#India- Why the Food Security Bill is neither populist nor unaffordable


 
Cultivatring Food Justice

Cultivatring Food Justice

 
The official poverty threshold is low. Many people above the threshold are also poor and look just like the people below the threshold. As a result, there is no reliable way in which subsidies can be targeted only to the people below the official threshold.
 
 
By Ashok Kotwal, HT
 
 
 
Criticism of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) has led to the government dropping the idea of issuing an Ordinance and, instead, saying it would try to get the Bill passed in a special session of Parliament.
 
But doubts persist over the very concept of the Bill. Is it not extravagant to subsidise food for such a large part of the population when the poor constitute only 30 per cent of the population? Can a poor country afford such spending? Isn’t the Food Bill just corruption by another name? Wouldn’t the Bill lead to a virtual takeover of the grain trade by the central government? As a rising tide lifts all boats, should we not invest in growth rather than spend on consumption? These are all valid questions and we will attempt to answer them.
 
In a nutshell, we think the Bill is neither populist nor unaffordable. Some of the anxiety over the cost, corruption and the government’s ever-increasing role in the grain market stems from the assumption that PDS will remain forever the main vehicle of delivering the food subsidy. But if the government develops the necessary infrastructure — e.g., UID-linked bank accounts — states will be encouraged to switch to cash transfers. The extra costs of government storage and distribution will then be saved and the problems caused by the distortion of the grain trade will be mitigated. Many worries that arise from the identification of the food Bill with the PDS will disappear.
 
The Right to Food campaign is right to stress the need for a food subsidy with near-universal coverage but is wrong in its visceral opposition to cash transfers. The result is a food Bill written wholly in terms of an expansion of the PDS. Suggestions for reforms such as cash transfers and the use of biometric ID have been shunted to an obscure chapter despite the fact that the Delhi government has already opted for delivering the food subsidy through cash transfers.
 
Anyone who has had a cursory look at the food Bill tends to assume it is just expanding the present PDS and, thus, worsening existing problems of leakage, corruption and high costs of storage and distribution. This makes people antagonistic toward the idea of the food Bill. The opposition of the Right to Food campaign to even experiment with cash transfers has harmed the poor by making people sympathetic to the critics of the food Bill.
 
Cash transfers are often opposed on the grounds of paternalism. “If we give cash to the poor, they might blow it on frivolous things. If we give them food, they will be better nourished.” This can work as an argument for midday meals but not as a justification for PDS, which is nothing but an income transfer: the effect of the subsidy is that households save the money that would have otherwise been used to buy food at market prices.
 
Why do we need such an income transfer? Because about 90 per cent of India’s labour force makes a living in the informal sector. For inclusive growth, we need to invest in education and skills and remove constraints to the absorption of labour by the formal sector. But we also need to improve productivity in the informal sector, which depends on human capital and access to credit. Financial aid that gives the poor some flexibility in managing their affairs helps improve the productivity of their time. What looks like consumption also works as investment.
 
But if “the poor” are only the bottom third or so, why offer food subsidy to the bottom two-thirds of India? We often talk about the poor as if it is a well-defined group, but that is hardly the case. The official poverty threshold is low. Many people above the threshold are also poor and look just like the people below the threshold. As a result, there is no reliable way in which subsidies can be targeted only to the people below the official threshold.
 
Finally, there is the issue of costs. Official projections are that it would cost close to 1.5 per cent of GDP. But even in the most pessimistic scenario, our GDP is expected to grow at 5 per cent per annum in the near future. If we think of the fact that the Bill will cost less than one-third of the growth in the national income next year, it does not seem that unaffordable, especially given its value to the millions who will receive it.
 
