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17 Political News Items We Ought To Remember In 2018

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Media is not merely the 4th pillar of democracy, but also a watchdog towards the working of the State. However, the politicization of the media, sensationalization of news due to the TRP race, numerous elections leading to the media becoming involved continuously in elections mode lead to the neglect of some core issues which are important for public purposes, information dissemination, discussion and debate.

The article covers some important decisions made by the Supreme Court of India in 2017 that were not given the coverage they deserved.

1. The Supreme Court Declared Religion Was Not Important In Politics

In the first week of January, a seven-judge Supreme Court bench ruled that “religion, race, caste, community or language would not be allowed to play any role in the electoral process”. This order was violated on very next day when Former UP Chief Minister Mayawati declared contestants on basis of caste. Also, since Supreme Court has called Hinduism “a way of life” in 1995 judgement, the order was debatable.

2. Rolling Back The Ordinance Raj

Then, in January a seven-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in Krishna Kumar Singh vs. the State of Bihar, has held that the failure to place an ordinance before the legislature constitutes an abuse of power and a fraud on the Constitution. This was because Bihar government had re-promulgated a 1989 ordinance, for seven successive times, without even once tabling it in the State Assembly. The judgement should have been widely hailed to ensure democratic institutions function desirably.

3. Cash Donations To A Political Party

Thereafter, in February, the Budget presented several political reforms like the maximum amount of cash donation that a political party can receive, was reduced from ₹20,000 to ₹2,000 from one person. Further, an amendment was proposed to the Reserve Bank of India Act to enable the issuance of electoral bonds which could be purchased only by digital modes of payment. The final details of this bond are still awaited. Moreover, every political party was mandated to file its return within the time prescribed in accordance with the provision of the Income-tax Act to ensure tax-free status.

4. Naga Women Stand Up For Women Empowerment

Additionally, protests occurred in Nagaland where women were demanding 33% constitutional reservation for Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in Nagaland, as available in rest of the nation &abd mandated to be implemented by Gauhati High Court. The debate was centred around traditional rights of Nagas against women empowerment

Furthermore, a CBI report submitted to the Supreme Court said that there are more than 31 lakh NGOs existing in India, but only 8% – 10% of those file annual financial statement. Hence, the Supreme Court demanded a clear data bank about existing NGOs from the Centre. It is hard to debate that, amidst growing foreign links in NGOs, there is a need to provide an institutional and legal framework to NGOs.

5. CCTV’s To Be Installed In Courtrooms And Its Premises

Then, the Supreme Court ordered the installation of CCTV cameras in courtrooms and its premises, without audio recording, in at least in two districts of all states and union territories within three months. This is a major step considering the large-scale opacity in functions of Judiciary.

6. Ban On Publishing Predictions By Astrologers, Tarot Reads, etc.

Thereafter, the Election Commission (EC) said that predictions by astrologers, Tarot readers and Political analysts on election results cannot be published or broadcast by the media. This is a necessary reform to ensure free & fair elections in India.

7. New OBC Commission To Get Constitutional Status

Further, the Lok Sabha passed a constitutional amendment which renames NCBC as “National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes” in the Constitution. An accompanying bill, “The National Commission for Backward Classes Bill 2017”, was also passed to repeal the 1993 law. This is a major reform for the upliftment of OBCs, as NCeBC was granted Constitutional status (Article 338B).

Also, the law stipulates only one central list for OBC, same as that for SC and ST. There would be no parallel existence of central and state OBC lists. This would reduce the State governments power to grant OBC inclusion as per vote bank politics and the parliament will decide on the inclusion/exclusion under Article 342A. He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.

8. Money And Muscle Power In The Elections

Moreover, the election commission using Article 324 cancelled the by-election to the RK Nagar constituency in Chennai, which fell vacant after the death of CM Jayalalitha. It was cancelled as large-scale bribing of voters to the tune of ₹89 crores which made it impossible to conduct free and fair elections.

