24 November, 2020
- Prelims Test Series Course announcement
- A Plea for paid leave during menstruation - (Indian Society + Polity & Governance + Indian Economy + Ethics)
- Weaker germs, stronger cures - (Science & technology)
- Banking health and the âK Curveâ dynamics - (Indian Economy)
- Over 800 cr. fund lying unutilised: plea - (Environment & Ecology)
- Question for the day â (Polity & Governance)
UPSC Current Affairs: Plea for paid leave during menstruation | Page 02
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper I + GS Paper II + GS Paper 4
Sub Theme: Plea for paid leave during menstruation | Arguments for and against Menstrual leave |UPSC
Plea for paid leave during menstruation
Delhi Labour Union has filed a petition in Delhi High Court demanding Plea for paid leave during menstruation. The court has told the Union and Delhi governments to take a decision on a petition seeking grant of paid leave to women employees during menstruation by treating it as a representation.
- The union sought grant of paid leave for four days a month to all classes of women employees, including daily wage, contractual and outsourced workers and to pay overtime allowance to menstruating women employees if they opt to work during that period.
- Not providing separate toilet facilities or breaks to maintain hygiene, the authorities were depriving the employees of their human dignity.
- There was very little consideration or even recognition of the emotional, physical, hormonal and physiological trauma that these employees underwent during their menstrual cycle.
- Some private companies such as Zomato and Culture Machine have introduced paid menstruation leave for their employees.
Menstruation is a perfectly natural biological process, not a disease or a disability. Period pain may be so bad that women nearly pass out from it. Doctors across the globe acknowledge that dysmenorrhoea or menstrual cramps can be as painful as heart attacks. However, it can range from a slightly discomforting to a severely debilitating experience for women. Nearly 20% of women suffer from uncomfortable symptoms. These may include cramps, nausea, fever and weakness during their periods. These are debilitating enough to hamper their daily activities. Some women also experience reduced emotional control and decreased concentration. Over 25 million women suffer from endometriosis.
Analysis: Perspective of GS Paper- 2
Menstrual leave and the idea of Equality
Even today, menstruating women experience lack of a private place at workplace to change the menstrual materials used, resting areas, the fear of staining and smelling, lack of hygiene in toilets etc. Working in cities is also characterised by jam-packed work and travel spaces thus hindering the privacy and hygiene for changing and disposing menstrual materials.
Not providing separate toilet facilities or breaks to maintain hygiene, the authorities were depriving the employees of their human dignity. (Article 21)
Arguments against Menstrual leave
- Menstrual leave policies might discriminate against men. Periods are weakening only for some women.
- Many women are capable of functioning at full capacity even during their periods. In this regard Menstrual leave policies are also prone to misuse. (But the numbers are not insignificant to avoid a policy decision).
- It would prejudice employers against hiring women and lead to their alienation at work.
- It is argued by some that the concept of menstrual leave goes against the constitutional right to equality.
- Sick leave can be used during Menstruation. (It is inequitable to merge menstrual leaves with sickness leaves because menstruation is not an illness but an inevitable biological process that is painful for most women).
Arguments in favour of Menstrual leave
Article 15(3) empowers the state to make special provisions for women and children which is an exception to the to the general rule laid down in the Article 15(1). This protective discrimination is a necessity to maintain social equality where there has been a history of discrimination against women.
It has been held by the Supreme Court in Government of Andhra Pradesh versus P B Vijayakumar (1995) that “special provision for women” in Article 15(3) means the provisions which the state may make to improve women’s participation in all activities under the supervision and control of the state, can be in the form of either affirmative action or reservation’. Thus menstrual leave policies like the other women’s rights legislations such as the Maternity Benefit Act (1961), The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act ( 2005) etc, will not infringe the Article 15(1) of the Constitution of India.
Article 42 of the Constitution envisages that the state shall make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief.
Although the government has provided protective measures especially to women workers under various labour laws like the Factories Act, 1948, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 etc, wherein the aspects of health, leave and working hours are provided, the idea of menstrual leave finds no mention.
It is also pertinent to note that maternity is a choice while menstruation is an inescapable monthly biological process that is painful.
Menstrual leave is a critical as well as neglected subject in India.
Bihar is the only state in India which has been providing two days of special leave every month to its female employees since 1992.
Countries like Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan provide menstrual leave to their female employees every month. While Indonesia has granted the first and second day of menstruation as paid leaves under its Labour Act of 1948, Japan has offered this benefit for women since 1947.