(The writer is professor of economics, University of British Columbia. Co-authored with Milind Murugkar, a food policy analyst based in Nasik, and Bharat Ramaswami, professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi)

 

Identity crisis on cards as crunch hits #Aadhaar #UID


Vaivasvat Venkat, TNN | Apr 12, 2013, 04.47 AM IST
LUDHIANA: Getting an Aadhar card made has become a problem for many residents in the city as most of them are not even aware of the centres where these Aadhar cards are being made. Absence of requisite staff and the enrolment kits used for making the cards is a major problem plaguing the project.”I have been hearing so much about the Aadhar card and how it is going to be a must in the coming times. However, the biggest problem for me is that I do not know where I should go to get this card made. It’s not only me facing this predicament as many of my friends too are encountering the same problem,” said TP Singh from GurdevNagar.
Advocate Yogesh Dewan, a resident of Model Town, also complained that he has not been able to get his card made as he does not know where it is made. “If at all the government is serious about making these cards, the work should be done in a proper manner. Area-wise centres should be opened at fixed places so that people know where to get the cards made without any hassle.”
When approached on the issue, District Food and Civil Supplies officer Lavkesh Sharma said, “Though we have many problems, work on the cards is being carried out. Wherever there are problems, we will definitely solve them.”

 

Plea against Aadhaar, Delhi HC asks govt to respond #UID


Apr 10, 2013

New Delhi: Delhi High Court today asked the city government to respond to a plea seeking quashing of its executive orders that made Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) or ‘Aadhaar’ compulsory for availing various public services here. Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued the notice to the Delhi government on a plea of Ashutosh Chandola that Aadhaar card, which was made optional by the Planning Commission, has now been made mandatory for availing benefits and public services in the national capital.

“Issue a writ in the nature of certiorari to quash executive orders…passed by the Delhi Government vide which Aadhaar has been mandatory for availing all public services from the Government of NCT of Delhi,” the petition said. It also said a direction be given to the government to accept other identity and address proofs such as voter I-Card, passport and other documents, prescribed by the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, for availing public services in Delhi.

The plea claimed that the Aadhar which is supposed to be optional has been made compulsory. AFP.

The plea claimed that the Aadhar which is supposed to be optional has been made compulsory. AFP.

“The entire (Aadhaar) project (of Planning Commission) is meant to be voluntary in nature and this is reflected in the Aadhaar enrolment form which clearly mentions that the Aadhaar enrolment is free and voluntary,” it said.

The project was launched to empower the poor, who lack ID proofs, in accessing various welfare and other services. The Government, however, issued executive orders and made Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining various certificates relating to “caste, domicile, income, death and birth.” Aadhaar has also been made necessary for registration of various documents relating to property, will and marriages, the petition said. It said the constitutional validity of UIDAI has been challenged in the Supreme Court and till the case is decided, “the burden of obtaining an Aadhaar should not be made mandatory on the public for availing public services.”

PTI

 

