Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Climate Change on the periphery of Rajasthan State budget 2022

Mitali Soni


“Climate change is real. It is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”

Leonardo Di Caprio, Actor & Environmentalist

Climate change is the greatest global challenge, which through a multitude of impacts poses a risk to our ecology, economy and society. Studies show that changes in the climate of Rajasthan are over and above the natural climate variability prevailing in the region. Experts say that Rajasthan falls in areas of greatest climate sensitivity, maximum vulnerability and lowest adaptive capacity. Rajasthan is the largest state in India covering an area of 34.22 million hectares (10.5 percent of the country’s geographical area), but sharing only 1.16 percent of its water resources. It is the driest state with nearly 70 percent (2/3rd) of the area classified as arid and semi-arid region that makes the land unfit for cultivation.

Climate change challenges being faced by state

Climate change is a global challenge with diverse implications at the national and subnational levels, through impacts on various sectors such as agriculture, environment and human health. It has made water scarcity problem worse, as it has the potential to disrupt livelihoods and well-being of farmers through impacting weather patterns. According to the Ground Water Year Book 2020-2021 Rajasthan, Comparison of water level for January 2021 with the mean of January 2011-20 infer that water levels in 60.76% stations shows decline. Over exploitation and excess use of groundwater has led to substantial decline in water levels which may ultimately result in drying up of aquifers in many areas of state. For drinking and irrigation purpose, 90% of state’s population rely upon groundwater.



 Climate Change and Environment in state budget 2022

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot presented the state budget for the financial year 2022-23 touched almost every area or sector (Health, Agriculture, social security, infrastructure, tourisms, etc.). In the Budget speech, announcement regarding various schemes related to these sectors were made. 

Some of the announcements made in the budget 2022-23, from the perspective of environment protection and improving the climate change situations include proposal of plantation to be done in more than 50000 hectares of forest area in the coming year to increase the forest cover and increase greenery in the state. In order to ensure proper disposal of e-waste, it is proposed to set up a Jaipur-waste recycling park along with bringing in 'e-waste disposal policy'. There is an exemption of 50% in motor vehicle tax to promote new vehicles running on CNG for pollution control. Now this exemption will also be admissible on CNG Kit Retrofitment vehicles. The step has been taken to promote the use of cleaner fuel and CNG is an environment friendly fuel and emits less carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and smoke, as compared to petrol and diesel engines. 

Irrigation facility will be developed for the farmers of tribal area through solar energy based community water-lifting irrigation scheme through 50 lift irrigation schemes. Switching to solar energy eases reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil. This move will have direct influence on the reduction of emission of harmful gases to the atmosphere. With a view to reduce the cost of energy generation and carbon emissions, expansion of Chhabra Thermal Power Station based on ultra-super critical technology and lignite coal, which in turn produces less heat and less amount of carbon-di-oxide and Sulphur-di-oxide.

Some of the announcements made about the agriculture are also environment friendly and can change the climate change situations include proposal of Rs 2700 crores under Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission, which can boost yields while lowering water, fertilizer, and labour costs. The approach lowers water loss by conveyance, run-off, deep percolation, and evaporation by providing water directly to the root zone. Ground Water Conservation and Management Authority will be formed for the proper use of ground water in the state. Under the Rajasthan Organic Farming Mission, Rs. 600 crores has been proposed with the perception to benefit 4 lacs farmers in 3 years. To promote the production and sale of organic products, purchase of organic products and sale of these products at grocery stores like Confed and Co-operative consumer stores, departmental stores, D-mart stores etc. shall be provided. I appreciate government for promoting organic farming as this will avoid pesticides and mitigate climate change by reducing GHG gas emissions and stores carbon in soil.

Special Emphasis on Health Sector

As India enters the third year in its fight against the global pandemic, special focus on health sector is clearly visible in budget speech. In 2022-23, there is about 23.6% increase in health sector vudget compared to the budget estimate of year 2021-22. As mentioned above, various announcements related to environment were made which are leading towards the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions will be beneficial in improvement of respiratory, cardiovascular and various chronic diseases contributing to well-being. As discussed the water availability concerns in the beginning of this article, Under Jal Jivan Mision,24 new missions are going to be started through which 12,24,000 families will get Potable Drinking water and proposal of announcement regarding 36 new projects were done. 

