Elected on 26 May 2014, it has now been three years that the Bhartiya Janta Party is governing the country. Promoting the ‘development’ agenda, the face of the party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has made some considerable effort to bring about changes in various sectors. His initiatives like the Clean India drive, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign, Digital India, Make in India, etc are a few that gained massive popularity and saw enthusiastic support in the country. However, some promises are yet to be delivered.
Here’s a look at how the Modi government fared overall in promoting gender diversity, inclusion and empowerment of women. Within a year of the government coming to power, it started the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan in January 2015.
IMPROVEMENT IN SEX RATIO AND GIRL CHILD EDUCATION
Led by PM Modi, the campaign focuses on saving the girl child. Rampant female foeticide and infanticide severely affects the sex ratio of states like Haryana and Rajasthan. A tri-ministerial effort of the Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development, it also aims to address another pertinent social issue of girl-child education.
Haryana is one state that is infamous for female infanticide and a constant low sex ratio between boys and girls. Currently, it stands at 950 girls to 1,000 boys in the state. Haryana CM, Manohar Lal Khattar launched a drive against the skewed sex ratio by enforcing the PreConception and PreNatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 and Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 and running sensitisation-cum awareness campaigns promoting the girl child. This was done as a result of the BBBP scheme, reported TOI.
SAFETY STILL A CONCERN
Other initiatives include steps taken by the WCD Ministry, led by Maneka Gandhi, in order to ensure that the increasing number of rapes and other crimes against women gets reported. One such initiative is the one-stop centre (OSC) announced under the Nirbhaya fund. About Rs 18.58 crore was allotted for the setting up of a network of these centres across the country. The budget for the centres was allotted in April 2015, but until now only 20 OSCs of the total 183 promised have become operational, according to a report by Indian Express.
The motive of these centres is to provide holistic assistance to female victims of crimes like rape, domestic violence, harassment, molestation, etc. The initiative was launched in two phases. In the first phase of allotment in 2015, 33 OSCs had to be built and in the second phase of May 2016, 150 OSCs were to be operational. But unfortunately, even the first phase hasn’t reached its desired conclusion.
“We have been asking for maternity leave for many years, and I am glad the discussion has moved forward and an increase in the days of paid leaves has come through. It will be even better if debate on paternity leave also starts in the parliament,”- Ranjana Kumari
Another initiative in the direction of ensuring women’s safety was a Universal Women’s Helpline service — 181 — that was announced in February 2015. It may have been active but has not resulted in any major change in the safety scenario of the country.
The recent cases of horrific gangrapes are proof that safety is still a major concern across the country.
Talking to SheThePeople.TV, Ranjana Kumari, head of Centre for Social Research and social activist, said that there is not much seriousness in the central government regarding safety of women. “Except for OSCs, not much is being done to ensure safety and security which has been one of the major promises of the government. We expect to see more happening in this area.”
INCREASE IN MATERNITY LEAVE
However, the Maneka Gandhi-led WCD ministry has been quite active in ensuring women get more maternity leave. From the original three months, a bill has been passed to increase it to six-and-a-half months for government and private sector employees.
“We have been asking for maternity leave for many years, and I am glad the discussion has moved forward and an increase in the days of paid leaves has come through. It will be even better if debate on paternity leave also starts in the parliament,” said Kumari.
ENCOURAGING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
Women entrepreneurship has also received a boost under the Modi government. Under the Stand Up India scheme started at the beginning of 2016, the government has mandated that every government bank provide at least one loan to a woman entrepreneur.
And in January this year, the Centre has promised to build centres exclusively for women entrepreneurs. “It will be an exclusive scheme for women entrepreneurs. We have not yet finalised the contours (of the scheme). Hopefully, we will launch it before the end of the financial year,” B H Anil Kumar, a Joint Secretary in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Ministry said, according to a report in the Economic Times.
SANITARY NAPKIN TAXATION DEBATE
Recently, the Goods and Services council announced revised tax rates. This had been keenly anticipated by activists and women in general as they believe that since menstruation is a natural process and sanitary napkins are a basic need, they should be exempt from taxes. However, in the list released by the finance ministry, the taxes have not been exempted, but have merely been reduced from 14.5% to 12%.
Kumari, who recently met the Finance minister, Arun Jaitley to discuss the issue of sanitary napkins, said, “The argument we put forward in front of the finance minister has been received very well. He had agreed on every point that we had proposed but I think that will still take some time before it gets implemented.”
POLITICAL PARTICIPATION – NOWHERE IN PICTURE
One of the foremost promises in the BJP manifesto during the central election campaign was 33% seats reserved for women in the lower house for increased participation of women in politics. It is one area where the government has been consistently silent for the past three years. Many activists, including Kumari, are fighting for reservation of seats but that has not caught the Modi government’s attention.
However, there has been a huge push for women members in the party. It is noteworthy that the BJP recently nominated three female mayors in EDMC, SDMC, and NDMC in MCD elections of Delhi for the first time ever.
There are a few other initiatives like the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana to provide free LPG connections to women from below poverty line households in order to promote universal coverage of cooking gas, Mahila e-haat by the WCD ministry etc. The e-haat is a direct online marketing platform to support women with their technology-related needs and expand their market base. However, the gender budget has subsequently reduced in the three years.
All in all, there are some positives and some negatives and the government still needs to deliver on its promises but some initiatives, especially like BBBP, has increased awareness against female infanticide and it is a great win.
Picture credit- India Today
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