#India- Aadhaar For Birth, Marriage And Death #UID


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By S.G.Vombatkere
25 March, 2013
Extant law makes it mandatory for every citizen to formally register births, marriages and deaths in the family. A birth certificate is proof of age and a death certificate is proof that a person has died and, for example, his/her name is to be deleted from a Voter’s List. A marriage certificate shows that a man and a woman are legally married, their living together is socially acceptable and their progeny are legitimate. The civic body recording these events issues birth, marriage and death certificates, which are legal, primary civic documents concerning biological persons for identity, legal liability and inheritance, besides other legal, social and welfare purposes.
Government of Delhi (GoD) has very recently announced [http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/uid-number-aadhar-scheme-identification-crisis/1/259075.html "With 95 per cent registrations in order, Delhi to soon switch to UID numbers for utility services”] that “[f]rom paying bills to getting a driving licence, Delhiites will soon have to depend on a unique identification (UID) number to avail a host of utility services”. The Chandigarh UT administration had made the UID-Aadhaar number mandatory for registration of motor vehicles and for obtaining driving licences. The order was challenged in the Punjab & Haryana High Court, and was withdrawn. GoD now passing a similar order in ignorance of the Chandigarh case, will result in coercing citizens to enroll for the Aadhaar number or to engage in unnecessary litigation. Demanding an Aadhaar number for transactions (paying bills, driving licence, etc) where the citizen is paying for the service rendered with no loss to the state, is without logical or legal strength – it appears to be a crude ploy to force people into enrolling for UID-Aadhaar.
Administrations appear to be ignorant of the basis of civic documentation, because they are even making the UID-Aadhaar number mandatory for citizens to obtain basic civic documents like birth, marriage and death certificates, as GoD has done. How would a birth certificate be issued in respect of an infant whose parents do not have Aadhaar numbers? How would the death certificate be issued in respect of a person whose death is reported by his progeny if the deceased or his progeny do not have an Aadhaar number? There are other questions, but suffice it to say that birth, marriage and death are the most fundamental events for biological persons, and when responsibly reported to civic authorities as mandated by law, the civic authorities are duty bound to unconditionally register these events. Possession of certificates recording these events are the right of every citizen.
If issue of birth and death certificates are made subject to UID-Aadhaar, it is entirely possible that numbers of people may be demographically excluded because they were not able to obtain those certificates for want of the Aadhaar number. To carry the argument a bit further, if a man and a woman without Aadhaar numbers marry, they will not be able to get a marriage certificate, without which their children will be technically illegitimate. Also, their children will not be able to get birth certificates. Thus, the whole family will become non-persons. In fact, such a couple without a UID number would be well advised to use an IUD or other contraceptive device, and produce no children!
Civic authorities demanding a UID-Aadhaar number (which is not covered by any extant law) as a pre-condition for issue of a primary civic document which is mandated by law, puts bureaucratic ignorance and callousness on display. The political executive which is finally responsible cannot plead ignorance. The coercive mission of UIDAI is being pushed to ridiculous lengths by political-bureaucratic incompetence.
Major General S.G. Vombatkere retired as the Additional Director General, Discipline & Vigilance in Army HQ, New Delhi. The President of India awarded him the Visishta Seva Medal in 1993 for distinguished service rendered over 5 years in Ladakh. He holds a PhD degree in Structural Dynamics from IIT, Madras. He is Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of Iowa, USA, and is a member of NAPM and PUCL. He writes on strategic and development-related issues.

Water privatisation is not for India


NEW DELHI, March 20, 2013, The Hindu

Smriti Kak Ramachandran

Apex court specifies that air, water, sea and forests cannot be with private sector

A social republic like India cannot have water in private ownership and deny the citizens their right to quality water at affordable prices, said Justice Rajinder Sachar here on Tuesday, criticising the Delhi Government’s move to undertake three public-private partnership projects in the city.

Speaking at a conference on “Water Privatisation: Learning from India and International Experiences”, Justice Sachar said: “There is nothing above the Constitution. The Preamble says India is a secular, socialist, Republic…and handing over ownership of water to private companies is cheating the Constitution.”

He said the Government is obliged to adhere to the Supreme Court guidelines that have specified several times that air, water, sea and forests cannot be under private ownership. He disapproved of the Delhi Government’s move to rope in private companies for doing work that is the State’s responsibility.

Rebutting the Government claims that PPP will usher in changes in the water sector, Jammu Anand, an employee of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation Employees Union, cited the example of Nagpur where privatisation and the promise of 24×7 water supply has not shown any positive results.

“Before the privatisation exercise the Government claimed there was 50 per cent non-revenue water and 45 per cent leakages. They said the Government is in a financial crisis, not capable of arresting these faults and the municipality does not have the political will to do so. Today the leakages are still 30 per cent and no one knows why,” he said.

Mr. Anand said the Government shrewdly chose a place for the pilot project in Nagpur that did not have a major water problem.

Also speaking at the conference organised by the Citizens’ Front for Water Democracy, Focus on the Global South, PEACE, Delhi Journalists’ Association, WS&SDEU and Water Workers’ Alliance, Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People said the move to have a Water Resources Regulatory Authority that will among other things serve to decide the tariffs needs to be opposed as well. PPPs are being encouraged, he said, adding the only state in India which has a water regulatory authority is Maharashtra, where it has been a failure.

“Post-Independence the biggest water scam is in Maharashtra where Rs.75,000 crore has been shown spent on irrigation in the past 10 years but in reality not one hectare has been irrigated,” he said.

S. A. Naqvi of the Citizens’ Front for Water Democracy said despite evidence of privatisation not being a success globally, India is keen on moving ahead with privatisation in almost all sectors from energy to water. “Privatisation is a failed model, yet India is pushing forwards towards it. The Government, it seems, is distancing itself from its responsibility.”


