudes accordingly.
Considering the historical, geographical, political and social context, these young women in Banaras are challenging the patriarchal idea in its stronghold. This incident serves as a warning for the establishment that expects women or students to remain subservient to age-old social mores. We need to acknowledge the brave young women at BHU who have stood up to an oppressive system, made themselves heard, and are fighting for a better future. Young women asserting their rights in India is a welcome, irreversible force. Everyone else has to grow up. The times are changing, even if ever so slowly.
Connecting the dots:
- Molestation case in BHU and the following incidents are disturbing and equally signifies a welcome change. Discuss.
- Women in Indian university come after overcoming various hurdles. However, the lack of security within university campuses not only deter them to move forward but also discourage others from allowing girls to go for higher education. Critically analyze.
TOPIC: General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
Making GST good and simple
The GST was India’s second tryst with destiny and introduced with the great hope that it would help India achieve economic greatness. But with each passing week, the new complex tax system is getting increasingly difficult to implement. The GST came in the wake of extensive collateral damage inflicted by demonetisation. The consequence has been a serious setback to several sectors of the economy.
If the GST has to be made “good and simple” it is suggested that the following “not-to-do list” be adopted, at least in the short term.
- E-way bills- The implementation of e-way bills should be postponed for at least a year.
The existing electronic system is woefully inadequate and in case of an issue with the system it will be disastrous if every movement of goods requires access to a portal for generation of an e-way bill.
Further, most transport operators have only a few trucks and it will be cruel to inflict this torturous system on them when the Centre and states are ill prepared.
- Monthly returns- The proposed system of filing GSTR-1, GSTR-2 and GSTR-3 — three returns per month — proved to be unworkable and necessitated the GSTR-3B return which is a monthly summary. This monthly return should be continued for a year till the electronic infrastructure is improved. It is also worth reconsidering the need to file 36 monthly returns per year per state.
- Matching of invoices- This system does not exist anywhere in the world and there is not a single logical reason why this should be implemented in India.
It will place an intolerable burden on the electronic infrastructure and entail huge compliance costs for the small and medium sectors.
- Exports- No sector has been dealt with a more crippling blow than the export sector.
Under the earlier system, non excise exporters, merchant exporters and service exporters could simply export goods and services. In the GST regime, an exporter has to execute a letter of undertaking subject to eligibility or a bond with bank guarantee just to export.
The government promised instant refunds but this has not happened. Merchant exporters who could earlier procure goods without tax are required to pay the GST which is a cash outflow.
Serious glitches in the electronic system have adversely affected the refund system resulting in serious working capital pressure on exporters. Unless the earlier system is restored, Indian exports will be seriously affected.
Following steps can help make the GST business-friendly and more in tune with Indian ground realities.
- One cannot wish away the large unorganised sector and it is not practical to bludgeon them into becoming instantly tax-compliant by digitisation. A small hosiery shop in Mumbai cannot purchase banians or socks from Tirupur. And traders in places like Delhi and Goa will be unable to avail the scheme because most products have to be brought from other states.
It is necessary to seriously consider a flat-tax GST rate of, say, 10 per cent, on all businesses with a turnover of upto Rs 2 crore regardless of the product or service. The GST paid thereon should also be eligible for input credit. Such a reduction will be a terrific boost to the growth of goods and services, while eliminating huge paper work and electronic overload.
- Stop making changes in procedure and adding new requirements- Seven amendments to the CGST rules in a span of less than three months and multiple amendments to notifications have only increased the confusion.
The FAQs, published at great cost, must be binding on the Centre and the states as they ensure pan-India certainty.
- he multiple rates of taxation and an elaborate classification system are bound to lead to classification disputes. It is imperative that classification is shrunk to three or four categories with not more than three applicable rates.
A lower rate of GST will stimulate demand and spur economic growth because high taxes are always counter-productive. Indeed, a major part of the revenue of the states is from petroleum products and excise duty on alcohol. The collection of sales tax on various other goods is substantially less. Therefore, having a maximum GST of 18 per cent will result in substantially more revenue than the present complex system of higher rates of taxes.
- The proposed system of shared administration will also lead to serious difficulties. It is better that the states are given exclusive jurisdiction to deal with assessees upto a turnover of Rs 10 crore or even Rs 25 crore so that the Centre can only deal with assessees with higher revenue.
The present GST system faces many challenges in its implementation. It is dangerous to proceed with the hope that things will eventually settle down. Immediate steps are necessary to ensure that India’s second tryst with destiny does not become a tryst with disaster.
Connecting the dots:
- The GST introduction is surely a transformative and revolutionary change. However, various issues remains to be resolved. Discuss in detail the problems being faced in its implementation and how it can be resolved.
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