29th November 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-WOMEN
Q1. There is an urgent need for better implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). Discuss.
- Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013, every pregnant woman is entitled to maternity benefits of ₹6,000, unless she is already receiving similar benefits as a government employee or under other laws. The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) was announced on December 31, 2016. Unfortunately, it violates the NFSA in several ways. First, the benefits have been reduced from ₹6,000 to ₹5,000 per child. Second, they are now restricted to the first living child. Third, they are further restricted to women above the age of 18 years.
- The scheme largely defeats the purpose it is supposed to serve: according to a recent analysis, it excludes more than half of all pregnancies because first-order births account for only 43% of all births in India. The application process is cumbersome and exclusionary: a separate form has to be filled, signed and submitted for each of the three instalments, along with a copy of the applicant’s mother-child protection card, her Aadhaar card, her husband’s Aadhaar card, and the details of a bank account linked to her Aadhaar number. The compulsory linking of the applicant’s bank account with Aadhaar often causes problems. Further, the PMMVY provides little assistance to women who lose their baby, because the successive payments are made only if the corresponding conditionalities are met.
- The worst form of hardship reported by pregnant women, among those related to lack of funds, was the inability to improve their nutritional intake or even to eat properly during pregnancy.
- Women who work for wages before pregnancy with an average wage of ₹126 per day of work cannot work during their pregnancy and earn zero wages. It is also common for the families of the respondents to sell assets or migrate to cover these costs. The PMMVY could help protect poor families from these financial contingencies.
- The provision for maternity entitlements in the NFSA is very important for women who are not employed in the formal sector. The PMMVY, however, undermines this provision due to the dilution of the entitled amount and the exclusion criteria. Even in this restricted form, the scheme is yet to reach eligible women as the implementation record has been dismal till date. The scheme seems to be achieving very little for now. There is an urgent need for better implementation as well as for compliance of the scheme with the NFSA. Maternity benefits should be raised to ₹6,000 per child at least, for all pregnancies and not just the first living child.
GS II: SOCIAL-WOMEN
Q2. Recently one American national was allegedly killed by the tribals in the Andaman Islands. India’s tribal policy of non-intervention should be followed to avoid such mishaps in future. Comment.
- The debates following the recent alleged killing of an American national, John Allen Chau, by the Sentinelese have put the spotlight on the vulnerability of an indigenous community that has lived for thousands of years with little contact with outsiders. The Sentinelese have been more fortunate than the Jarawas, though. The Andaman Trunk Road, among other projects, has cut into the heart of the Jarawa reserve, which has not only disturbed their ecological environment but has also changed their lifestyle and dietary habits and endangered them.
- There are four ancient Negrito tribal communities in the Andaman Islands (the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese) and two Mongoloid tribal communities in the Nicobar Islands (the Shompen and Nicobarese). Except the Nicobarese, the populations of the other tribes have reduced drastically over the decades.
INDIA’s TRIBAL POLICY
- Jawaharlal Nehru’s Tribal Panchsheel were the guiding principles after Independence to formulate policies for the indigenous communities of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Based on them, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation (ANPATR), 1956 was promulgated by the President. This Regulation protected the tribals from outside interference, specified the limits of reserved areas and said no land in a reserved area shall be allotted for agricultural purposes or sold or mortagaged to outsiders. Those violating the land rights of the tribals were to be imprisoned for one year, fined ₹1,000, or both. Despite this, there continued to be constant interactions between the tribals and settlers/ outsiders.
- A policy of non-intervention was also proposed by an expert committee on the directions of the Supreme Court. The committee submitted its report in July 2003. The trigger for this was a 1999 petition that sought to bring the Jarawas into the mainstream. The committee recommended protecting the Jarawas from harmful contact with outsiders, preserving their cultural and social identity, conserving their land and advocated sensitising settlers about the Jarawas.
- In 2005, nearly 50 years after it was promulgated, the ANPATR was amended. The term of imprisonment as well as the fine were increased. However, in the years in between, the Andaman Trunk Road had already ensured increased interaction with the tribals. In the case of the Jarawas, this had led to the spread of diseases, sexual exploitation, and begging. Similarly, a policy for protecting the Shompen tribes was released only in 2015. However, in spite of the 2005 amendment, videos of commercial exploitation of the Jarawas in the name of “human safaris” were widely reported in the media. Following this, the government amended the ANPATR yet again in 2012, creating a buffer zone contiguous to the Jarawa tribal reserve where commercial establishments were prohibited, and regulating tourist operators. Despite all these amendments and provisions, there continue to be numerous reports of civilian intrusion into the Jarawa tribal reserve.
- International policy has changed over the decades. While the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957, of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) insisted on an integrationist approach towards tribal communities, the 1989 convention insisted on a policy of non-intervention, “recognising the aspirations of these peoples to exercise control over their own institutions, ways of life and economic development.” India ratified the 1957 convention but has not ratified the 1989 convention. However, despite not signing it, India tried to tread the path of non-interference.
- In August, 2018 the government relaxed the restricted area permit (RAP) for 29 islands in the Andaman and Nicobar, including North Sentinel Island. If the government has decided to ease the restrictions in a phased manner, this could adversely affect the indigenous population in the long run. Such commercialisation of tribal spaces could lead to encroachment of land, as we see in other parts of the country. Considering the significance of the indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the government needs to reorient its priorities towards protecting them from outside influence. India needs to sign the 1989 convention of the ILO, and implement its various policies to protect the rights of the indigenous population. It should also make efforts to sensitise settlers and outsiders about them. Only concrete efforts can prevent such an incident from happening again.