  • “Nagpur model has not yielded encouraging results”
  • “Government is distancing itself from its responsibility”

 

#India – Amendments in slum policy of Delhi, will benefit lakhs of slumdwellers #goodnews


 

After a long & continued struggle, Delhi Government brought amendments in modified slum policy after getting pressurized from the slum dwellers of Delhi.

 

Delhi Government has accepted most of the demands of the Sangathan & amended policy has been notified on 25th ‘February’2013. The benefits of amended slum policy of Delhi will reach to the hundreds of slum clusters & lakhs of slum dwellers of Delhi.

 

Since last one decade thousands of poor families living in slum clusters of Delhi facing inhuman evictions by the Government agencies. The ongoing eviction was supported by the modified slum policy which was notified on 19.02.2010 by Delhi Government.

 

This modified policy had a number of conditions under its eligibility criteria for rehabilitation of slum dwellers. Most of the slum dwellers were unable to fulfill those conditions despite of living in slums since last twenty years. This could have resulted in mass evictions of slum dwellers, loss of shelter & livelihood, school drop outs of children, extreme poverty and malnutrition among women & children. As per previous policy/guidelines, around 80-85% slum dwellers were not eligible for rehabilitation. The settlement of slums has direct link with the livelihood of lakhs of construction & domestic workers, transport workers, vendors & contract workers living in slums.

 

Delhi Shramik Sangathan mobilized thousands of slum dwellers in hundreds of slums in Delhi against the threat of mass eviction due to such anti labor & anti poor policy. The slum dwellers across Delhi sent thousands of letters to CM office as well as office of the Urban Development Minister of Delhi Government and also marched to Parliament to lodge their protest demanding amendments in slum policy of Delhi on 27th Novenber’2012.

 

Delhi Shramik Sangathan also submitted memorandum to Union Minister of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, UPA Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, CM of Delhi, Smt. Sheila Dikshit and Minister of Urban Development, Government of Delhi, Sh Arvinder Singh Lovely demanding amendments in slum policy of Delhi.

 

These actions pressurized Delhi Government to change several conditions for eligibility for rehabilitation. The major amendments include:

 

  • The policy announced on 19.02.2010 had not only defined eligibility criteria for slum dwellers but it had also laid down eligibility conditions for slums; the slums which are situated near footpath, safety zone of railway, right of way, community areas were not eligible for rehabilitation; got removed from the policy.
  • The cut-off date for slum rehabilitation extended from 31st March’2007 to 4th June’2009.
  • As per the modified policy dated 19.02.2010; the slum dwellers had to present documents (Ration cards, Election identity card etc) of four periods that is of 1998, 2002,2007 and on the date of survey. The amendment has removed previous requirements of documents for eligibility condition; the name of the slum dwellers should be in electoral list on or before 04.06.2009 and in the year of survey.
  • The basis of income of slum dwellers as eligibility criteria for rehabilitation got removed from the policy.
  • With respect to ownership right; the flat to the eligible slum dweller will be allotted initially on lease hold basis for 15 years and converted to free hold thereafter.
  • Delhi government has shown intention in the court to withdraw their petition against the order of the honorable High Court of Delhi for rehabilitation of evicted families of New Sanjay Camp, Okhla through petition WP(C) 8904/2009.
  • This amendment will have impact on a number of cases pending in honorable High Court of Delhi for rehabilitation of slum dwellers.
  • The benefits of amended guidelines will also apply to those eight slums which were demolished as per previous modified policy dated 19.02.2010.
  • The procedures of Survey of slums have become more transparent than the earlier one. Now, the slum dwellers will be informed in advance about the survey and each family will be included in survey list whether it’s owner of the Jhuggi or tenant.

 

The amended policy is still silent on the issues of In-situ rehabilitation and actual cost of the flat under JNNURM.

 

In total, the amendments in the slum policy will bring relief to the lakhs of slum dwellers of Delhi who were under threat of inhuman eviction & fear of throwing away out of the city. The reality will be known after implementation of these policy guidelines.