Conclusion

The state budget 2022-23 is an ambitious budget which has covered almost each and every area but did not directly discuss climate change but various announcements were done. With respect to environment, as mentioned above in the Rajasthan budget 2019-20, it was announced to draft a new policy on Climate Change but it has not come yet.

A question was raised in Rajasthan Legislative Assembly on 15/02/2022 with reference to the climate change policy and the establishment of the Directorate of Environment and Climate Change in the State. The following answer  was given by the state government:

“The announcement of bringing climate change policy by the state government was made in the budget 2019-20. The draft of climate change policy has been prepared with the help of IIT Bombay, which will be finalized soon.” (Quoted from Rajasthan Assembly website)

Earlier also the government had prepared a State action plan on climate Change. However, there is no information on its implementation or outcome. It is appreciable that state government is taking initiatives such as organic farming, promoting CNG vehicles which are pro environment and beneficial for human health too. Under Jal Jeevan Mission, the government has again emphasized providing tapped drinking water to every rural household but as records shows that groundwater level is decreasing at a rapid pace, therefore it is the matter of concern that by how the government will ensure sustainability in drinking water prgrammes. The government, therefore, must take proactive measures to check the environmental degradations and make the development climate resilient. 


Mitali is a public policy graduate and an independent consultant.

Monday, 5 July 2021

प्रोजेक्ट बक्सवाहा - बुंदेलखंड के अमेज़न पर ख़तरा

जावेद अनीस 

पृथ्वी सभी इंसानों की ज़रुरत पूरी करने के लिए पर्याप्त संसाधन प्रदान करती है, लेकिन लालच पूरा करने के लिए नहीं. (महात्मा गाँधी)

भ्रष्ट सत्ता और लालची कॉर्पोरेट का गठजोड़ खतरनाक होता है और जब ये दोनों मिलकर प्राकृतिक संसाधनों के लिये पर्यावरण के साथ खिलवाड़ करते हैं तो इसका परिणाम बहुत घातक होता है। जंगल हमारी धरती के फेफड़े हैं, ये इंसानों द्वारा पैदा किये गये कार्बन सोखकर ग्लोबल वार्मिंग को कम करते हैं, इन्हीं के बदोलत हमें साफ़ हवा मिलती है जो अभी भी काफी हद तक मुफ्त और सबकी पहुँच में है। करोना की दूसरी लहर के दौरान आक्सीजन की मारा-मारी ने तो हमें समझा ही दिया है कि बिना आक्सीजन के कोई भी इंसान बिन पानी के मछली की तरह है। लेकिन इन सबके बावजूद भी विकास के नाम पर इंसानी लालच का आत्मघाती खेल मुसलसल जारी है। पिछले कुछ वर्षों से ब्राजील में अमेज़न के वर्षा वनों के साथ जो खेल खेला जा रहा उसे हम देख ही रहे हैं। ब्राजील के दक्षिणपंथी राष्ट्रपति  जायर बोल्सोनारो पर विकास के नाम पर अमेज़न वर्षा वन को नष्ट करने का आरोप है। 

कुछ ऐसे ही खेल भारत के बुंदेलखंड में भी खेला जा रहा है जहां बदकिस्मती से जंगल की जमीन में हीरे का भंडार खोज लिया गया है, अब इस हीरे के भंडार को सत्ता और कारपोरेट दोनों मिलकर हासिल करना चाहते हैं फिर चाहे इसकी कीमत एक बसा-बसाया जंगल ही क्यों ना हो। 

 

क्या है “प्रोजेक्ट बक्सवाहा”?