9. Paid News Got Caught

Likewise, the Election Commission (EC) disqualified Madhya Pradesh Minister Narottam Mishra, for three years, for filing wrong accounts of election expenditure. The membership has been revoked under section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The petition seeking Mishra’s disqualification was filed in 2009, alleging that the he had not included expenses incurred by him on ‘paid news’ while filing his expenditure statement before EC after the 2008 poll.

10. Karnataka Assembly Resolution To Arrest Journalists

Additionally, the Karnataka assembly Speaker ordered the imprisonment of two journalists for a year based on recommendations of its privilege committees. Earlier in 2003, the Tamil Nadu assembly Speaker directed the arrest of five journalists for publishing articles that were critical of the AIADMK government. This was a debatable decision as privileges vs freedom of speech & expression were at odds with each other.

11. Right to Internet: Under a Fundamental Right

Furthermore, the Supreme Court, in a judgement, has said that the right to access Internet comes under fundamental right of expression and cannot be curtailed at any cost. The judgement was passed during a hearing of a PIL filed by Sabu Mathew George against search engines (Yahoo, Google and Microsoft) for strict adherence to section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act of 1994.

The court said that the Right of Internet Access is permissible, until and unless it doesn’t “encroaches into the boundary of illegality”. This judgement could have large-scale ramifications and would help in making the Internet as part of Fundamental Rights in future.

12. Digitization In judiciary

Then, ‘Integrated Case Management Information System’ (ICMIS) was introduced in the apex court for digital filing. Its functions include the option of e-filing cases, checking listing dates, case status, online service of notice/summons, office reports and overall tracking of progress of a case filed with the apex court registry and is a big shot in the arm for Digital India initiative and solving three crore cases in the judiciary.

13. Power Struggle In Puducherry

Moreover, the debate begun between Puducherry Lieutenant Governor and Cheif Minister overpowers designated to the two authorities, similar to Delhi power struggle. The CM has insisted that the Lt. governor should work according to the advice of the council of ministers and she should inform prior to visiting any constituency. However, the Lt. Governor said that she was the “real administrator” and all files had to be sent for her approval as she had the powers over administrative matters. The issue needed a greater debate over conflicts between Article 239, 239A, 239AA, Union Territories Act, 1963, Rules of Business of the Government of Puducherry.

14. Minimum Government, Maximum Governance

Thereafter, the Union Government has merged the Ministry Of Urban Development (MoUD) and the Ministry Of Housing And Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), and now it will be called as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. This move goes along with the objective of “Minimum Government, Maximum Government” but more such moves are needed in this regard.

15. NRIs To Vote In The Elections

Additionally, the Union cabinet has approved a proposal to change the electoral laws to allow NRIs to vote in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections through a proxy. Overseas electors will have to appoint a nominee afresh for each election — one person can act as a proxy for only one overseas voter. This is unlike the armed forces who can nominate their relatives as a permanent proxy to vote on their behalf. This is another step which would facilitate greater involvement of Indian citizens living abroad and help in getting them connected to their national identity.

16. Article 35A: A New Debate Opens Up After Article 370

Further, a great debate which now needs to usher is on Article 35A of Indian Constitution, after a recent petition in Apex Court against the constitutionality of the article.

Article 35A was incorporated into the Constitution in 1954 by a Presidential order issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution. Article 35A of the constitution empowers the J&K legislature to define state’s “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other States or any other right under the Constitution.

For example, Article 35A protects certain provisions of the J&K Constitution which denies property rights to native women who marry from outside the State. The article is now debatable as it was not added to the Constitution, through amendment under Article 368, thus bypassing the parliamentary route of lawmaking. It is contended that it is discriminatory against non-residents as far as government jobs and real estate purchases are concerned. Thus, violating fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21. The article needs greater public debate and will be examined by Apex Court in future.

17. Real Estate: A Real Reform

Then, a big ticket reform by Centre namely Real Estate (Development and Regulation) Act, 2016 that was passed by the parliament in March 2016, which came into effect fully from May 2017. The move is expected to regulate largely hitherto unregulated real estate sector to usher in transparency and systemization. What remains to be seen is how long it takes to ensure all states adhere to it.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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