RAMENDRA KUMAR

Secretary General

Delhi Shramik Sangathan

M-9868815915

 

 

Delhi govt cover for 29 facing criminal cases #wakeup #WTFnews


By, TNN | Mar 14, 2013,

Delhi govt cover for 29 facing criminal cases
Over 4,300 personnel drawn from Delhi Police (2,546), CRPF (686), Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (558), Meghalaya Police (171), ITBP (132), Nagaland Armed Police (98), Sikkim Police (86) and CISF (27) have been deployed to protect 436 individuals, none of them a constitutional functionary.
NEW DELHI: Every month, the Delhi government spends Rs 20 crore of taxpayers’ money to provide security to 436 persons, who do not hold any constitutional post and 29 of whom face criminal case, the Supreme Court was informed on Wednesday. The annual tab comes to Rs 240 crore.

As against this, the government spends just a little over Rs 3 crore a month to protect the President and Rashtrapati BhawanThe bill for providing security to holders of constitutional posts, including the President, Vice-President, PM, Lok Sabha Speaker and Chief Justice of India, comes to Rs 341 crore a year or over Rs 28 crore a month.

An affidavit filed by the Delhi government revealed that 44 personnel have been deployed to provide security to “children and other family members/relatives of public functionaries”.

Additional solicitor general Siddharth Luthra might find it a tad difficult, when he appears for the Delhi government, to explain to the court why “Delhi Police has provided security to 29 individuals (23 central protectees and 6 local protectees) who are facing criminal charges at state expenses”.

Over 4,300 personnel drawn from Delhi Police (2,546), Central Reserve Police Force (686), Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (558), Meghalaya Police (171), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (132), NagalandArmed Police (98), Sikkim Police (86) and Central Industrial Security Force (27) have been deployed to protect 436 individuals, none of them a constitutional functionary.

Though the Delhi government said it had not provided security to any private individuals in lieu of payments made by them, it added: “89 individuals, including those holding public office and who have demitted office, have been provided security at the cost of public exchequer.”

It also provided in sealed cover the security arrangements for the protection of home minister, former prime ministers, Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family members who have been provided Special Protection Group (SPG) cover as also former deputy Prime Minister L K Advani.

 

Old #Aadhaar applicants may have to reapply #UID #WTFnews


 

 

 

By Ambika Pandit, TNN | Feb 12, 2013,

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200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NEW DELHI: Applied for an Aadhaar card before April 1, 2012, but haven’t got it yet? You may have to apply all over again. A lot of data related to applicants who enrolled for the Aadhaar unique identification number in the first phase has apparently been either lost or rendered unusable due to “encrypting errors”.
UID Authority of India on Monday told the Delhi government that applicants whose status on the e-aadhaar website reads “can’t be processed due to technical reasons” will need to re-enroll – unless they have given their biometrics for the National Population Registry card.
Delhi government data shows 1.36 crore citizens, out of a population of 1.67 crore, have enrolled for Aadhaar. Delhi has made Aadhaar card mandatory for more than 20 services, including property and marriage registrations.
Many enrolled in 2011 but no Aadhaar card yet
The government now says it has no readily available data on how many people had enrolled for the card before April 1, 2012.
UIDAI has clarified that applicants will have to re-enroll under three conditions. One, if their status on the e-aadhaar website says ‘rejected’. Two, if it shows ‘not found’ and, three, if enrolments were done prior to April 1, 2012 and the status shows ‘cannot be processed due to technical reasons’,” Dharampal, Delhi’s revenue secretary & divisional commissioner, told TOI. The revenue department is the coordinator for Aadhaar regis8trations in the city.
Dharampal had sought UIDAI’s clarification on the status of Aadhaar enrolments done six or more months ago. Sources said the Aadhaar website may also show an applicant’s status as ‘rejected’ if the person had made multiple registrations. The government is seeking a clarification on this.
As the state government prepares to put up helpdesks at the offices of the deputy commissioners in 11 districts now that the surge of crowds has overwhelmed the counters, TOI found many hassled Delhiites who had enrolled as early as 2011 but are yet to get their Aadhaar cards.
One such couple, Hemchand Jain and his wife Santosh, were seen doing the rounds of the east district deputy commissioner’s office. Jain, a resident of Kailash Nagar in East Delhi, said he had enrolled for the UID number way back in October 2011 but is yet to get the number.
Jain was frustrated and anxious because he would now have to apply for the card afresh. “I am 66 years old. They should have a system to give us information at the counters itself. Everyone does not have access to internet,” he said.
Similarly, Pooja Verma, a mother of two, had applied for the card in August 2011. While her husband has received his Aadhaar number, she still awaits it. She had come to an Aadhaar enrolment camp to inquire about her status but could get no information there.
Dilip Kumar Vaidya, a music teacher from Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi, said the entire Aadhaar enrolment process was marked by chaos. “I enrolled in 2011 and got my Aadhar card in early 2012. Suddenly, there was a buzz in our colony that all cards have been cancelled and everyone would have to enroll afresh. I enrolled a second time in June last year but am still awaiting my number. I don’t know if the old number stands,” he said.
Overwhelmed by the sheer number of the people landing up at Aadhar counters, the personnel there often have little information about the peoples’ queries.
The queues at Aadhaar counters have grown by the day, ever since the city government decided to make the UID number mandatory for 20 critical services from January 1 this year. These include property and marriage registrations and all certificates such as domicile, income and caste.
The revenue department has taken the lead in making Aadhaar necessary for availing 20 services rendered by it. Other departments will follow gradually. The state’s cash transfer schemes and cash for food scheme under Anshree Yojna have also been linked to Aadhaar ID.
Those enrolled under the ongoing National Population Register by the Union home ministry need not apply separately for Aadhaar.

