29 MAY 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II- SOCIAL
Q1. Recently, there have been news articles saying that many children that are forced to be in prisons with their incarcerated mothers. Discuss the challenges faced by such women prisioners.
- Crime data show that there is a high rate of simple thefts among women prisoners. In the case of non-violent women offenders, community service should be the main option for reform. A jail term should be the last resort. Once detained, a woman prisoner not only deserves compassion but should also be given standards of facilities more liberal than for men. We may have to go a step further if a prisoner has children living with her in prison. It is the fundamental duty of the state to do everything possible to see to their physical and emotional needs. In most parts of the world, including India, there are prisons exclusively for women. Tamil Nadu has some, with one recent estimate putting their current occupancy at 25%. Creches for children up to the age of 3 and nurseries for children up to 6 years are available. Older children are entrusted to relatives or voluntary organisations. There are no reliable reports on how well these are run.
- In the West, the U.S. has the most acute problem. According to a study (2010), several thousand children lived with their incarcerated mothers at one time, not a shocking number if one takes into account the magnitude of incarceration (2.3 million). The same study suggested that the U.S. has a third of all women prisoners in the world; about 60% of them have children under 18 years. When children are not with their mothers, contact can be difficult, because no extra consideration is shown to an incarcerated mother.
- The European Prison Rules have been modified to make treatment of prisoners in all member-nations more civilised. The World Health Organisation in particular has expressed concern over the reproductive health of women prisoners and the absence of maternal education during pregnancy.
- Aconscious effort should be made to reduce female incarceration is the general consensus. However, there is a general lack of will. It is sad that there is such a lack of empathy despite research that women offenders are themselves victims of crime before they turn to crime. Therefore, there is a clear case for the award of community service to those women who have been jailed for non-violent offences.
- Another challenge is on protecting the children of women prisoners. The one thing common is that most of them do not have physical and emotional support. Many are single parent children, usually with their mothers.
- These women need to be protected from sexual/non-sexual violence and their forceful initiation into substance abuse while in custody. An all-female warden system is difficult as a small complement of male security staff is needed despite its attendant consequences. In this, technology can play a role.
- In the ultimate analysis, prisons can be made safer for women only by a mindset which is convinced that female offenders deserve compassion. When this will happen is anybody’s guess.
GS III- SOCIAL-SCHEME
Q2. The Jan-Dhan Yojana ha failed to provide credit to the poor. Elucidate the statement.
- Financial inclusion is not just about opening bank accounts, but also about using these accounts and providing access to formal credit. In fact, the major limitation of the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) has been that while it has managed to get many people to open bank accounts, there is no commensurate increase in the use of these accounts, availability of formal credit, or savings in financial institutions, especially among the country’s marginalised and poorer sections.
- One of the ways in which access to credit can be assessed is the credit-deposit ratio, which tells us how much credit can be availed per ?100 of bank deposits by a particular population group. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) categorises the population into rural, semi-urban, urban, and metropolitan. The credit-deposit ratio for the rural population increased from 41% in 1999 to 66.9% in 2016. However, much of the rise took place before the JDY was launched from 43.6% in 2004 to 57.1% in 2009. Since 2014, it has more or less stagnated in rural areas and has deteriorated slightly from 58.2% in 2014 to 57.7% in 2016 for semi-urban populations. Therefore, there is no sign, at least on this count, of increased access to formal credit that the PMJDY is supposed to have ensured for its beneficiaries
- To get a more accurate picture of access to credit for poorer populations, we look at the data by credit size. The RBI provides figures for credit at a disaggregated level in terms of small versus large borrowers. Small borrowers are defined as those with outstanding loans under ?2 lakh. And the picture here is no better. The share of small borrowers in total credit has also been falling. In fact, it has been falling since 2002. While the decline in the share during the 2004-14 period can be explained by the dramatic rise in corporate credit of large borrowers, there is no reversal in this trend even after the rate of growth of credit fell in general in more recent times as a result of rising non-performing assets and the debt overhang of public sector banks. Even in 2016 it merely matches the lowest rates of growth witnessed during the crisis period of 2009-10. Based on these trends, it can be argued that there seems to be no increase in access to credit for the poor whether as a result of the JDY or otherwise. At best, the status quo has been maintained.
- To further probe access to credit for small borrowers, we look at these loans in two categories — agricultural credit and personal loans — which are more likely to be the ones which JDY beneficiaries will be using as against industrial or other loans. The data show that while the share of small agricultural credit has stagnated that of the small personal loans, which covers home, vehicle, durable goods and so on, has fallen.
- The available evidence presented so far does not suggest that the precarious conditions of indebtedness that poor people of this country find themselves in has seen any signs of abating as a result of the JDY.