“बकस्वाहा” मध्यप्रदेश के छतरपुर ज़िले में एक छोटा सा कस्बा है जो अपने जंगल के लिये मशहूर रहा है। बकस्वाहा के इसी जंगल में 3.42 करोड़ कैरेट हीरे दबे होने का अनुमान लगाया गया है, जिसे देश का सबसे बड़ा हीरा भंडार बताया जा रहा है साथ ही इसकी गुणवत्ता भी बहुत अच्छी बतायी जा रही है।  इसी हीरे के भंडार को निकालने के लिये बकस्वाहा के करीब 382.131 हेक्टेयर जंगल क्षेत्र को खत्म करने की योजना है, और सरकारी अनुमान के मुताबिक़ इसमें करीब 2 लाख 16 हजार पेड़ काटे जायेंगें। जाहिर है वास्तविक रूप में यह संख्या कहीं अधिक हो सकती है। लेकिन यह सिर्फ पेड़ों की कटाई का ही मसला नहीं है बल्कि इससे एक जंगल का इकोसिस्टम भी खत्म हो जायेगा, जिसमें इस जंगल मे रहने वाले हजारों जानवर, पक्षी, औषधीय पेड़, पौधे और अन्य जीव शामिल हैं। किसी भी जंगल के इकोसिस्टम को बनने में हजारों साल लग जाते हैं। 

दैनिक भास्कर से साभार 

गौरतलब है कि मई 2017 में मध्यप्रदेश के जियोलॉजी एंड माइनिंग विभाग और हीरा कंपनी रियो टिन्टो द्वारा पेश किये गये रिपोर्ट में बताया गया था कि बकस्वाहा के जंगल में तेंदुआ, बाज, भालू, बारहसिंगा, हिरण, मोर जैसे वन्यजीव पाए जाते हैं लेकिन अब बताया जा रहा है कि इस जंगल में संरक्षित वन्यजीव नहीं हैं। 

लंबे समय से बुंदेलखंड गरीबी और पलायन का शिकार रहा है, यहां की हरियाली और जल स्रोत पहले से ही नाजुक स्थिति में पहुंच चुकी है, लेकिन अब इस इलाके के बचे-खुचे हरे हिस्से पर भी इस प्रोजेक्ट की नजर लग गयी है।  बक्स्वाहा क्षेत्र के ज़मीन में दफन हीरा ही उसका दुश्मन बन चूका है। हीरे के चक्कर में अगर जंगल नष्ट किया जाता है तो पहले से पानी की कमी की मार झेल रहे बुंदेलखंड के इस क्षेत्र में पानी की भीषण समस्या और गहरा सकती है।  इसका असर पूरे बुंदेलखंड इलाके के ईको-सिस्टम पर असर पड़ना तय है। हीरा निकालने के लिये खदान को करीब 1100 फीट गहरा खोदा जाएगा जिससे आसपास के इलाके का भूमिगत जल स्तर प्रभावित हो सकता है साथ ही इस प्रोजेक्ट में रोजाना करीब 1.60 करोड़ लीटर पानी की जरूरत होगी, जिसे  ज़मीन से निकाला जायेगा, जिससे बुंदेलखंड जैसा पहले से ही सूखाग्रस्त क्षेत्र बंजर बन सकता है। इसी प्रकार से बकस्वाहा के जंगल पर आसपास के गावों के एक हजार से ज्यादा परिवार अपने जीविकोपार्जन के लिये जंगल पर निर्भर हैं, जिनमें से अधिकतर आदिवासी हैं। अगर जंगल नष्ट किया जाता है तो इन परिवारों का जीविकोपार्जन भी पूरी तरह से प्रभावित होगा। फिलहाल प्रोजेक्ट बक्सवाहा को राज्य सरकार से हरी झंडी मिल चुकी है और केंद्र सरकार से मंजूरी के बाद “विकास” शुरू हो जाएगा।   

सत्ता व कंपनी की गठजोड़ और “उच्च कोटि” के हीरे  

अक्टूबर 2009 में मुख्यमंत्री शिवराज सिंह चौहान ने बक्सवाहा में ऑस्ट्रेलिया की हीरा कंपनी रियो टिन्टो के हीरा सेम्पल प्रोसेसिंग प्लांट का उद्घाटन करते हुये कहा था कि जल्दी ही इस क्षेत्र में उच्च कोटि का हीरा मिलने की संभावना है, जिससे क्षेत्र का विकास होगा, आर्थिक समृद्धि आएगी और साथ ही स्थानीय लोगों  को रोजगार भी मिलेगा। 

