Traditional media is great. But very often, it goes the wrong way and doesn’t know where all to look, and what all to cover. These were some of the issues which hadn’t got due news coverage but were of great concern. Most of the issues are important as we need to watch out for them in 2018 and an active citizenry needs to examine them. They are important milestones in 2017, but we have to remember these as we go into the new year.
Haryana for the first time, in past two decades, has crossed 900 mark in sex ratio at birth. The feat is worth a praise owing to policy interventions, financial assistance, regulatory practices and can be a model for other states suffering from same problems.
Then, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced that service charges in hotels and restaurants are voluntary, and consumer dissatisfied with the service can have it waived off. The move was widely hailed, but needs greater public awareness as information dissemination to consumers is weak and needs greater attention.
Moreover, a group of eminent citizens namely Justice (retd.) A.P. Shah (Chairperson), Prashant Bhushan, former CIC Wajahat Habibullah, social activist Aruna Roy etc. have set up a Citizens Whistleblower Forum (CWF) to hear complaints of corruption from whistleblowers. Since the Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in 2011 by the Parliament, but the government has still not notified the Act. This initiative could hold immense promise.
Further, various incidents were witnessed involving assault on doctors where five doctors were attacked in Maharashtra. This issue raises several ethical concerns regarding our public healthcare system where blame game is seen. The patients blame doctors and doctors blame the broken health system depicting a greater malaise where doctor-patient mistrust is widening.
Also, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have decided to introduce a supernumerary quota for women from 2018, to improve the gender composition of their classrooms. The decision has been taken to introduce 20% additional seats, exclusively for women. It is a condition-based quota, eg. if there are 100 seats and only 10 have been taken by women, then the institute will add 20% seats over and above the actual strength, but only for women. The move is aimed at improving the poor enrolment of women in the IITs.
Thereafter, in a major initiative to thrust transgender rights, the first Transgender Sports meet was organised by the Kerala State Sports Council at Thiruvananthapuram. Such initiatives need greater publicity to ensure other states follow the suit.
Then, the murder of a women life convict in Byculla women’s prison over some missing ration depicted the problems of prison violence and the inhuman condition of prisoners in India. The issue needs larger debate as the very idea of reformative justice through prisons will result in failure if basics of life are not provided for.
Moreover, the Supreme Court ordered a number of safeguards to prohibit the misuse of the anti-dowry provisions, under section 498a of IPC in Rajesh Sharma case (2017). The Supreme Court noted that while charge-sheets were filed in 96% of the cases regarding dowry, only 14.4% resulted in convictions in past decade. This shows us a need for a larger public debate on the growing misuse of laws by women, the necessity of laws to be gender-neutral, and what the misuse shows of changing societal nature.
Further, the Union cabinet has approved setting up of a commission headed by Justice Rohini, under Article 340 to examine whether sub-quotas needs to be created within the central list of OBC reservation. It will also work out the mechanism, criteria, norms and parameters – in a scientific approach – for the sub-categorisation. It is often seen that dominant caste within OBCs eat away the pile of quota leaving the marginalized OBCs away from benefits of reservation. Since this phenomenon also leaves the reservation exercise meaningless as rightful claimants are not identified, the commission could serve a larger purpose.
Additionally, a recent Delhi High Court judgment has opened up a new discourse on the issue of sexual consent. Delhi high court acquitted director Mahmood Farooqui, accused of rape. One of the grounds for acquittal was that the negation of consent was not clear enough under the circumstances and that the complainant merely resisted “feebly”. The accused was given the benefit of doubt because he had no intention to rape her and it was unclear that she had refused consent. This has opened up a debate on consent being subject to other considerations. The issue needs wider debates amidst growing cases of misuse of laws by women against growing crimes against women.