Daily Current Affairs – 7th January, 2017Devendra Vishwakarma
Transgender and Related Issues
Indian policy makers have been progressing fast on the issue of transgenders. Recently, the cabinet also approved the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016. Government is also evolving mechanisms for their social, economic and educational empowerment. Efforts need to be put to mitigate the stigma, discrimination and abuse against this marginalized section and bring them into the mainstream of society. It will lead to greater inclusiveness and will make the transgender persons productive members of the society.
Problems Faced by Transgender
Transgender community is among one of the most marginalized communities in the country because they don’t fit into the stereotypical categories of men or women. Consequently they face a lot of problems such as:
- Social exclusion and discrimination.
- Lack of adequate education and employment facilities.
- Dropping out of school for multiple reasons such as repeated violence.
- They are also required to hide their identity due to the fear of harassment and the stigma attached.
- Inability to take up the work of their choice.
- Various legislations such as Section 377 (which criminalizes non penile-vaginal intercourse) and Section 36(A) of the Karnataka Police Act (which allows the police commissioner to maintain a register of transgenders) allow room for discrimination of transgender.
- Forced marriages, caste oppression, sexual and physical assault are a few more challenges faced by the third gender.
The NALSA Judgement
In 2014, the Supreme Court passed a judgement which was a result of the petition filed by the National Legal Services Authority. The judgement also known as the NALSA Judgement allowed the transgender to avail benefits provided by the state in equality to the other citizens. It also gave them an option of identifying themselves as the third gender .
The judgement also required the Centre and States to take steps to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes and extend reservation for admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.
Also, all important identity documents such as birth certificate, passport, ration card and driving licence would recognise the third gender. Gender identification was very essential for further provision of many rights such as the right to vote, own property and marry.
Transgender Welfare Board
As a result of the NALSA judgement, a few Indian states such as Manipur, Odisha, Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka and Kerala have formed Transgender Welfare Board for the purpose of extending existing welfare schemes to transgender communities.
However, the creation of such boards and welfare measures has had its own set of limitations and obstacles:
- Owing to the federal structure of India, welfare in India is a matter of responsibility for both the Centre and State. As a result, the there is no uniform agenda in place for the transgenders.
- The existing welfare schemes for transgender are not completely suitable for them.
- In the process of policy formulation, the dialogue with the community has been inadequate to understand their needs and requirements.
Tamil Nadu also formed a Transgender Welfare Board, before the NALSA judgement was passed, for the welfare of a small community of transgenders known as Aravanis. This board also had flaws similar to those mentioned above.
Challenge of Certification
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 also has a provision for a district screening committee to certify a person’s third-gender identity in the form of a transgender card. The need for certification by a committee, could be for administrative purposes such as deciding the benefits under welfare schemes, allowing for a change of name etc but it is still against the promise made by the NALSA judgement, which allowed self-identification to be the basis of such certification.
Limitations of the Bill
Apart from the social challenges that the transgenders face, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 has the following shortcomings:
- Absence of provisions to recognize the violence committed by the natal family.
- The inadequate budget assigned by the Centre for this matter.
- Absence of awareness programmes to sensitize the general population.
- Lack of a clear mechanism through which transgender communities can access existing welfare schemes.
The need of the hour is to make all the stakeholders responsive and accountable for upholding the social principles necessary to safeguard the interests of the marginalised sections of the society. Through the Transgender Bill, we can bring greater accountability on the part of the Central Government and Slate Governments/Union Territories Administrations for issues concerning Transgender persons. Other than policy measures, sensitisation and awareness have to be raised significantly. If various stakeholders can come together, we can definitely make this world a better place for the third gender.
Connecting the dots
- What are the problems faced by the Transgenders in India socially and in terms of policy implementation? What are the corresponding measures that are needed to be taken to address problems in both the areas?
Universal Basic Income: is it coming to India?
In news: the NDA government is seemingly considering the idea of ‘Universal Basic Income’ or a regular state payment to all citizens regardless of their employment status. This scheme is likely to be included in the Economic Survey. However, it is unlikely that the scheme will be implemented- just yet.
What is Universal Basic Income?
- The idea of UBI is that everybody should be given a basic minimum income as an entitlement and not as compensation for work.
- Even libertarians, generally wary of free riders and government handout programmes, agree that in the 21st century people cannot be left to die of hunger and malnutrition simply because they could not find a job.
- Even in most advanced countries, though social security systems are in place, but there are caveats which lead to exclusion of many. For example, as per a US think tank CATO, the present American welfare system is a disaster as despite federal and state governments spending around $1 billion annually, yet 16% of the population remains below the US poverty line.
The core idea
- The core idea of UBI is simple- Instead of having many different forms of welfare programmes targeted at the poor, and administered through government bureaucracy, there should be a simple unconditional regular cash transfer to every adult.
- Here, the individuals will retain any additional income earned over the basic income, subject to paying a fraction in taxes. So only those with zero income will receive the full basic income in net terms.
- For others, the net benefits will taper off and so even though the basic income is universal, the benefits of the non-poor are taken back through taxation and only the poor are net recipients of support.
Cash vs. Kind
- In a turnaround from anti-poverty policies pursued by all previous governments, the new approach seeks to topple the in-kind income transfers and bring in cash transfers.
- There have been two major in-kind poverty alleviation policies in operation — PDS (by FCI) and MGNREGA — which involve large scale government involvement. However, both are amongst the most corrupt schemes in the world.
- As Rajiv Gandhi had said in 1985 that no more than 15% of PDS food distribution reaches the poor, the same holds true even now with only 50% of food procured and stored by the government reaches anybody, rich or poor. Similar is the case with MGNREGA.
- However, DBT has now captured people’s imagination with implementation of technology and Aadhar card.
- Hence, a logical expansion of the DBT is the policy of Universal Basic Income (UBI) whereby there will be a guaranteed income to all (population, adult, worker or variant thereof).
- It provides a new method towards efficient redistribution of income.