दरअसल 2004 में मध्यप्रदेश सरकार द्वारा बुंदेलखंड क्षेत्र में हीरा की खोज के लिए सर्वे का काम रियो टिंटो कंपनी को दिया गया, जिसके तहत कंपनी को एक्सप्लोर करने की प्रोसपेक्टिंग लाइसेंस दिया गया था। उस दौरान स्थानीय स्तर पर इस प्रोजेक्ट और कंपनी का भी काफी विरोध हुआ था। बाद में रियो टिंटो ने खनन लीज के लिए आवेदन किया था। लेकिन मई 2017 में रियो टिंटो ने अचानक यहां अपना काम बंद कर दिया और कंपनी इस पूरी प्रक्रिया से अलग हो गयी। 

इसके बाद 2019 में आदित्य बिड़ला समूह की कंपनी एसल माइनिंग ऐंड इंडस्ट्रीज़ लिमिटेड ने बकस्वाहा में माइनिंग के लिये सबसे ज्यादा बोली लगाई, जिसके बाद मध्यप्रदेश सरकार द्वारा इस कंपनी को जंगल 50 साल की माइनिंग लीज़ पर दिया गया है। स्थानीय अखबारों के अनुसार कंपनी ने कुल 382.131 हेक्टेयर का जंगल क्षेत्र मांगा है, जिसके एक हिस्से का उपयोग खनन करने और प्रोसेस के दौरान खदानों से निकला मलबा डंप करने में किया जाएगा।  बताया जा रहा है कि है एक बार ये प्रोजेक्ट शुरू हो गया तो ये एशिया का सबसे बड़ा डायमंड माइन्स बन सकता है। 

जंगल ज़मीन का निजीकरण! 

मध्यप्रदेश में जंगल के जमीन के साथ एक और खेल चल रहा है। भारत वन स्थिति रिपोर्ट, 2019 के अनुसार मध्य प्रदेश की कुल भूमि का 25 प्रतिशत हिस्सा जंगलों से घिरा हुआ है। इस लिहाज से मध्यप्रदेश में सबसे ज़्यादा जंगल क्षेत्र हैं। लेकिन राज्य सरकार इनके एक बड़े हिस्से को निजी कंपनियों को देने की तैयारी कर चुकी है। इस सम्बन्ध में प्रदेश सरकार द्वारा अक्टूबर 2020, में “वनों की स्थिति को सुधारने” के नाम पर एक योजना पेश की जा चुकी है, जिसके तहत सूबे के करीब 40 फीसदी “बिगड़े” वन क्षेत्र को पीपीपी मॉडल के तहत निजी कंपनियों को देने की तैयारी है, जिसके तहत निजी कंपनियां वनीकरण करके जंगल के रूप में विकसित करेंगीं। 

विरोध की आवाज़ें

मुख्यमंत्री शिवराज सिंह चौहान बक्सवाह जंगल में कटने वाले पेड़ों के एवज़ में क्षतिपूर्ति में एक के मुकाबले चार पेड़ लगाने की बात कर रहे हैं, लेकिन खुद शिवराज सरकार ने अभी तक जितने भी वनीकरण किये हैं, वो बस हवाई साबित हुये हैं। साथ ही हम सब जानते हैं कि एक जंगल की भरपाई पौधे लगाकर तो नहीं की जा सकती है, जंगल तो सदियों में बनते हैं। इसीलिए “प्रोजेक्ट बक्सबाहा” के विरोध का दायरा लगातार बढ़ता जा रहा है। खास बात यह है कि इस मुद्दे के दायरे को बड़ा बनाने में युवाओं और सोशल मीडिया की महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका है, स्थानीय युवा समूह बक्सबाहा के मुद्दे को ट्विटर पर कई बार ट्रेंड करा चुके हैं जिससे देश भर के लोग और समूह इससे परिचित हुये हैं और जुड़े हैं। 

