Daily Current Affairs 27.02.2023( SC asks govt. what it has done to end manual scavenging, SC intrigued by the lack of ‘protection officers’ for domestic violence cases , eSanjeevani is a great boon, shows power of digital India: Modi, All constraints on the road to gender equality must end, Smoke signals from the renewable energy sphere )

Daily Current Affairs 27.02.2023( SC asks govt. what it has done to end manual scavenging, SC intrigued by the lack of ‘protection officers’ for domestic violence cases , eSanjeevani is a great boon, shows power of digital India: Modi, All constraints on the road to gender equality must end, Smoke signals from the renewable energy sphere )


1. SC asks govt. what it has done to end manual scavenging

The Supreme Court has directed the government to place on record within six weeks the steps taken by it to implement its nearly 10-year-old judgment to end manual scavenging and prevent future generations from the “inhuman practice” while making entry into sewers without safety gear a crime even in emergency situations.

A Bench led by Justice S. Ravindra Bhat recently took judicial notice of the fact that manual scavenging and deaths of people trapped in sewer lines continue though the practice was banned with the introduction of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

Push for rehabilitation

The top court itself had reinforced the prohibition and directed the rehabilitation of people employed as manual scavengers in its judgment in Safai Karamchari Andolan And Others vs Union of India.

Justice Bhat, hearing a petition filed by Dr. Balram Singh in person, sought details of steps taken by the Centre following the 2014 order, including rehabilitation of those falling within the definition of ‘manual scavengers’; abolition/demolition of dry latrines statewise; status of dry latrines and employment of safai karamcharis in cantonment boards and railways; the nature of equipment used by municipal bodies to mechanise sewage cleaning; and online tracking of sewage deaths and actions taken by authorities, including payment of compensation and rehabilitation of families.

The court impleaded the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes as respondents in the case. The court has appointed advocate K. Parameswar as its amicus curiae. The Social Justice Ministry has to file its report with the information in six weeks.

2. SC intrigued by the lack of ‘protection officers’ for domestic violence cases

The Supreme Court has sought more information from the government about ‘Mission Shakti’, an umbrella scheme for the safety, security, and empowerment of women, intrigued by a possible chronic shortage in ‘protection officers’ to deal with domestic violence cases.

A government document in the top court shows that 4.4 lakh cases of domestic assault are pending across a sample 801 districts.

Though most of these districts have ‘one-stop centres’, established under ‘Mission Shakti’ to receive victims, there is still a lack of clarity about how many of them actually employ protection officers to effectively help the traumatised survivors. Appointment of protection officers is mandated under Section 8 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Protection officers, who should ideally be women, have a pivotal role under the law. They help victims file complaints, give information to the police, provide immediate protection and support, inform victims about their legal rights and support them through the court proceedings.

Essential tasks

“Protection officers — like the Magistrates — who are tasked with the implementation of the enactment, have been conceived as the backbone to effectuate the law, enacted with laudable objectives, by Parliament,” the Supreme Court has said.

Taking on record the government’s figures, a Bench of Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta recently calculated that with 4.4 lakh cases pending in 801 districts, a protection officer in each of these districts would be saddled with more than 500 cases. There is an urgent necessity to have more protection officers or the anti-domestic violence law would be reduced to a dead letter, the court indicated.

The court has asked the Secretary of Women and Child Development Ministry to meet with the principal secretaries of all the States. Representatives from the Finance Ministry, National Commission for Women, National Human Rights Commission, Social Justice Ministry and the National Legal Services Authority should attend. The first meeting should be held in three weeks.

The court has asked the government to place on record the current status of ‘Mission Shakti’, specific information regarding the number of one-stop centres, their staffing pattern and data on distress calls.

The Bench also directed the Centre to disclose details of any common portal or scheme, if any proposed, to be set up concerning domestic violence cases.

The court ordered the government to file its action taken report in six weeks.

Protection officers, who should ideally be women, have a pivotal role from the beginning to the end

3. eSanjeevani is a great boon, shows power of digital India: Modi

Till now, the number of tele-consultants using this app has crossed the figure of 10 crore… An amazing bond between patient and doctor — this is a big achievement

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the 98th episode of his radio address Mann Ki Baat, said experiments such as the eSanjeevani application had ensured medical services to people living in far-flung areas of the country. He said the Mann Ki Baat had been a wonderful platform as an expression of public participation.

