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List of Contents
Marriage Rights of the LGBTQIA+ community
Source: The Hindu
GS2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States
Synopsis: India needs to look beyond the traditional concept of marriages to recognise marriages irrespective of gender identity and sexual orientation. Thus, India can recognise the marriage rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Recently, a case related to the question of same-sex marriages came up before the High Court of Delhi.
- But the Union Government requested the court to adjourn it on the ground that it is not urgent during the second wave of COVID-19 cases.
- Court and the government ignored the suffering of the community without the legal protection of marital relationships.
- In India, marriages are observed under personal laws. Such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
However, Same-sex and queer marriages are not legally recognised in India.
|Read More: Madras High Court guidelines for mainstreaming LGBTIQA+ community|
How marriage rights of the LGBTQIA+ community evolved globally?
- South Africa: In 2005 South African court held that the common law definition of marriage i.e. “a union of one man with one woman” is inconsistent.
- As a result of the verdict, the Civil Union Act, 2006 was enacted which enabled the voluntary union of two persons above 18 years of age.
- Australia, the reforms by Honourable Michael Kirby in 2007: the Federal Government enacted the Same-Sex Relationships Act 2008 to provide equal entitlements for same-sex couples in matters of social security, employment and taxation.
- The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 of England: It enabled same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies or with religious rites.
- Obergefell vs Hodges case, USA: In 2015, the Supreme Court decided that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples.
|Read more: Need to ban the Conversion therapy of the LGBTQIA+ community|
Judgements in India recognising marriage rights of the LGBTQIA+ community:
In India also, there is judicial guidance available to recognize same sex marriages.
- Arunkumarand Sreeja vs The Inspector General of Registration and Ors, 2019: The High Court of Madras interpretated the term ‘bride’ under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and expanded its scope.
- It says a ‘bride’ includes transwomen and intersex persons identifying as women.
- Therefore, a marriage between a male and a transwoman can be valid under the Act.
- Shafin Jahan vs Asokan K.M. and Others AIR 2018 (Hadiya case): The Court upheld that the right to choose and marry a partner comes under right to freedom.
- Court also observed that marriage lie within a core zone of privacy and society has no role to play in determining our choice of partners.
It shows that bar to same-sex and queer marriages are violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Further, the concept of marriage that it is a bond between “a biological man and a biological woman” can not be defended.
- The marriage laws must be expanded to include all gender and sexual identities.
- Reform in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is needed to bring self-respect marriages under its domain.
- Self-respect Marriages were legalised in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry through amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
- Self-respect marriages have done away with priests and religious symbols such as fire or saptapadi. Instead, the solemnisation of self-respect marriages only requires an exchange of rings or garlands or tying of the mangalsutra.
- It will help in breaking caste-based and gender-based practices.
- Self-respect Marriages were legalised in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry through amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
The recognition of the unequal laws discriminating against the LGBTQIA+ community and rectifying them is the need of the hour to make the world more inclusive and equal.
Problems with discoms need radical reforms
Source: The Indian Express
Syllabus: GS3 – Changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Synopsis: To completely recover from problems with Discoms , India needs radical reforms in the Power sector. Financial aid packages from Centre to Discoms forms only a part of a solution.
- For long, the scenario has been that the Centre has to step in to aid Discoms and tackle the problems plaguing the distribution side of the power sector.
- However, the results of such interventions have not yielded any significant improvements in the health of Discoms.
- The analysis of the performance of Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) reveals the same.
Analysis of the performance of UDAY and Problems with Discoms
- UDAY scheme was introduced by the centre to bring financial Turnaround, Operational improvement of Discoms. Further, it aims to reduce the cost of generation of power, to facilitate the development of Renewable Energy and Energy efficiency & conservation.
- Though some states witnessed an improvement in their financial and operational indicators, it wasn’t sustained. There has been a sharp deterioration in several parameters after the UDAY scheme.
- First, The UDAY scheme had envisaged bringing down these losses to 15% by 2019.