 

 

 

#India- New guidelines for handling sexual assault cases in hospitals #Vaw #womenrights


GAURAV VIVEK BHATNAGAR

A new set of guidelines have been recently issued by the Department of Health and Family Welfare for “rapid response by hospitals in case of medico legal case (MLC) examination of sexual assault victims’’. These instructions have come in the wake of the December 16 gang-rape case in which the preparedness at a city hospital was found allegedly somewhat lacking while handling the victim.

As per these new guidelines, sent by the Department to all the directors and medical superintendents of Delhi Government hospitals on January 28, when the victims of sexual assault are brought to the hospitals by the police or otherwise for MLC and treatment then as per the provisions of Section 164 A (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code it should be done “promptly and without delay’’.

“As the victims of sexual assault are traumatised and their physical condition and state of mind are unstable, handling of their case required sensitivity, empathy and compassion,’’ the order noted adding that “therefore, the examining doctor must throughout remain re-assuring, empathetic and sensitive to the victim and should also provide due privacy.’’

Further, the order has noted that in consonance with the directions of the Delhi High Court on performing MLC, “in order to provide privacy to the victim, a separate room should be identified by the director/medical superintendent and marked in all hospitals where the victims can be examined by the attending doctor’’.

Stating that “the room number should be known to the doctors in emergency duty’’, the guidelines further state that “the room should have proper furniture required for medical examination’’ and “the basic equipments, adequate stock of sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kit etc., should be kept available in the room for collection of the forensic evidence.’’

The guidelines also lay down that “the hospital should also provide clothing to the victim in case the victim’s clothes are taken as evidence or action otherwise required fresh clothes to be given’’.

“The hospital should also provide toiletries to the victim after the MLC examination has been concluded,’’ the guidelines note.

For better preparedness to deal with such cases, it has been stated that the director or medical superintendent will arrange periodic training sessions to the doctors on the protocols and guidelines on the MLC examinations/reporting in case of sexual assault victims.’’

These officials are now also required to “organise sensitisation workshop for hospital staff, and medical and paramedical staff in collaboration with the Delhi Commission for Women.’’

Further, it has been stated that “in case where counselling of the victim is required, the same should be provided by the hospital’s own pool of doctors and if that is not available, then the Crisis Intervention Centre, which provides counsellor should be informed’’.

 

#India-The Official Emergency Continues – The Ordinance on Sexual Assault #Vaw


FEBRUARY 3, 2013

Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI,

The reform of rape law, which was not a priority for more than two decades, seems more like a 20-20 match now. The spectacle of judicial reform has all the elements of cinematic imagination built into it—violence, voyeurism, repression, tears, scandal, redemption and betrayal. We are all consumers and participants of this judicial spectacle. We veer between manic hope and dark despair as we are left conjecturing how this theatre of judicial reform will enact equality and dignity for survivors of sexual assault. The latest twist in the tale is the introduction of an ordinance, following the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report.