“Every month, in millions of messages, the Mann Ki Baat of lots of people reaches me. You know the power of your mind… Similarly, how the might of the country increases with the strength of society… This we have seen and understood in different episodes of Mann Ki Baat and I have experienced it — have also accepted it,” Mr. Modi said.


Talking about the eSanjeevani app, he said the power of Digital India was visible in every corner. “Through this app, tele-consultation, that is, while sitting far away, through videoconferencing, you can consult a doctor about your illness. Till now, the number of tele-consultants using this app has crossed the figure of 10 crore. You can imagine!… 10 crore consultations through videoconference… An amazing bond between patient and doctor — this is a big achievement,” Mr. Modi said.

Congratulating doctors and patients for such an achievement, he said eSanjeevani was a living example of how the people of India had made technology a part of their lives.

“We have seen that in the time of COVID-19, eSanjeevani app has proved to be a great boon for the people,” the Prime Minister said.

Talking to a doctor and a patient who use the application in the programme, he said eSanjeevani was becoming a life-saving app for the common man of the country, for the middle class, for the people living in hilly areas. “This is the power of India’s digital revolution. And today we are seeing its effect in every field,” the Prime Minister added.

4. Editorial-1: Reducing pain

All constraints on the road to gender equality must end

Many barriers on the road to gender equality have been removed, but many roadblocks remain. Women have fought hard to get to the present when, thanks to higher education and work opportunities, they can dream of balancing work and home, though couple equity is still not a reality for many. The battle for rights related to reproductive health has been a hard-fought one but women have been successful at persuading governments to initiate policy changes to improve their health and well-being. In India, the Maternity Benefit Act that was enacted by Parliament in 1961 has been amended from time to time to give women better benefits; for instance, paid maternity leave has been extended from the earlier 12 weeks to 26 weeks. It is in this context that the Supreme Court of India’s directive to a petitioner to approach the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to frame a policy on menstrual pain leave has to be seen. Pointing out that there are different “dimensions” to it, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said the biological process must not become a “disincentive” for employers offering jobs to women. A petition had sought the Court’s direction to States to frame rules for granting menstrual pain leave for students and working women, but there are apprehensions that these could entrench existing stigma and also result in furthering discrimination.

In India, Kerala and Bihar have menstrual pain leave; the food delivery app Zomato has also introduced it. Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Zambia have this policy included in labour laws. Many feminists have, however, decried the move, saying it will reinforce negative gender stereotypes. Also in India, there are other problems in need of addressing such as lack of sanitation facilities in school and at the workplace, especially in the informal sector. Between 2010 and 2020 the percentage of working women dropped from 26% to 19%, according to World Bank data. To encourage more women to join the workforce, it is imperative they have access to higher education and more opportunities. Sometimes, girls have to drop out from school simply because there are no toilets. In a world that should strive to become a better place for all, it is the responsibility of the wider society and governments to ensure that no section is left behind. Many countries are trying out four-day work days for a quality life, while others are offering paternity leave so that parenting can be, rightly, equally shared, and also to ensure employers do not see recruiting women as a disadvantage. All constraints on the road to gender equality and equity must be done away with.

5. Editorial-2: Smoke signals from the renewable energy sphere

Technical innovation in India’s renewable energy policy is deepening a highly uneven energy landscape

The formal launch of the Indian Oil Corporation’s patented solar cook-stove at the India Energy Week 2023 (February 6-8, 2023 in Bengaluru as part of the G-20 calendar of events) by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi must be looked at closely from the point of view of India’s national energy story. While Mr. Modi claimed the stove would soon reach three crore households within the next few years, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri called it a “catalyst in accelerating adoption of low-carbon options” along with biofuels, electric vehicles, and green hydrogen.

These pronouncements have followed a 99% cut in the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy (from the 2022-23 revised estimates) to low-income households in the 2023 Budget even as international fuel prices remain high. The government has claimed that the stove — priced at an eye-watering ₹15,000 — will transform cooking practices, save thousands of crores in LPG cost and forex, cut carbon dioxide emissions, and yield marketable carbon credits.