साथ ही इस मुद्दे को लेकर सुप्रीम कोर्ट में जनहित याचिका भी दायर की गयी है। शायद विरोध के दायरे को बढ़ता देखते हुये प्रदेश भाजपा अध्यक्ष वीडी शर्मा को सामने आकर कहना पड़ा कि "बकस्वाहा प्रोजेक्ट का विरोध करने वाले लोग वामपंथी हैं जो विकास में रोड़ा पैदा कर रहे हैं”। इधर लॉकडाउन हटने के बाद से कुछ जमीनी कारवाही भी शुरू हुयी हैं। इसी कड़ी में एक से चार जुलाई के दौरान युवाओं द्वारा दमोह शहर से बक्सवाहा के जंगल तक पदयात्रा निकाली जा गयी है, जिसका मकसद स्थानीय स्तर पर लोगों के बीच इस मुद्दे को पहुंचाते हुये उनका समर्थन जुटाना था। 

इस मामले में नागरिक उपभोक्ता मंच द्वारा राष्ट्रीय हरित अधिकरण भोपाल में  भी एक  याचिका दायर की गयी थी, जिसपर बीते 2 जुलाई को सुनवाई करते हुये एनजीटी ने  कहा है कि बिना वन विभाग की अनुमति के बक्सवाहा के जंगलों में एक भी पेड़ न काटा जाए। साथ ही एनजीटी ने  बक्सवाहा मामले में में फॉरेस्ट कंजर्वेशन एक्ट, इंडियन फॉरेस्ट एक्ट तथा सुप्रीम कोर्ट द्विया दिये गये निर्देशों के  पालन करने का भी निर्देश दिया है। एनजीटी द्वारा  इस मामले में अगली सुनवाई 27 अगस्त को तय की गयी है।

बहरहाल आज जब देश और दुनिया क्लाइमेट चेंज (मौसम में बदलाव) के रूप में अब तक का सबसे बड़ा पर्यावरणीय संकट झेल रहे हैं, प्रोजेक्ट बक्सवाहा जैसी परियोजनाओं का व्यापक देशव्यापी विरोध जरूरी है। साथ ही इसके बरअक्स हवा, पानी, जंगल और जानवरों को बचाने वाली परियोजना चलाये जाने की जरूरत है जो दरअसल इंसानों को बचाने की परियोजना होगी।

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जावेद अनीस एक सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता व लेखक हैं।


Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Union Budget 2021-22: Privatisation is Main Theme

Nesar Ahmad

We all expected the focus of the union budget 2021-21 was going to be employment and measures to income generation. But MGNREGA, the employment guarantee scheme for the rural India, could not find mention in the Finance Minister’s budget speech.  There is no particular emphasis on employment generation in rural and urban India.

Privatization: The big focus

If anything gets a real push in this budget, it is privatization. The budget made it clear that the government is going to privatize all the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) except bare minimum CPSEs in four sectors. Even the state governments will be incentivized to privatize their SPSEs. Not only this, the government also plans to monetize its idle assets including land for which a special purpose vehicle will be created. Most of these lands must have been acquired on meager compensation amount from farmers.

Corona crisis has created shortage of resources which the government wants to cover by disinvestment of PSUs and monetization of the land, beside loans.  Or we can also say that the Corona has become an opportunity for the government to push its privatization agenda.

Infrastructure, not in rural areas!

The second item which got priority in the budget is infrastructure; mainly the mega road and highway projects have been announced in the states which are going to have state elections this very year. But as far as agriculture and rural infrastructure is concerned, the budget for agriculture ministry has been slashed; even the budget for the PM-Kisaan, the direct cash transfer scheme for the farmers has also been reduced compared to current financial year. There is a nominal increase in the  budget for rural development ministry. Budget for MGNREGA and Aajiveeka (self-employment promotion scheme) has increased compared to this year’s budget estimates but MGNREGA budget for 2021-22 has actually declined compared to this year’s revised estimates. Other schemes promoting rural infrastructure like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi yojana (irrigation), Pradham Mantri Awas Yojana (housing), PM Gram Sadak Yojana (rural roads) have not got increased allocations in 2021-22.

Health Budget increased: really!

