Since independence, agriculture and allied activities have been the backbone of India’s economy. In recent years, the share of secondary and tertiary sectors has increased in the economy, yet agriculture still plays a prominent role. A large section of the Indian population still depends upon agriculture for sustenance. To satisfy the ever-increasing food demand of the growing population, India had to revolutionize its agriculture sector. The Green Revolution of 1966 laid the foundation for this revolutionizing process.
Before the Green Revolution, India introduced Grey Revolution and Round Revolution in the early 1960s, which focussed on fertilizers and potatoes, respectively. Thereafter, various modernization projects, such as White Revolution in milk production, the Blue Revolution in fish production, and so forth, were initiated. In the 1990s and 2000s, the modernization process was expanded to rejuvenate natural fibres – cotton and jute. To boost overall production in the agriculture sector, the government introduced the Protein Revolution and Evergreen Revolution.
Other agricultural branches such as pisciculture, horticulture, and apiculture also require equal and vital attention. Being one of the top 10 countries for honey production in the world, Indian honey has a high demand in the international market. In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Sweet Revolution or Mithi Kranthi to revitalize and enhance honey production through beekeeping.
Sweet Revolution or Mithi Kranthi
So far, the scheme has created more than 10,000 new employment opportunities and 25,000 additional days for honey extraction and fabrication of bee boxes. The KVIC provides the farmers with practical training on examining bee colonies; identify and manage bee enemies, diseases, and bee colonies throughout the year; provide equipment for apiculture, honey extraction, and wax purification. Jharkhand is the target state under the project due to its favourable climate and 30% forest area, which is suitable for honey production. By 2022, the project aims to bring Jharkhand to the list of developed states in the country.
The Sweet Revolution or Honey Mission is a project to increase the production of quality honey and other beehive products through scientific methods. The Mission, announced in 2016, also focuses on doubling the income of the farmers by 2024. It was formally launched by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) in 2017. Under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the initiative allotted ₹500 cores for beekeeping, wherein farmers growing crops such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, cereals, etc., that make good hosts for bees and help in pollination, can opt for beekeeping which can generate additional income apart from the main crops they produce. Along with increasing the income of farmers, crop production can be increased by 15%. As part of the National Beekeeping and Honey Mission, the National Bee Board, a body that works on research and development, production of honey bee colonies, etc., has created four modules for the training program under the Mission. Around 30 lakh farmers have undergone training in beekeeping. Besides farmers, the Mission targets creating employment for Adivasis, unemployed youth, and women while also increasing honey production in the country.
Impact and Challenges of Honey Production
Beekeeping is one of the world’s oldest occupations and is also expensive. Locally produced honey can be costlier, but it doesn’t spoil easily and has many health benefits such as soothing coughs, boosting memory, treating wounds, etc. The wax produced through beekeeping can be used for manufacturing cosmetics and candles. Other products produced by bees, such as pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom, can have great economic benefits. As the bees help in pollination, it makes plants healthy and benefits agriculture. New innovative technology and methods can help in boosting high-quality honey production.
Organic products attract more consumers and have little impact on the environment. It also generates direct and indirect employment through allied activities for people, especially in rural areas. Since beekeeping is a profitable practice, it can ensure a stable income for women, especially in rural areas. Adopting technology like Flow Hive, a technique developed in Australia to collect honey on tap directly from their beehives could ease the process of gathering honey from hives.
However, the sector faces many challenges which could be a threat to the bees and honey production. Current climate change conditions are affecting the temperature around the bees that determine their activity. Degradation of floral resources and the spread of diseases and parasites in bees can affect honey production. The application of insecticides to control insects and pests in large quantities can impact bees. While these insecticides are used for a short period to eliminate pesticides and other insects, in the long term, it affects hives, the long-term viability of bee colonies, and pollination. As more people are choosing organic products, the use of large-scale insecticides can affect the promotion of organic honey.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon that results in the disappearance of worker bees, is another risk factor in beekeeping. At times, dead bees are found in and around the hives. Poor nutrition, lack of genetic diversity, migratory bee-eaters which prey on the bees, and habitat loss can also affect bee colonies badly. The degradation of beehives could also result in the production of honey and the income of beekeepers. While adopting new technologies in beekeeping, many beekeepers find it difficult to afford new equipment because of their high prices. Lack of awareness on beekeeping and allied activities in other parts of the country is a challenge in implementing the Sweet Revolution.