We are told that the government decided to formulate an ordinance to address sexual violence as an emergency. Strangely enough the text of the ordinance has been kept a secret, other than the press release ostensibly released by the government, hence we can only comment on the series of statements made to the media. It is claimed that the JVC report informed this ordinance, which collates the “uncontroversial” elements in the JVC and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill2012. The ordinance will become the law perhaps on Monday if the President signs it. Until the parliament meets, the ordinance will define sexual assault.

The government accepted the JVC’s demand that their recommendations should be incorporated immediately as an ordinance. In fact Justice Verma on Times Now said that the non-controversial aspects of their recommendations should be immediately passed as an ordinance. To quote Justice Verma, “but there are many things which we have said which have been talked of for sometime and there are no two opinions. Now where is the difficulty in promulgating an ordinance to implement them straight away because that is not something which need to await a debate in the Parliament”.

The self-construction of the JVC as a manifesto of the peoples’ movements against sexual violence, including the women’s movement and the positioning of the members of the JVC as “heroic” for having finished the report in 29 days should have signalled to us that an ordinance would be scripted as the outcome of this committee. So why are we surprised that there is an ordinance? And why critique the ordinance? Is it not reasonable that some of the elements of a progressive legislation should be enacted now such as the provisions on acid attack, stalking, voyeurism, and trafficking until a more comprehensive law can be crafted in the parliament? Why should an acid survivor not benefit from this new law—presuming that the state will spend enough money publicising the ordinance to every thana and hospital for three weeks? 

One could argue that the opposition is not to recognising that sexual violence is an emergency that women experience everyday rather the important question is what is recognised as an emergency, and when.

  1. In the ordinance, the retention of the marital rape exemption is not seen as an official declaration of permanent sexual emergency for married women.
  2. The rape of women by security agencies, a state of permanent sexual emergency, continues to need sanction for prosecution from the government.
  3. Those politicians charged with rape will continue to wield power to uphold states of sexual emergency for women.
  4. Those who are in positions of power and authority to stop mass sexual violence suspend law to allow unimaginable and targetted sexual and reproductive violence are not seen as criminally authoring and authorising states of sexual emergencies.
  5. The ordinance does not recognise the states of emergencies declared against young people who choose to marry against social norms of caste, community and religion.
  6. The ordinance does not recognise that each medical examination of a rape survivor is experienced as a re-rape; and that this is an emergency.
  7. The routinized violence on dalit women, such as stripping and parading especially of those who are punished for transgressing caste hierarchies is not seen as a state of emergency.

The ordinance ascribes blame to women for creating states of sexual emergencies when it proposes a gender-neutral sexual assault law implying that women, like men, sexually assault adult persons, including men in everyday contexts! It appears that the ordinance does not create an exception to make manifest that women do not rape men. Rather dishonestly the ordinance blames women for the sins of men—by positioning them as perpetrators of sexual assault of men in everyday contexts. This creates the possibility of further criminalising women’s lives. There is proof of such criminalisation under existing laws, which are gender specific viz, perpetrators.

According to the Delhi government statistics on the profile of female prisoners in the Tihar Jailthere is increase … in rape cases by 2.47%

During 2011, as per NCRB statistics 766 women were arrested under s. 376 (rape) IPC, 1698 women arrested on the grounds of molestation (s. 354 IPC) and 193 women on grounds of sexual harassment (under s. 509 IPC). In 2011, 43 women inmates died, amongst whom eight women committed suicide in jail. Does the government have any explanation for why the police arrested more than 700 women under s. 376 IPC?

When women’s groups oppose gender neutrality viz., including women as perpetrators, one predominant concern has been the manner in which the police misuse the law to criminalise women who transgress patriarchal norms. The JVC recognised this concern in amending theCriminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012.

However, the cabinet seems to have refused to take into account the growing statistics of arrests of women under s. 376 IPC. Nor do they seem to think that men will misuse this provision against women: because in legal discourse only women seem to misuse patriarchal laws against men!

