Daily Current Affairs – 11th March, 2017DEVENDRA VISHWAKARMA
Maternity Benefit Act
Every developing country has to essentially invest in health and especially mother and child care. IMR and MMR being major indicators is evidence to the same. An amendment to Maternity benefit act is a step in positive direction but has concerns associated.
The enhancement of paid maternity leave for women in the organised sector to 26 weeks from 12 is a progressive step, one that should lead to closer scrutiny of the difficulties faced by unorganised workers who fall beyond the scope of any worthwhile labour welfare measures.
- It is wholly welcome that such a benefit is being introduced with an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, in line with several expert recommendations including that of the World Health Organisation, which recommends exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first 24 weeks.
- Giving some benefits to adoptive mothers and women who get children using embryo transfers as well signals India is in step with social changes.
Issue of Women in unorganised sector:
- Positive though it is, the amended law is expected to cover only 1.8 million women, a small subset of women in the workforce.
- For many poor millions in the unorganised sector, the only support available is a small conditional cash benefit of ₹6,000 during pregnancy and lactation offered under the Maternity Benefit Programme.
- The reported move to restrict even this meagre benefit to the first child for budgetary reasons is retrograde and must be given up.
- Providing benefits for women and children is a societal responsibility which can be funded in a large country through a combination of general taxation and contributory payments from those who have the means.
Need for broad approach:
- Health care should be treated as a right and deliveries handled without cost to women; the income guarantees during the 26-week period can be ensured through a universal social insurance system.
- Such a policy would harmonise the varying maternity benefit provisions found in different laws that govern labour at present.
- There would also be no discrimination against women in recruitment by employers who currently have to factor in benefit payments.
- Conversely, women would not suffer loss of income simply because they cannot remain in employment after childbirth.
- Beneficiaries covered by the latest amendment must be protected from discrimination through clear provisions.
- Mandating creche facilities to help women workers under the changed law is a forward-looking move, but it will work well only with a good oversight mechanism.
Women’s empowerment can be achieved through universal initiatives, not by imposing conditionalities to avail benefits. Access to welfare support has become even more critical as workers migrate frequently due to economic changes. The twin imperatives are, therefore, to create more jobs for women in a diversified economy, and to provide social opportunity through maternal and child welfare measures.
Connecting the dots:
- Investment on mother and child care is investing in the nation’s future. Elaborate the same and discuss the measures initiated by the government.
India and China- Burying the hatchet?
In news: Foreign Secretary of India visited China last week and discussed about looking for a ‘common ground’ on Afghanistan despite differences on a number of issues, including over the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), U.N. designation of Masood Azhar as a terrorist, and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Back on track?
- The downturn in bilateral relations in 2016 was marked by China’s decision to block India’s campaign for NSG membership and putting Pakistan’s Masood Azhar (of the Jaish-e-Mohammed) on the terror list of the UNSC.
- India was surprised by China’s inflexible stand and understood that although China presented its objections in procedural terms, its opposition was political. This made it clear that China’s tilt towards Pakistan was absolute and complete.
- However, India held its nerve and chose to persist with a two-fold approach. One, it continued with the campaign for the NSG membership and also put Masood on terror list. Two, it took up China’s opposition at every diplomatic encounter — bilateral and multilateral.
- Thus, despite, India and China came face to face multiple times, India refused to be bogged down.
- This has resulted in India and China coming together to initiate first round of the newly instituted strategic dialogue, thereby reflecting that India’s patience and firm persistence on the two issues might have been worthwhile.
- The foreign Secretary’s visit, which saw a restructured ‘Strategic Dialogue’ with Chinese executive Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, also witnessed an effort by both sides to ‘stabilise India-China relations’ at a time the world is experiencing a new ‘volatility’.
- This indicates a shift in global calculus due to the recent surprise foreign and trade policy moves by the new U.S. administration under Donald Trump.
- The foreign secretary said that both India and China have been beneficiaries of a stable and open international system. And thus it underlined the importance of limiting the impact of the current international turbulence on their respective national interests.
- This led to India and China to work towards a ‘more stable, substantive, forward looking India-China relationship which would inject a greater amount of predictability into the international system.’
Contentions still present
- However, there is little movement over issues that were most highlighted in 2016- China’s technical hold on Masoor Azhad and NSG membership of India, which will be once again taken up in June 2017.
- Also, Chinese President is expected to highlight China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that runs through Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan in a global conference on the ‘Belt and Road Initiative (B&RI).
- China has reached out to each one of India’s land and maritime neighbours and most of whom have signed up for it.
- However, India has made it clear that it would not take part given the ‘sovereignty issues.’ India has to find ways to make China more sensitive to its concerns about territorial sovereignty.
- Other contentious issues which remain are an unsettled boundary dispute dating back more than five decades and a burgeoning trade deficit.
The strategic dialogue was divided into 5 sub-groups
- Nuclear issues
- United Nations including the 1267 designation committee
- Bilateral issues
- Consular and visa matters, or people-to-people ties
- Though few issues between India and China are yet to receive a breakthrough, but when it was about dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as the U.N. and multilateral ties, both countries were ‘open to find solutions’.
- In Afghanistan, both India and China see potential for investment and share concerns over the rise of radicalism and terrorism, thereby opening many avenues for cooperation.
- This time, China initiated the special talks by inviting Indian officials who deal with Afghanistan and proposed a ‘joint development project’. This encourages that China is open to have an independent view on Afghanistan despite Pakistan’s reservations about India’s role in Afghanistan.
- It has been learnt that Chinese government have admired India’s developmental works in Afghanistan, including Salma dam in Herat.
- Apart from it, it has been reported by Ministry of External Affairs that there was broad agreement on trade and economic ties and the Chinese officials also praised India’s measures to welcome investment and facilitate visas for closer business ties.