Finance Minister in her budget speech claimed to have increased the health budget by hopping 137%, which sounded really good. But the a closer look suggests that for the first time the water and sanitation budget has been added into the health sector budget to make it look really big. The budget for the health and family welfare department has increased by just Rs. 9000 crores from 62 thousands crores to Rs. 71 thousands crores. In addition to this Rs. 35 thousands crores have been provided for the Covid-19 vaccines. The FM, however, has added Rs. 60 thousands crores for the water and sanitation, beside the the small budget for nutrition, budget for health research in the health sector budget. The Finance Commissions grants for health and family welfare and water and sanitation have also been added to make the health budget look a hopping Rs. 2.23 lakh crores. Budget for NHM increased by just Rs. 3000 crores and there is no budget item mentioned in the detailed budget for the much hyped PM Atmnirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana for which FM said in her budget speech to have provided Rs. 64,180 crores for six years.

No focus on other social sectors: Budget for education ministry saw a decline of Rs. 4000 crores. In Major schemes National Education Mission (SSA)’s budget slashed by Rs. 5000 crores. Budget for National Social Security Scheme, Swachh Bharat Yojana, Rurban Mission, Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Yojana, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), MDM, either got slashed or remained same as the current year. If anyone scheme got real boost in the budget it is Jal Jivan Mission which is a rural drinking water scheme.  Good thing is also that there is no effort to reduce the food subsidy expenditure in the budget. Considering that the PDS has really saved millions from starving during the Covid lockdown, there is a need to further strengthen the public food distribution system. 

Budget for the schemes for the weaker sections – dalits and tribals – have also not increased much. There is also a decline in the budget for ministry of minority welfare.

Gender budget: If we look at the budget from the gender lens, the share of gender budget in the total budget is just 4.45%, 0.3% less than the current year. It was slightly more than 5% in the year 2017-18. What is important here is that the gender budget ratio has been hovering around 5% point since the year it started and there does not seem to be any conscious efforts to increase it. Budget for women and child development ministry has also declined by more than Rs. 5000 corers so have the budgets for the schemes of the ministry like PMMVY and ICDS.

Chart: Share of gender budget in Union  Budget 


Disappointed Middle Class: This budget has also disappointed the great Indian middle classes by not changing the slabs of income tax and levying cess on the petrol and diesel, which the FM said will not affect the prices much. There is also a huge cut in petroleum subsidy which may affect the LPG prices.

Increased deficit:

This year there is going to be a huge fiscal deficit of Rs. 18.48 lakhs crore which will be 9.5% of the GDP. It has been projected to come down to 6.8% of the GDP by end of the year 2021-22. The rise is deficit is a result of declining revenue receipt and increasing expenditure thanks to Corona.  The government has said that next year (2021-22) there is going to be increase in expenditure which will boost the economy. There is increase in the expenditure budget for the year 2021-22 but most of the increase in revenue expenditure will go towards the debt servicing (interest payment).

The major increase in expenditure will be in form of capital expenditure and major part of it will be on reads and highways in the election bound states. The government is hoping that boost to the infrastructure will promote the economy and create employment. The road construction, however, is mechanized and one will have to wait to see how much it helps in employment growth. For employment growth many were also expecting that government will perhaps announce an urban employment guarantee programme but it did not happen. 

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Gender Inequalities and Gender Based Violence: Shadow Pandemic

Introspective Note of an Indian Feminist

Dr. Sanghamitra Dhar 

GENDER DISCUSSION BRINGS CHEERS OR JEERS

In our contemporary social media-driven world, opinions are formed and vehemently spread at the click of the mouse and a chirpy tweet - often unreasonable, judgmental, and biased but always exhibiting power play! It is biased because often it is circulation of unverified, unreliable, vested information. This has created a vacuum in the rational health of a logical society. 

In such an intellectually bereft environment, the chasm is even more profound when the topic is on gender inequality of women and girls as it brings either intense cheers or jeers. It is considered “…unnecessary now as the twenty-first century is women’s and they have the maximum access to resources and services that they ever had!”  “…many of the laws for the protection and safety of women is misused to make the life of the men/husband/partner/male colleague a living hell, just look up the data on the no. of false cases registered against the hapless husband and his innocent family members”; “women are getting more benefits in the corporate world by playing their charming card or the vulnerable card, either way, they are the winner…” [i] are some of the oft-contention from educated, urbane men and sometimes women too.  