It is evident that ordinance does not revise male laws from the point of view of survivors of sexual assault. Take the example of marital rape. For whom is marital rape controversial? Surely it is not controversial for women who experience sexual violence in marriage. But the men who draft laws smell the fear of those men who cannot be bothered whether their wives want to have sex with them. Surely husbands must be given legal impunity if they sexually assault their wives, argues Abhishek Manu Singhvi, since wives will levy false cases against their husbands, and courts will be flooded with wives accusing husbands of rape. In other words, women who are married are treated as if they are pathological liars, and by implication are positioned as a “criminal type” intent on breaking up marriages on false accusations ranging from rape, domestic violence and dowry related harassment.

This argument is obviously ideological rather than sociological. It cannot be argued by anyone that women are less invested in marriage than men, given that patriarchy ensures that status and respectability of a woman in society derives from the fact of marriage. Women nurture their families, far more than men, be it their affinal or natal families. They look after the young and the old. They are dependent on their families economically, socially and politically. Women are told constantly to “adjust” to violent husbands perhaps since such men cannot be courageous to risk true love by surrendering their violent power.

Women have too much to lose if they levy false accusations of sexual assault against their husbands. Even mothers who file charges against husbands who rape their daughter are hounded in our courts, police stations and families for being bad wives, breaking up the family and threatening social order.

Further, there is no social or governmental support for women who would like to reject marriage. Single women, who are divorced, never married, or do not want to be married to men, are targeted by everyone in manifold ways. The mildest form of discrimination single women face is pity, or derision at not having their own family. The assumption that single women are “available” for male sexual experimentation, the lack of safety and the heightened vulnerability without the “protection” of a man, are all elements of enforced heterosexuality.

The government is petrified that the very suggestion that wives are autonomous will unravel the phallocentric foundations of marriage—based as it is on violence or its threat. Wanting to cling on to the monopoly to rape their wives, these men who make our laws betray a strong attachment to colonial law. This is not surprising since women’s bodies in enforced heterosexuality are colonised by the desires of husbands who enjoy rape. If those who script laws had been accepting of different models of masculinities, and understanding of pluralities of sexual experiences crafted by the experience of the joy of autonomy, they would not have expressed such panicked fear. They would have also deleted s. 377 IPC by way of an ordinance but then heterosexist men despise queer sexuality the most.

The cabinet does not need to conduct a national survey to realise that rape is a preferred mode of violence in marriage. They know that most often heterosexist men do not bother to be solicitous of the desires of their wives or pleasure them. Such heterosexist men do not wish to acknowledge that there are alternate ways of scripting sexual relationships, which are alive with autonomy, laughter and sexual creativity—precisely because of mutual respect and admiration. If the men in positions of power had experienced such relationships, they would not feel threatened by legislating against the sexual colonisation of women’s bodies by their husbands. The law distorts what marriage should mean for both men and women–freedom from violence, expression of love, sexual companionship, and a journey in profound friendship. Love obviously threatens social, legal and political orders far more radically than violent ways of extinguishing a woman’s life.

The ordinance declares the continuance of those sexual emergencies in everyday and extraordinary context, which are central to patriarchal power. The spectacle of judicial reform is enacted to detract attention from such permanent states of emergency. Perhaps the Cabinet should clarify what it means by emergency in the first place, since it seems the ordinance, in its current form, embraces the idea of domesticating and even celebrating some forms of permanent sexual emergencies, over others. Nor does it take legislative labour to do away with the medicalization of consent via the two-finger test or insist on registration of FIRs irrespective of jurisdiction. This could have been done by executive or judicial decree. Unfortunately, the JVC is also complicit in the making of this spectacle of judicial reform by insisting on the model of 20/20 law reform, and demanding governmental recognition of its heroic labours, without truly understanding the deep structure of sovereign power, which has a necrophilic need for permanent states of sexual emergencies. No wonder the JVC is upset and we can only hope that their suffering makes a radical difference.

Pratiksha Baxi teaches at the Centre for the study of law and governance at JNU and can be contacted at Pratiksha Baxi pratiksha.baxi@gmail.com