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Current Affairs – 17 August 2021

Current Affairs (17th August 2021)

Tribunal Reforms

Indian Express

GS 2: Indian Polity

Context:

  • The Supreme Court (SC) recently expressed its discontentment over the functioning of tribunals in the country, given that several of these important quasi-judicial bodies are understaffed.
  • SC asked the government if it intends to shut down tribunals that have several key vacant posts. This came days after Lok Sabha passed a Bill to dissolve at least eight tribunals.

About Bill:

  • The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 replaces a similar Ordinance promulgated in April 2021 that sought to dissolve eight tribunals that functioned as appellate bodies to hear disputes under various statutes, and transferred their functions to existing judicial forums such as a civil court or a High Court.
  • The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by Finance Minister. The Bill states that the Chairpersons and Members of the tribunal being abolished shall cease to hold office, and they will be entitled to claim compensation equivalent to three months’ pay and allowances for their premature termination.
  • It also proposes changes in the process of appointment of certain other tribunals.

What are these changes?

  • While the Bill provides for uniform pay and rules for the search and selection committees across tribunals, it also provides for removal of tribunal members.
  • It states that the central government shall, on the recommendation of the Search-cum-Selection Committee, remove from office any Chairperson or a Member, who—

(a) has been adjudged as an insolvent; or
(b) has been convicted of an offence which involves moral turpitude; or
(c) has become physically or mentally incapable of acting as such Chairperson or Member; or
(d) has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his functions as such Chairperson or Member; or
(e) has so abused his position as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest.

  • Chairpersons and judicial members of tribunals are former judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court. While the move brings greater accountability on the functioning of the tribunals, it also raises questions on the independence of these judicial bodies.
  • In the Search-cum-Selection Committee for state tribunals, the Bill brings in the Chief Secretary of the state and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission of the concerned state who will have a vote and Secretary or Principal Secretary of the state’s General Administrative Department with no voting right.
  • This gives the government a foot in the door in the process. The Chief Justice of the High Court, who would head the committee, will not have a casting vote.

What happens to cases pending before the tribunals dissolved?

  • These cases will be transferred to High Courts or commercial civil courts
  • While on the one hand, the cases might get a faster hearing and disposal if taken to High Courts, experts fear that the lack of specialisation in regular courts could be detrimental to the decision-making process.
  • For example, the FCAT exclusively heard decisions appealing against decisions of the censor board, which requires expertise in art and cinema.

 

India’s water crisis

Down to Earth

GS 1: Women Issues

GS 2: Issues Relating to Development

GS 3: Conservation

Context:

  • India’s water crisis is a constant. Although India has 16 per cent of the world’s population, the country possesses only four per cent of the world’s freshwater resources.
  • India is water-stressed due to changing weather patterns and repeated droughts. And the worst sufferers of this crisis are mostly women.

About:

  • As many as 256 of 700 districts in India have reported ‘critical’ or ‘over-exploited’ groundwater levels according to the most recent Central Ground Water Board data (from 2017).
  • This means that getting water in these places has grown more difficult as the water table has dropped. Three-fourths of India’s rural families lack access to piped, drinkable water and must rely on unsafe sources.
  • India has become the world’s largest extractor of groundwater, accounting for 25 per cent of the total. Some 70 per cent of our water sources are contaminated and our major rivers are dying because of pollution.

Problems for women:

  • Women in India are usually treated as second-class citizens. This crisis of water only puts them at a higher risk of vulnerability.
  • Fetching water in India has been perceived as a woman’s job for centuries. Women, especially in the rural areas, walk miles to collect water from the nearest source.
  • Wells, ponds and tanks are drying up as groundwater resources come under increasing pressure due to over-reliance and unsustainable consumption. This has escalated the water crisis and placed an even greater burden of accessing water on women.
  • The idea that household chores are a duty for an ‘ideal woman’ and that she must arrange water for the family, has persisted for centuries due to Indian patriarchy.
  • The ultimate depletion and pollution of groundwater as well as major sources of water puts pressure on women to get their ‘job’ done. Often, fulfilling these roles precludes any other occupation or participation in education.
  • Their marginalisation is compounded by the indignity and insecurity of not having a private spot to fulfil their toilet needs.
  • A rural woman in Rajasthan walks over 2.5 kilometres to reach a water source, according to a report by the National Commission for Women.
  • According to a non-profit named Water, women around the world spend a collective 200 million hours collecting water.
  • In addition to the time spent collecting water, millions may also spend significant amounts of time finding a place to go to relieve themselves. This makes up an additional 266 million hours lost each day.

Water wives:

  • Since men in rural India have completely made women responsible for water management, this has led to polygamy in one drought-prone village of Maharashtra. This involves having more than one spouse to collect water. The arrangement is termed as ‘water wives’.
  • The water wife is often either a widow or an unmarried woman whose dowry could not be afforded by her family.
  • By becoming water wives, they regain their marital status and are accepted as a part of society, again. Whether it is a boon for them or not is something that does not cross their minds, as long as they are provided for and accepted in the family.
  • Through multiple wives, the household chores are split between different spouses and one can certainly go to fetch the drinking water.

Urban issues:

  • Women being seen as substitutes for water pipes or tankers is undoubtedly an example of regressive thinking.
  • Extending this issue to the urban setup where many people rely on water stand posts or tankers for their daily requirement of water, women again become an easy bridge between the house and the water station.
  • Transwomen (also referred to as Hijrasor Kinnars) usually live in places that are far from piped water supply.
  • Standing in a queue to collect water becomes more difficult for them because of their perceived gender identity and the stigma around the same.

Social exclusion:

  • Many marginalised women can get entrapped into much deeper conflicts, further causing social exclusion.
  • This whole system of women being forced to be water carriers leads to them having very less time for themselves. This further reduces access to clean sanitation, better physical and mental health of women.
  • It creates social issues like a lower level of literacy in women since many girls drop out of school to be additional hands in water collection. This further leads to social oppression.

Way ahead:

  • Addressing women’s water, sanitation and hygiene requirements is a critical driver in attaining gender equity and unlocking the potential of half of the world’s population.
  • The water crisis is a women’s issue and feminists need to talk about it. Gender roles associated with water need to be ended.
  • It is important now to make central and state policies dealing with the water crisis, with in-depth gender and feminist lenses. More emphasis should be given to gender inequality rather than gender sensitisation.

 

IBSA Meet

The Hindu

GS 2: Important Organisations and Groupings

Context:

  • Recently, India organised the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Tourism Ministers’ virtual meet.

Key highlights:

  • It highlighted the importance of strengthening cooperation in tourism to overcome the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on the tourism sector.
  • The significant aspect of the meeting was the adoption of the IBSA Tourism Ministers Joint Statement, an outcome document on cooperation and promotion for a speedy recovery of travel and tourism.
  • The Ministers also agreed to implement various tourism activities to be actioned by respective member countries.

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