There is no denying, we have instances of women misusing the laws for their vested and corrupt interests which requires urgent and immediate restraining[1]. Men who face the brunt in such cases are equally vulnerable and require urgent assistance and support without a doubt. It is reported that 80% of dowry cases in India end in acquittal[2] however, here one has to remember the criticality of unavailability or lack of proof for quashing of these cases as well[3]. Additionally, extensive research for the so-called data has been a futile exercise as none of the reliable, scientific sources of information[ii] have any data whatsoever on the status of harassment of men at home or workplace, which implies reporting on the same requires to be urgently remedied.

Let me reiterate a fundamental fact here - gender inequality is a discourse about the inequities faced by all gender, which can be either woman, man, or transgenders of the world. However, gender inequality recognises that women, and by extension transgenders and others are not equal to the men and indeed gender impacts each person’s lived experiences. The differences arise from divisions in the biological, psychological, and sociological/cultural norms. It is also differently experienced according to the culture one comes from. The fight for women’s right is NOT AGAINST men’s right but IT IS AGAINST the patriarchal and archaic mindset that believes women are lesser human and need to be controlled and dominated.  

Gender equality in current times is primarily addressing the issues of the women as most of the reported inequalities are faced by the women, nationally as well as globally. While inequality faced by the transgender community is also immense and mostly invisible and undocumented nonetheless it is gradually coming to the forefront which is much needed and applaudable.

The fight for women’s right is NOT AGAINST men’s right but IT IS AGAINST the patriarchal and archaic mindset that believes women are lesser human and need to be subjugated!

At the onset, as a feminist, let me put certain basic key factors on the table:

1. Gender-based violence (GBV) is a wide term because the word ‘gender’ encompasses female, male, transgenders, and others. So, we need to specify and/or provide an operational definition of whom we are focusing on in discussion and presupposing it is only women is erroneous.

2. Be mindful of the enormity in nature and forms of GBV that exist.

GBV against women is a pre-existing inequality which means violence against women is a pandemic going on since generations now, both nationally and internationally. The latest NFHS-4 data (2018-2019, India) reflects some astounding facts about the Indian situation - 30% of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 6% percent have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Intimate partner violence (IPV), more particularly 33% of the ever-married women were found to have faced some form of violence; notably instances of different variations of violence is enumerated and Physical violence stood at 30%, 14% of the women had faced emotional violence, and 7% had experienced sexual violence. Alarmingly, it is seen that only 14% of them have ever sought help to stop the violence.

3. GBV has geographical, religious, often racial and/or caste-based connotations. Case in point - the issue of female foeticide and infanticide, its rampant in some regions of India, cuts across religious borders and caste barriers yet in another part of the same country its completely non-existent, Rajasthan versus Nagaland. It does not mean Nagaland does have other forms of GBV against women, it definitely does, but female foeticide and infanticide is not there at all.

3. GBV has a social, political, economic, physical, and mental health connotations and it truly requires mitigation plans which are comprehensive, inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary in nature.

For example: a programme that is focusing on the livelihood issues of women has to keep in mind and address all other factors too, in order for realising the goal of empowerment that will be sustainable and equitable. Case in point: We know there are numerous instances of affluent working women facing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) on a regular basis in many parts of the world, which clearly indicates that economic independence alone cannot address IPV and GBV because empowerment of the survivor/victim is fundamental. An overhaul of the cultural and social norms is at the core of the problem.


GENDER-based violence against women is a Shadow Pandemic – India and global 

Globally it is a fact that 1 in every 3 women has experienced either physical/sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence[4] in their lifetime. To nail it up for you - just look around your surroundings while you are reading this article, if you see 3 women there, know this for a fact that at least 1 of them has experienced violence against her in her lifetime!

Since the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing national lockdowns to arrest the virus spread, the floodgates seem to be wide open in the incidences of violence against women and girls[iii], most particularly in the intimate partner violence  (IPV) – married or live-in couples, which has found innumerable reporting, both nationally and globally, through different mediums of information.  