Menstruation Benefits Bill was tabled as a private member bill in the Parliament earlier in the year. It is imperative to look at the significance of the provisions, for a gender sensitive labour policy.
What is the bill on?
· It seeks to provide working women two days of paid menstrual leave every month.
· It applies to women working in both public and private sectors.
· The Bill also seeks to provide better facilities for rest at the workplace during menstruation.
· It includes providing women the flexibility to take time off, and with options like working from home.
· The benefits are also extended to female students of Class VIII and above in government recognised schools.
Analysis: Perspective of GS Paper- 1
Menstruation is a natural and healthy biological process for women, in spite of this, it is still considered a taboo in Indian society.
Menstruation is associated with the onset of puberty in girls and many times, it brings with it rules, restrictions, isolation and changed expectations from the girls by society
During their menstruating days, women are prohibited from participating in day-to-day activities. Prevalence of Hegemonic Patriarchy and gender bias in Indian society perpetuates the restrictions. For example prohibiting women to enter the kitchen or a temple.
The main reasons for this taboo still being relevant in the Indian society are the high rate of illiteracy especially in girls, poverty and lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene. This places the girl at increased risk for infection and has critical health implications.
According to a UNICEF study conducted in 2011:
- Only 13% of girls in India are aware of menstruation before menarche.
- 60% of girls missed school on account of menstruation,
- 79% faces low confidence due to menstruation and 44% were embarrassed and humiliated over restrictions.
- Thereby, Menstruation adversely impacts women's education, equality, maternal and child health.
This changed attitude towards girls such as restrictions on their self-expression, schooling, mobility and freedom has far-reaching consequences on the mindset of women.
- Social awareness about such social issues can play an instrumental role in bringing behavioural change in society.
- The film Pad Man played a pivotal role in spurring conversations around periods and positioning sanitary pads as the saviour.
- Recently, the documentary: End of Sentence, that explores the stigma surrounding menstruation in rural India, won the Oscar award.
- Efforts directed at awareness and education about menstruation and menstrual hygiene, and access to safe products, and responsive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure.
- The government must promote, small-scale sanitary pad manufacturing units to make low-cost pads more easily available, it will also help in generating income for women.
- An informed choice is important in the context of women’s reproductive and sexual health and is applicable to menstrual hygiene as well.
- The government has launched Jan Aushadhi Suvidha Oxo-Biodegradable Sanitary Napkin,that seeks to provide biodegradable sanitary pads for only One Rupee per pad, efforts should be made to increase its accessibility and availability.
However, menstrual health cannot be achieved only through governmental efforts without addressing it as a social issue, requiring interventions at societal, community and familial level.
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” Simone de Beauvoir
Analysis: Perspective of GS Paper- 3
Female LFPR (Labour Force Participation Rate) is declining despite higher growth, higher educational attainment, and higher age of marriage and declining fertility.
Female LFPR is 23.7% in 2018 (2005 - 36.7%)
- Rural 26.7%
- Urban - 16.2%
The declining trend is particularly strong in rural areas, where it has gone down from 49.7 per cent in 2004-05 to 26.7 per cent in 2015-16.
India ranks 149th out of 153 countries in the economic opportunity and participation sub index in Global Gender Gap Index, 2020.
- If menstrual leave is structured like maternity leave, it threatens to increase the cost of hiring women. This has implications in the long-run.
- Teamlease Services found that 1-1.8 million women lost their jobs in 2018-19 across 10 major sectors owing to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2016 which doubled paid maternity leave from three to six months.
- A good solution might be to increase the number of paid sick leaves by law for both men and women, but keeping it equal. While it increases the overall cost of doing business in India, it treats men and women at par.
- Paid sick leaves can be viewed as a form of social security.
To improve working conditions of the 10% women who are in the formal workforce, we must not forget about the remaining 90% women workers who are in the informal sector for whom such policies threaten to become the gatekeepers.
UN Women – Women are the ultimate economic accelerators. (They invest almost all of their income in productive areas).
Analysis: Perspective of GS Paper- 4
- Right of a women to be treated with dignity and respect.
- Lack of fully developed social conscience
- Ethical blindness - failure to see recognition of the emotional, physical, hormonal and physiological trauma of women.
- Absence of ‘moral compass’, empathy and compassion for women.
- Wrong Cognition – eg: “All women do not have pain during menstruation”.
- Lack of social influence to maintain gender parity.
- Ethical ecosystem
- Gandhi Ji propagated “good of one in good of all” - Sarvodaya through Antyodaya
- One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others – Simone de Beauvoi
- B. R. Ambedkar had said “I measure the progress of community by the degree of the progress which women have achieved”.