- However, as per data on the UDAY dashboard, the (Aggregate Technical & Commercial) AT&C losses currently stand at 21.7% at the all-India level.
- In the case of the low-income north and central-eastern states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh the losses are considerably higher.
- Second, The UDAY scheme had envisaged eliminating the gap between power costs and revenue by now.
- However, the gap between power costs and revenue stands at Rs 0.49 per unit due to the absence of regular and commensurate tariff hikes.
- In the high-income southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, this gap between costs and revenues is significantly higher.
|Also read: Problems faced by power sector in India|
What are the reasons for the problems with discoms?
- Lack of metering: Minimizing the AT&C losses is critical to improve the operational efficiency of Discoms.
- However, even six years after UDAY was launched, various levels in the distribution chain (the feeder, the distribution transformer (DT) and the consumer) have not been fully metered.
- As a result, it difficult to isolate and identify loss-making areas and take corrective action.
- Decrease in revenue generation owing to the Pandemic
- Revenue from industrial and commercial users is used to cross-subsidize other consumers.
- However, owing to the Pandemic the demands from industrial and commercial users is falling. This leads to stress on discom finances.
- Absence of political consensus at the state level to raise tariffs: Many states report losses as they could not eliminate the gap between power costs and revenue.
- For instance, recently, Opposition parties in Karnataka recently protested against a tariff hike of 30 paise
- The Centre’s “Electricity for all” programme have contributed to greater inefficiency.
- Because, to support higher levels of electrification, cost structures need to be reworked. Similarly, the distribution network (transformers, wires, etc) need to be augmented. In the absence of such measures, losses are bound to rise.
Suggestions to address the problems with discoms
- One, the creation of a national power distribution company to ensure procurement of electricity at competitive prices.
- Two, deduct discom dues, owed to both public and private power generating companies, from state balances. After that, the RBI can force states to take the necessary steps to fix discom finances.
- Three, linking additional state borrowings to the completion of distribution reforms.
Vaccination policy of India – Issues & Suggestions
Source: Click here
Syllabus: GS 3
Synopsis: The vaccination policy of India should maintain a balance between the achievement of health goals and demands of supply constraints.
Vaccines are a proven shield against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They have prevented serious illness and death. A study of data from the UK collected between December 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine had an effectiveness of 64% after one dose and 79% after two doses, in protecting against severe illness and death.
- Effectiveness of AstraZeneca vaccine: A report by Public Health England showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine had an effectiveness of 71% after one dose and 92% after two doses in guarding against hospitalization due to the delta variant.
- Effectiveness of COVISHIELD in India: The first report of vaccine effectiveness from India, told an analysis of 8,991 staff who had been vaccinated between January 21, 2021, and April 30, 2021, mostly with Covishield. The protective effect of vaccination was 92% against the need for oxygen and 94% against the need for intensive care.
- No deaths were reported, but about 10% of those who had received one or two doses were infected.
- These data from the United Kingdom and India show that the Covishield vaccine is working against the delta variant.
What are the issues with the current vaccination policy of India?
- Too much focus on herd immunity. When vaccines seemed to be somewhere in the future with doubts over timing or supply, discussions on the pandemic focused on ‘herd immunity’ (the percentage of the population that needed to be infected or vaccinated in order to slow the spread of infection)
- The opening of age tiers led to issues of supply. A road map of the availability of vaccines and their supply to individual States is not clear.
- The Swedish strategy of limited restrictions and the Great Barrington declaration attracted much criticism. Many scientific commentators considered it is cruel to follow a strategy that meant that a lot of people would get infected with the virus.
- Anti-science statements made by some people have led to a situation where the public is confused as to how best to cope with the coronavirus. Uncertainty on vaccine availability, doubt, fear, anxiety and depression are widespread.
|Also read: What is herd immunity?|
Suggestions to improve vaccination policy of India
Different needs at different levels require policy approaches that balance the achievement of health and societal goals with the potential impact and the needs of supply constraints.
