‘Gender equality should be a key index in measuring health of democracy’
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -1: Role of Women and Women’s Organization, Population and Associated Issues, Poverty and Developmental issues, Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
- Gender equality should be taken seriously as an index in measuring the health of India’s democracy.
- Gender empowerment was too often left out of the calculus when evaluating the strength of a country’s democracy, unlike factors like caste, class, religion, and region, which had much emphasis.
- Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes, is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender.
- UNICEF says gender equality “means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same, or that they be treated exactly alike.”
Women’s rights as a human right
- Gender Equality was made part of international human rights law by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.
That milestone document in the history of human rights recognized that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, … birth or other status.”
Gender inequality in India
- Gender inequality in India refers to health, education, economic and political inequalities between men and women in India.
- The latest NFHS data (2019-2021) show that 57% of women (15-49 age bracket) are anaemic, up from 53% in 2015-16; though 88.7% of married women participate in key household decisions, only 25.4% of women, aged 15-49 years, who worked in the last 12 months (2019-2021), were paid in cash.
- Women having a bank account or savings account that they themselves use have increased to 78.6%, with schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana helping, but women participation in the labour force has shrunk.
- According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data, in 2016-17 about 15% women were employed or looking for jobs; this metric dipped to 9.2% in 2021-22.
Advancement of Women – Strategies
- Strategies for the advancement of women should be
- Higher literacy,
- More formal education
- Greater employment opportunity.
MGNREGS: over 40% of gram panchayats do not report digital attendance
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.
- It has been 55 days since the government made it mandatory to capture the attendance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) workers through a mobile application — National Mobile Monitoring System (NMMS).
- The Ministry of Rural Development’s own statistics point out that 41.3% of the gram panchayats have reported no NMMS usage.
Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme (MGNREGS)
- Under the 2005 act, hundred days of guaranteed wage employment must be provided each financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
- The MGNREGS as envisaged under the act is a demand-driven scheme.
- Under the act, the central government is supposed to meet the cost of wages and three-fourths of the material cost of the scheme, and a percentage of administrative cost.
- The state governments are supposed to pay the unemployment allowance, one-fourth of the material cost and administrative cost of state councils.
- The act provides for an unemployment allowance for those persons who were not given work despite an application seeking employment payable within 15 days of the application.
- Protecting the rural poor from vulnerabilities by providing them demand based employment, Preventing risk associated with agricultural investment and forced migration of rural poor and bringing prosperity in rural economy via increased consumption demand are the main goals of MGNREGA.
Challenges with the Implementation of the Scheme
- Delay and Insufficiency in Funds Dispersal: Most states have failed to disburse wages within 15 days as mandated by MGNREGA. In addition, workers are not compensated for a delay in payment of wages.
- Caste Based Segregation: The negative impact of caste-based segregation was felt acutely in poorer States such as Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
- Ineffective Role of PRI: With very little autonomy, Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) are not able to implement this act in an effective and efficient manner.
- Fabrication of Job cards: There are several issues related to the existence of fake job cards, the inclusion of fictitious names, missing entries and delays in making entries in job cards
Birders delight: Bengal reports 489 species during count
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -3: Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.
- West Bengal reported the highest number of species of birds, followed by Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh during the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) 2023 across 35 States and Union Territories from February 17 to February 20.
- While West Bengal reported 489 species, Uttarakhand recorded 426, Arunachal Pradesh 407, Assam 397 and Karnataka 371 species.
Bird Count India (BCI)
- The BCI is an informal partnership of organisations and groups working together to increase collective knowledge about bird distributions and populations.
- The initiative encourages birdwatchers to upload their bird lists to eBird (ebird.org/india), a global platform for bird observations.
- In India, the event was confined to Ladakh, J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, northwest Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh.
- India was among 190 countries that participated in the GBBC 2023, an annual event that brings bird enthusiasts, students and nature enthusiasts together for counting birds they see around the places where they live, work or study.
Cyberattacks are rising, but there is an ideal patch
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -3: Challenges to Internal Security through Communication Networks, Role of Media and Social Networking Sites in Internal Security Challenges, Basics of Cyber Security; Money-Laundering and its prevention.