We must live like different cells of an organism, where health of one affects the health of others. - Plato
UPSC Current Affairs:Weaker germs, stronger cures | Page 07
UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III- Science & Technology
Sub Theme: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)| One Health Approach | UPSC
- Anti-microbial resistance is emerging as a major threat to health since last two decades.
- This article explores the idea that how is it difficult to counter AMR through novel antibiotics and then suggests a way out in the for of “One Health Approach”.
The advent of antibiotics ignited the hope of elimination of infectious diseases in humans and animals.
However, this did not happen because of two reasons:
- Most of the germs have acquired the capacity to resist the action of affordable antibiotics. This phenomenon is known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
- Irrational use of antibiotics in humans and animals.
The inability of antibiotics to treat patients and animals is wreaking havoc on human health, nutrition safety and economies. The long-term impact of AMR is almost comparable to that of the COVID-19 pandemic. AMR is estimated to cause 10 million deaths annually by 2050, unless concerted actions are initiated now. It will result in 7.5 % reduction in livestock production and negatively impact the global GDP by 3.5%.
What are the solutions to the AMR menace?
- Discovery of new drugs, before the emergence of resistance in germs
- The first is an expensive and unpredictable process.
- Since 1984, no new class of antibiotics has been developed. The estimated cost for developing a new antibiotic exceeds $1 billion.
- With rapid development of resistance, the life of new antibiotics becomes limited and the return on investment on new molecules gets diminished.
- This discourages the pharmaceutical industry to invest in these initiatives. The world is left with only one option: to use the available antibiotics carefully to ensure their efficacy for as long as possible.
- Prudent use of available antibiotics
- The rational use of antibiotics in humans, animals, and agriculture warrants coordinated action in all sectors.
- These multi-sectoral, multidisciplinary and multi-institutional actions constitute the ‘One Health’ approach.
What is One Health Approach
- One Health should not be construed as a standalone or new programme that has to be built de novo.
- This endeavour utilises existing expertise and infrastructure in various sectors with a focus on inter-sectoral coordination, collaboration, and communication.
- The purpose of One Health is to provide a formal platform for experts to plan and work together towards shared objectives.
- Implementation of One Health warrants a strong and continuous national narrative on zoonoses.
- It advocates a multi-sectoral response to public health problems, particularly pandemics, as also to address issues related to AMR.
- The approach supports focussed actions on the human-animal-environment interface for the prevention, detection and response to the public health events that influence global health and food security. AMR is one of the biggest challenges to human and animal health.
- There is a need to optimally utilise emerging technologies to improve human health and development. One Health has been acknowledged as the optimum approach to counter the impact of AMR and future pandemics and must be adopted expeditiously.
The relevance of One Health?
- This has gained currency across the world as an efficient and cost-effective response to AMR and several other challenges, especially endemic zoonoses (diseases transmitted between animals and humans) and pandemics.
- It is reinforced by the fact that all the epidemics in the current millennium (SARS, MERS, bird flu and COVID-19) have originated from animals because of unwanted excursion of humans into animal domains.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the urgency of implementing One Health. India’s National Action Plan on AMR is an excellent example of the One Health approach and can be used as a guiding document to develop a workable road map for the country to respond to other similar public health challenges.
UPSC Current Affairs: Banking health and the ‘K Curve’ dynamics | Page – 06
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III- Indian Economy
Sub Theme: Health of Banking Sector|UPSC
Recently, on the basis of recommendations of RBI, the Central Government decided to impose moratorium for a period of 30 days on the Laxmi Vilas Bank (LVB). The Board of Directors of LVB has been superseded and a new administrator has been appointed. This failure of LVB raises concerns since in the recent years, a number of financial Institutions such as Yes Bank, Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank (PMC), IL&FS, DHFL etc. have failed.
In this regard, this article has highlighted concerns about the precarious condition of the Banking sector and accordingly, it has highlighted as to how the Government should deal with the present crisis in the Banking sector.
Understanding the Concept of Price-to-Book Ratio
“Book value” is defined as the net asset value of a company and is calculated by adding up total assets and subtracting liabilities. Book value per share is arrived at by dividing book value by the number of shares outstanding. This can be thought of as the amount that shareholders would theoretically receive per share of stock held if the company went out of business and all the assets were liquidated.
The “Price/Book Value” Ratio (P/BV) is calculated by dividing the price of a share of stock by the book value per share. So, if a company has Rs100 in net assets and 10 shares outstanding, then the book value for that company is Rs 10 per share. If the price of the share stands at Rs 20, then the price to book value ratio is 2.0 (Rs 20 price divided by Rs10 book value).