- Vaccinating a large number of people: The strategy needs to achieve maximum impact. We need to vaccinate a large proportion of the population and extend it at a later stage to children to both prevent disease and slow spread.
- Plan for children as well: The advent of the delta variant made it clear that the previous plan to vaccinate a smaller part of the population is not right, and reaching up to 85% of the population might be required. This means that along with all adults, we should be planning for children as well to achieve Universal Vaccination.
- Vaccinating the high-risk group first: We must vaccinate those most at risk from serious illness and death first based on the principles of public health. The high rates of previous waves in India may make it possible to immunize a large part of our population with a single dose, at least initially.
- Ensuring expansive reach of the vaccine: The vaccine should reach every village. Community leaders should be empowered with information and tools to broadcast the message that the vaccine saves lives.
- The central government has centralized vaccine purchase, but it must revisit the private sector allocation and give distribution to States, providing support when requested. The CoWIN app must not be a limiting factor in access to the vaccine.
- An adaptive vaccination policy: The vaccination policy must be adapted quickly to changing circumstances. We must create models to find a suitable vaccination strategy for younger populations.
- If cases are climbing in a particular region, we should direct vaccine doses there to protect as much of the population. High vaccination coverage in cities may protect rural areas. The Government must trust its citizens and share the information as it is a notable aspect of the pandemic.
- Open sharing of the data: The Government must trust its citizens and share the information that is solely available to it. A notable aspect of the pandemic is the absence of credible data from the government. This has led to speculative ideas based on poor or poorly understood information and misinformation.
Addressing the pandemic must include a strategy that ensures maximum impact. This can be done with an expansive vaccination policy that adapts itself on the go and covers the needs of every section of our society.
Settling claims of rival factions in a party symbol dispute
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: GS2 – Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
Synopsis: How Election Commission decides on party symbol disputes?
- Recently, there has been a split within the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and both the factions are claiming for the same party symbol.
- In the case of deciding the recognized party among rival factions, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has the final say.
- ECI has been empowered with quasi-judicial powers under section 15 of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
How Election Commission decides on party symbol disputes?
- Approach EC: The EC can not take suo motu cognizance of such cases. It can act only when at least one party approaches it with its claim.
- Evidence produced: Once a claim has been raised with EC, it starts the proceedings by giving notice to the other faction to give its version. Both parties are asked to produce evidence in support of their claim, accompanied by affidavits
- Scrutiny by EC: The commission will scrutinize whether, there are rival sections or groups of a recognized political party as claimed based on the information it possesses. If the commission is satisfied that there exist rival factions within a political party then it decides which faction is a recognized party.
- Test of majority: The EC employs ‘the test of majority’ principle to decide the recognized party. The EC looks at the strength of each group, in the party’s organization and in the legislatures.
- In case EC is not able to determine the strength of rival groups based on support within the party organization, it resorts to testing the majority among elected MPs and MLAs.
- Binding decision: The decision of the Commission is binding and on all such rivals’ sections or groups.
- In 1997 the EC introduced a new rule under which while one faction got the party symbol, the other had to register itself as a separate party.
- The national or state party status of the new formation would be determined only on the basis of its performance in state or central elections after registration.
|Also read: Power of Election Commission of India|
Judicial position on the issue
- Many of the cases of split in political parties have landed in the Supreme Court. The most significant case was that of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1969 where the Supreme Court upheld the order of the ECI applying the test of majority (Sadiq Ali vs ECI, 1972).
- It was a milestone judgment for the Election Commission as the apex court upheld the constitutional validity of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, giving an executive order the status of subordinate legislation.
- SC stated that ‘The Commission, in resolving this dispute, does not decide as to which group represents the party, but which group is that party‘
The Supreme Court has, time and again, upheld the test of majority in the Symbols Order to be a “valuable and relevant test” to decide a dispute between rival groups within a “democratic organization” like a recognized political party.