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March 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         March 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Mar' 2018

Growing inequality

Crime against Constitution

Jagdish N Singh

The Constitution of India commands our State to be secular and s o c i a l i s t .
Secularism in our context means our Government would respect and accommodate the finer versions of all religions. Socialism means the Government would ensure an equitable distribution of national wealth. Both features of secularism and socialism in our Constitution expect our ruling elites to live as simple as a common citizen does .But do our ruling elites care ? A careful study of various authentic studies and media reports reveals the rich have disproportionately benefited from the kind of economic management the successive governments have practised.
Income inequality in India has been increasing in the country . The top one per cent of earners captured less than 21 per cent of total income in the late 1930s. Today the richest one per cent garners as much as 73 per cent of the total wealth generated in the land. Over 670000000 Indians amounting to the population's poorest half saw their wealth rise by just one per cent in 2017. ( OxfamSurvey-2018).
Our agriculture sector provides food security to 1.3 billion people. It accounts for 54 per cent of our workforce. It touches the lives of twothirds of the rural population. Yet this very crucial sector remains ignored. The Union Budget 2018-19 has proposed to give farmers a minimum support price (MSP) 1.5 times of the production cost.
This support price is hardly sufficient for a desirable level of living for the farmers. It does not seem to be based on the famous M.S. Swaminathan report (2006) that recommended the MSP to be based on the entire production cost (all paidout costs, including the rent paid for leased-in land and the imputed value of family labour) plus a 50 per cent margin. The Government had submitted a written reply in the Supreme Court against the Swaminathan formula.
Moreover, the MSP hike means little to farmers in general . Eighty-five per cent of our farmers are small farmers (owing less than 5 acres). They have little marketable surplus. The economic state of our Nation, that is, our People, does not trouble the conscience of our present political elites. They continue to derive enough financial and other benefits from our system to lead the kind of life-style they may wish. In the proposed new Union Budget, the Government has raised the salaries of our President and Vice-President to Rs 5000000 and Rs 4000000 a month respectively . Members of Parliament will now draw a basic salary of Rs 1,00,000 (up from ₹ 50,000), the constituency allowance of ₹ 70,000 (up from ₹ 45,000) and the secretarial allowance of ₹ 60,000 ( up from Rs 45,000).

Right to health care universal

Ours is a democratic republic. The Constitution of India assures the right to equality to all citizens. Regrettably, our ruling elites are yet to embrace it in practice. They have not cared to discard some of the old feudal-colonial rules that discriminate against the have-nots.
It is really shocking to find that they do not care to do so even where the right to life, the most fundamental of all human rights, is involved. Their approach could be discerned in the discriminatory treatment our Government hospitals provide to our citizens . We all know these hospitals have a lot of space ( called Private/ VIP wards) any time for our political elites and their allies. But they do not care to accommodate an ordinary person in these wards even when his or her life is threatened .
In a recent case, two noted Government hospitals in New Delhi reportedly refused treatment to an ordinary citizen even when he needed immediate medical attention. The story goes that the person in question suffered head injuries in Shamli ( Uttar Pradesh) and was taken to Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre on October 21, 2017. The Trauma Centre refused to attend to him saying there was no bed available in the hospital.
When the patient's attendants insisted on immediate medical assistance in the case, the Centre called the security persons and bouncers to push them out . Thereafter, the patient was taken to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
None cared for the patient there too . Finally, the patient was taken to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital where he had to undergo a four-hour surgery to fix the fractures of the upper jaw and nose. What a shame! One fails to understand why our Government hospitals should not give such patients treatment in their special wards.
Any differential treatment to citizens in matters of life and death is antithetical to our right to equality. It is absolutely inhuman too.
It is good to know that the Delhi High Court has sought a response from the government on a plea challenging the distinction between private VIP and general wards in government hospitals and the denial of medical treatment to common people in the VIP wards even in case of emergencies.
The Government must listen to its democratic conscience and stop the practice of discriminatory medical treatment. Also, the Government must provide due health care to all. The recently announced National Health Protection Scheme aimed to provide medical insurance cover of up to ₹ 5 lakh each to 10 crore families ( approximately 50 crore people or 40 per cent of the population) is unlikely to cut much ice.
Experts say our Finance Minister Arun Jetley did not allocate any money for this. He has only promised to raise the resources when required. It is yet to be seen how the Centre and the States come to fund it ( health is a State subject).
Adequate medicare requires adequate facilities. We don't have enough clinics/hospitals, doctors and nurses, stocks of medicines and equipment.
There are just 1,800 hospitals in our rural areas. They are often without the requisite staff. Over 41 per cent of primary health centres in West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand do not have any doctors.There is no doctor in 63.6 per cent of primary health care centres in Bihar. About half the primary and community health centres in Rajasthan, Haryana and Bihar don't even have a staff nurse.

An evil social practice

A liberal democratic state is supposed to ensure that all the age-old evil social practices come to an end as early as possible. One, however, finds that even after seven decades of our Independence, the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) continues in parts of our land. According to a report, this practice is carried out by certain religious communities, such as the DawoodiBohra community in the country .
Well-meaning social activists rightly suggest our Government must pass a law to ban this heinous practice. No social practice can be allowed to adversely impact the life of another human being. Since there is no law against FGMC in India , people are coming from countries where this practice is illegal and getting this genital mutilation done herein .
The Government must stop this practice in India. FGM is done within the family. This makes any official records hard to emerge. Usually, women are afraid to file FIRs against this crime. Our government needs to start a large-scale survey on its own .
Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom have commissioned studies about FGM and included it in their school curriculum to make children aware of the harmfulness of the practice. Our Government may do the same.

Ensuring gender justice

In our Constitution women have a status of equality with men . It is heartening to note our Courts are being strict about its observance in practice. Recently, our Supreme Court has observed that a woman retains her identity, including her religious identity, even after she exercises her right to marry outside her community under the Special Marriage Act.
Heading a five-judge Constitution Bench early December, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra orally observed that the Special Marriage Act of 1954 " confers in her the right of choice. Her choice is sacred. .. only a woman can choose to curtail her own identity."
Chief Justice Misra said this on a petition filed by a Parsi, who was barred by her community from attending the last rites of her parents in the Tower of Silence for the sole reason that she married a Hindu under the Special Marriage Act. He said nobody could presume that a woman had changed her faith or religion just because she chose to change her name after marrying outside her community.
Chief Justice Misra said, "The Tower of Silence is not a mutt or a citadel of a cult. It is a place to offer prayers to the dead. Can such a right of a woman be guillotined? It is part of her constitutional identity."