- The past few weeks have highlighted the soft underbelly of our fast expanding digital networks.
- The first was the ransomware attack on the servers of India’s premium institute, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
- Nearly 40 million health records were compromised and it took over two weeks for the systems to be brought online.
- Soon afterwards, a ransomware gang, BlackCat, breached the parent company of Solar Industries Limited, one of the Ministry of Defence’s ammunition and explosives manufacturers, and extracted over 2 Terabyte of data.
- Ransomwares have emerged as the most predominant of malicious cyberattacks. Here, the perpetrators demand hefty payments for the release of withheld data.
- Data show that over 75% of Indian organisations have faced such attacks, with each breach costing an average of ₹35 crore of damage.
- There are other malwares that could infect all kinds of computer systems. With the lines between the physical and digital realms blurring rapidly, every critical infrastructure, from transportation, power and banking systems, would become extremely vulnerable to the assaults from hostile state and non-state actors.
Recent Steps taken
- In 2022, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which is India’s cybersecurity agency, introduced a set of guidelines for organisations to comply with when connected to the digital realm. This included the mandatory obligation to report cyberattack incidents within hours of identifying them, and designating a pointsperson with domain knowledge to interact with CERT-In.
- India’s draft Digital Personal Protection Bill 2022 proposes a penalty of up to ₹500 crore for data breaches.
- Recently, India’s armed forces created a Defence Cyber Agency (DCyA), capable of offensive and defensive manoeuvres. All Indian States have their own cyber command and control centres.
- Most organisations lack the tools to identify cyberattacks, let alone prevent them.
- India also faces an acute scarcity of cybersecurity professionals.
- India is projected to have a total workforce of around 3,00,000 people in this sector in contrast to the 1.2 million people in the United States.
- Most of our organisations are in the private sector, and their participation remains limited in India’s cybersecurity structures.
Tap the G-20 summit
- The G-20 summit this year in India, which will see participation by all the stakeholders driving the global levers of power, is a rare opportunity to bring together domestic and international engagement groups across the spectrum, and steer the direction of these consultations.
- India could make an effort to conceptualise a global framework of common minimum acceptance for cybersecurity.
- This would be one of the most significant contributions made by any nation towards collective security in modern times.
‘India-EU free trade pact to take longer’
Relevance in UPSC: General Studies paper -2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Union Commerce Ninister Piyush Goyal said a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) will take longer as negotiations with the 27-country bloc will be prolonged.
- Active negotiations for the FTAs (free trade agreements) are ongoing with two-three countries and the EU, Mr. Goyal said at a FICCI event.
- “EU will take a longer time, because there are 27 countries which have to come on the same page,” the Minister said.
Facts on India-EU
- Second-largest trading partner: This would be one of the most significant FTAs for India as the EU is its second-largest trading partner after the US.
- The India-EU merchandise trade has registered an all-time high value of $116.36 billion in 2021-22 with a year-on-year growth of 43.5%.
- India’s export to the EU jumped 57% in FY 2021-22 to $65 billion.
- Trade surplus: India has a surplus trade with the EU.
|The proposed India-EU FTA covers a large number of areas including trade in goods, rules of origin, services & investment, IPR, digital trade, government procurement, trade remedies, trade and sustainable development and anti-fraud.|
FATF suspends membership of Russia over Ukraine invasion
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has suspended Russia’s membership over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
- The FATF sets standards for more than 200 countries and jurisdictions and seeks to help authorities tackle serious crime including drug smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism
Facebook, Instagram roll out paid service in Australia, New Zealand
- Facebook and Instagram began a rollout of their first paid verification service, testing users’ willingness to pay. Meta is piloting a subscription in Australia and New Zealand before it appears in larger markets.
- The service will cost U.S. $11.99 on the web and $14.99 on the iOS and Android.
- In line with the expanding military cooperation with South East Asian nations, an Indian Navy Kilo class conventional submarine, INS Sindhukesari, docked in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the first time.
- The submarine, which was on operational deployment, travelled through the Sunda Strait and undertook the maiden docking in Indonesia for Operational Turnaround (OTR).
- Naval ships regularly make port calls to countries in the region.