A P/BV ratio above 1 indicates that the market believes that the Bank can grow and generate higher Return on Equity (RoE). A P/BV below 1, on the other hand, indicates that the market either does not believe the bank does not have a good deposit base, has bad cost discipline or a broken lending model.
K Curve in the Banking Sector
The K Curve depicts the inequality existing between different financial entities in terms of their attributes that determine their future growth and profitability.
Widening of the arms of the ‘K’ would imply that the inequality is increasing, while narrowing of the span of the ‘K’ would mean the opposite.
Presently, in case of India, banks that have a P/BV above 4 while some others languish at much below 1, even at 0.25. With NBFCs, the P/BV range is even wider, with some NBFCs being valued in excess of 7.
Private Banks: A couple of private sector banks have always had their P/BV above 1 on a consistent basis. These Banks are well-capitalised, have lower NPAs and hence the market is betting that these banks will grow much above system average and generate attractive RoE. This would imply that these banks will have disproportionate incremental market share on both assets and liabilities. The author of this article calls such Banks as Alpha Banks.
Public Sector Banks: Among the Public Sector Banks, only the largest PSB i.e., SBI can be considered as Alpha Bank. In general, these PSBs account for higher share of NPAs (80%) in the Banking sector. The NPAs of the PSBs is much higher at around 12% as compared to 9% NPAs in the Banking sector. Similarly, the PSBs account for loss of almost Rs 66,000 crores.
There is need to narrow the span of K Curve and reduce the present inequalities in the performance of Banking Sector. Presently, there is lack of level playing field among the Private and Public Sector Banks. The PSBs do not enjoy financial, operational and personnel autonomy. There is high level of political interference in the working of the PSBs. This needs to be addressed by implementing the recommendations of P.J. Nayak Committee such as merger of weak Banks with the strong Banks.
Further, the Economic Survey 2020-21 has highlighted that Indian Banking sector has remained dwarf in comparison to the size of the Indian Economy. For instance, India's largest Bank SBI, is placed at 55th position globally. Hence, there is need for more large-sized Banks (Alpha Banks) to cater to the credit needs of % 5 trillion economy.
UPSC Current Affairs: Over ₹800 cr. fund lying unutilised: plea | Page - 02
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment & Ecology | Mains – GS Paper III – Environment & Ecology
Sub Theme: Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991| UPSC
Following a plea alleging non-utilisation of more than ₹800 crore towards Environment Relief Fund meant for victims of accidents in the process of handling hazardous substances, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) called it a “travesty of justice” that the fund was lying unutilised even after 29 years of enactment of the legislation.
The tribunal noted that an amount of ₹881 crore was deposited with the United Insurance Company till March 2020 and that there was “no information whether any amount had been utilised.”
NGT directed the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to look into the issue and take necessary action.
Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991
- Insurance claims for death or injury or property damage caused by hazardous substances handled in a factory.
- The Act came into being in the aftermath of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
- The MoEF is the nodal Ministry
- The source of the fund is the insurance premium to be paid by the owner handling any hazardous substance and liability to give relief is created under Section 3 on death or injury to any person or an accident involving hazardous substance
- The compensation payable under this Act is irrespective of the company’s neglect.
- The victims who are exposed to hazardous substance used by an industry may file a claim with the Collector within 5 years of the accident.
- On receipt of an application, the Collector, after giving notice to the owner and after giving the parties an opportunity of being heard, will hold an inquiry into the claim and may make an award determining the amount of relief which appears to him to be just.
However, the amounts under this Act, as specified in the Schedule, were stipulated nearly two decades ago. Resultantly, the compensation under the Act is very meagre and the families of victims’ who have died due to the gas leak or have suffered permanently disability, are entitled only to a maximum compensation of Rs 25,000, in addition to a maximum of Rs. 12,500, as reimbursement for medical expenses
In cases where a victim has suffered permanent partial disability or other injury or sickness, the relief available if (a) reimbursement of medical expenses incurred, if any, up to a maximum of Rs. 12,500 in each case and (b) cash relief on the basis of percentage of disablement as certified by an authorized physician.
For loss of wages due to temporary partial disability which reduces the earning capacity of the victim, a fixed monthly relief not exceeding Rs. 1,000 per month has been stipulated, up to a maximum of 3 months, provided the victim has been hospitalized for a period exceeding 3 days and is above 16 years of age.
For any damage to private property, an amount of up to Rs. 6,000 is payable, depending on the actual damage.