WHO[iv] cautions during conflicts, after-conflict and displacement, existing violence is intensified in intimate partners, as well as non-partners, and often leads to newer forms of violence against women[5]. Case in point, the current COVID-19 ridden world scenario wherein families are living indoors, in isolation, in close quarters away from other people. The incidences of IPV is aggravated as observed from the worldwide helpline numbers getting ever-increasing reports of the same[6], in France alone 30% jump in such incidences are reflected in a matter of couple of weeks as the lockdown there was from 11 March[7]. Incidentally, France is among the highest rankers in cases of DV across Europe. Their official data is disconcerting - 1 woman is killed by a partner or former partner every 3 days![8] In Australia, on an average, 1 woman is murdered by her current or former partner every week[9]. Such occurrences and rise in incidences and reporting is present across the continents.

In India as well we are observing ever-rising numbers of reporting, during this lockdown which is now more than 3-month long[v] [10], already 1428 [11] [12] [13] online complaints of IPV and DV have been reported at the National Commission for Women[14] until April- May, some state government bodies are also campaigning for reporting any cases of violence against women and raising awareness about their support to the victims at all times[15]. For a quick comparison on the steep rise of cases, we observe out of the total cases received by NCW in the January- March quarter, 20.6% cases were of DV and in just two month ,i.e. April had a 51.45% case, while May data reflects 45.07% cases of DV which is an exponential jump of double its normal instances of reporting[16].

Some preliminary derivations[vi] from the nature of the e-complaints is further highlighted in the box below[17]:

  • The complainants are educated 
  • They have some level of understanding about digital information and access to internet and email
  • May hail from an affluent and middle class section of the society
  • Are unable to access the telephone helpline due to lack of privacy and restricted mobility as confined with perpetrator 
  • The IPV incidences of the weaker sections are yet to surface as currently they are struggling to achieve basic/physiological needs of food and shelter 

A deepened understanding on some of the different forms of violence against women, in India as well as in many other countries, can be observed from a lifecycle perspective, wherein it is observed that the struggle begins from its conception and her mere chance for survival in the form of female foeticide and infanticide, moving on to female mutilation of genitals for ensuring purity, child marriages, incest, rape, kidnapping and abduction, dowry deaths, assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty, sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking, insult to the modesty of women, intimate partner violence, forced prostitution and pornography, sexual harassment at the workplace, cyber-crime and harassment in social media are some of the rampant forms of VAWG incidences and practices world over.

Therefore, the nature and different forms of gender inequality and violence against women and girls is indeed a shadow pandemic[vii] which is silently, systematically, and adversely affecting hundreds of thousands of women as they are getting scarred, maimed, killed every day across the globe irrespective of the region, class, religion and clearly for their biological identity! The patriarchal hegemony of gender bias/injustice has to be called out and addressed at every stage in a girls and women’s life in order for building a truly equitable and fair society of gender equality.

Undoubtedly, 21st Century has evidenced more women accessing resources and services than the previous periods, however the struggle and fight to a truly GENDER EQUAL WORLD is far from achieved. And every time a person speaks of the supposed non-existent  gender inequality scenario, know this for a fact - it is unmistakeably coming from priviledge alone, not so much from ignorance!


About the Author:

Dr. Sanghamitra Dhar is a Gender Expert and a Social Researcher with more than a decade of work experience in the development sector with civil society organisations and international agencies on issues of gender inequality, child rights and resettlement management issues. She is currently associated with UN Women India office as a Consultant with the Ending Violence Against Women Unit. Views expressed here are her personal


[i] Excerpts from some of the many heated debates and discussions with peers, colleagues; men and women in general, in physical world as well as the virtual spaces.

[ii] Such as the national census data, or the health data (NFHS for India, WHO for global data) or the statistical data sets shared by government bodies

[iii] Will be using some abbreviations throughout the article, which mean the following: DV – Domestic Violence, IPV – Intimate Partner Violence, VAW - Violence against Women, VAWG- Violence against Women and Girls.

[iv] World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.

[v] Indian Government imposed it from 24th March till 31st May, observing a complete lockdown to arrest and combat the pandemic.

 

[vi] As the author is not privy to all the complaints filed and is basing her assessment on the information shared in the newspaper articles.

[vii] Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has used this terminology to highlight and discuss the plight of high rise of domestic violence incidences during the COVID-19 Lockdown across the world, which she rightly points is a pre-existing issue although national and international bodies fall short to acknowledge the essential services nature of the issue.