While past governments have failed to convince women to transform their household energy use through technical innovation, today, we are at an unprecedented crossroads in India’s renewable energy history.

A quest derived from crises

The quest for renewable and decentralised technology in poor households has closely followed energy crises. Among the government’s earliest attempt to transform household energy consumption was the solar cooker of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), fabricated in the early 1950s, in a period of great uncertainty in food security and energy self-sufficiency. The Nehru government’s gambit on state-led hydroelectric power generation was a response to this crisis, but it failed to address the household energy consumption of the rural poor.

The solar cooker was met with international press coverage and newsreels in the cinema. But the ‘indigenous’ device, based on a 19th century innovation, was dead in the water. Apart from its prohibitive price, it cooked very slowly. As mathematician and historian D.D. Kosambi quipped, “Tried by ordinary mortals away from newsreel cameras, [the cooker] just refused to work.”

The debacle caused the NPL to steer clear of populist ‘applied science’ for the remainder of K.S. Krishnan’s directorship. Parallel efforts to improve the traditional stove proved similarly ineffective. For example, the Hyderabad Engineering Research Laboratories made a ‘smokeless chulha’ in 1953, the brainchild of its director S.P. Raju, who wished to bring “smokeless kitchens for the millions”. These stoves incorporated traditional cooking practices and locally sourced materials, but surveys documented the chulha’s limited uptake among rural women as it was found wanting in its design and durability.

Thereafter, the oil crisis of 1973 and an emerging forest conservation movement trained government attention on stoves that used firewood and cow dung. The international focus on “appropriate technologies” also reinforced the belief that for the energy needs of the poor, small was beautiful.

The ‘improved’ stove

Accordingly, in the 1980s, the government turned to “improved chulhas” in its national energy policy. The programme sought to check deforestation by reducing fuelwood consumption and also benefit women’s health and finances. It was launched in 23 States and five Union Territories. An extensive federated system was set up, from nodal State agencies to “self-employed workers”, to fulfil targets set by the national administration.

The sole incentive to adopt the “improved chulhas” was a 50% subsidy. The Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (renamed as Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) claimed that the chulha had been adopted in over 32 million homes, out of a potential 120 million, by 2001.

But, by the next year, the programme had folded up. The reasons for failure included the stove’s construction, high maintenance costs, and alleged bureaucratic corruption. State governments had little autonomy apart from meeting pre-set targets while workers charged with installations were underpaid.

Worse, a stove that sought to free women from drudgery now demanded they clean the chimney, break wood pellets into smaller pieces, and bear with only a marginal reduction in smoke. A National Council of Applied Economic Research survey of 10,000 villages found that the average annual dropout rate for the new chulha was 17%. Seventy officials connected with the scheme were subsequently suspended.

Despite this outcome, the United Progressive Alliance regime repackaged the scheme in 2009 as the ‘National Biomass Cookstove Initiative’, which has continued to totter on as the ‘Unnat Chulha Abhiyan’ from 2014.

A 2004 report noted that cooking constituted 80% of a rural Indian household’s energy consumption. The International Energy Agency found that 668 million people in India depended on biomass for cooking and lighting in 2013, making India the largest consumer of fuelwood for household use. Today, despite the purported success of the government’s LPG scheme, unprecedented inflation in fuel prices and the gradual withdrawal of subsidies have forced women to resort to the chulha with all its hazards.

Interventions then and now

There are obvious parallels between the government’s boost to Indian Oil’s solar stove and this history: a public-sector innovation with supposedly revolutionary impact after a fuel crisis; a gulf between state-subsidised schemes and its practical implementation; and the absence of any long-term goal to improve rural incomes despite the correlation between per-capita income and type of energy consumption.

But the similarities end here. While older interventions in the renewable sphere were led by the state and motley non-governmental organisations, which provided shallow fixes to deep social problems, today, the real action is elsewhere. Public money is now funnelled into heavily subsidised large-scale private projects that produce green energy largely for commercial use. Today, technical innovation in renewable energy policy, despite its pretensions, serves to entrench a highly uneven energy landscape.

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