India’s Honey Market
Beekeeping has been historically practiced in India. Since honey is the purest form of food, it is a key ingredient in many cuisines, especially in Asia-Pacific. With centuries-old beekeeping practices, Indian honey has an upper hand in the international market. High floral diversity and availability of different bee forges make the Indian honey market competitive along with its innovation and quality. As people are preferring more natural products over artificial sweeteners and there is a growing awareness about the benefits of honey, the demand for Indian honey in the world is rising. Its proven antibacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties are benefiting it to gain popularity. The food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics industries have also been using honey. Multiflora honey has the largest share in flavours of honey followed by eucalyptus, ajwain, sidr, and others. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, and Rajasthan are the largest producers of honey in the country.
Though India’s domestic per capita honey consumption is 50 grams per year, globally it ranges between 250 to 300 grams. While Germany tops global honey consumption with 2 kgs per year, in Asia, Japan has the highest consumption with 700 grams per year. With increasing global demand for Indian honey, the experts expect a 207% rise in the coming years. Germany, the US, UK, Japan, France, Spain, and Italy are the main markets of India (Marar, 2019). The number of beekeeping companies and honey societies has also increased in past years. As of January 2019, there are 9,091 registered people in apiary business in India.
The COVID-19 has increased the demand for Indian honey in Japan, South Korea, and Australia, which import mostly from China, which is India’s biggest competitor. The declining rate of indigenous bees and the increasing presence of western bees are reducing local honey production in Japan and South Korea. As per the exporters, a weaker Indian currency also makes Indian honey more attractive. 60% of the total honey produced in India is exported to the US, Canada, Africa, and West Asia. Though honey from China is cheaper than India’s, the superior quality makes Indian honey more demanding. According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority-APEDA, compared to 2018-2019, India’s honey export has increased to 61,333.88 tonnes, valued at ₹732.19 crores (Sally, 2020).
Companies are competing in the Indian market to bring high-quality honey at a cheap cost. Recently, leading brands were accused of adulterating which is a major problem for the domestic honey market. Though people are now choosing forest-produced or small-farmers-produced honey over branded ones, these products do not reach mainstream outlets in the country. Bringing the locally produced honey to major outlet chains can boost local consumption. Checking honey adulteration is also important in boosting local demand.
Best Practices: Tamil Nadu
The southern state of Tamil Nadu is producing honey mostly from indigenous bees. Since beekeeping does not need much space, people are investing in apiculture and practicing beekeeping in terraces in big cities such as Chennai, Coimbatore, and Madurai. Apiculturists are providing training for interested people. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) along with the government are conducting workshops for aspiring apiculturists where they get to improve their skills in handling the latest technologies in beekeeping.
Apart from pure honey, traditional medicines such as tulsi honey, garlic honey, and other products like honey mixed cashews and almonds, gooseberry honey has high demand in the market. Tamil Nadu has adopted Meliponiculture beekeeping. Kerala too practices the same method. Tribal people of Western Ghats successfully rear stingless bees. Tamil Nadu government provides grants for the supply of beehives to the Tribal on hill areas, Scheduled Castes /Scheduled Tribes under Western Ghats Development Programmes, Hill Area Development Programme, and Integrated Tribal Development Programme. 40% assistance is given for installing beehives and colonies. Under Rainfed Area Development, an Integrated farming system including honey bee rearing is provided at 50% subsidy.
Beekeeping in China
With long beekeeping traditions and a diverse bee population, China is the leading global honey producer. Japan, the UK, Belgium, and Spain are major honey importers from China. Since honey is an ingredient of traditional Chinese food, domestic consumption in China is high. Beekeeping in China is focused on generating a high yield. So, the beekeepers maintain a balance between the number of frames and the number of bees in a hive-the core Chinese beekeeping technique. Though there is a large production of honey, bee pollination is less in the country. Also, the industry is constantly reviewed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Being a tech giant, China is now adopting the latest technologies in beekeeping. In 2019, beekeepers in Zhejiang Province introduced artificial beehives which come with a sensor that can monitor and regulate temperature and humidity. These smart hives collect data on the number of times bees enter and leave the hives. The QR code in the hive can help to trace the source and ensure the safety of honey (Yan, 2019). Similarly, in September 2019, Alibaba, the internet giant of China introduced the Ali AI beekeeping system to improve honey production by automatic regulation of temperature and humidity of the hives. It also comes with a GPS that alerts the beekeepers to avoid theft, which is common in China. AI technology is trying to reduce labour power and make it easy to manage the hives (Jingli, 2019).
While India is looking forward to enhancing scientific techniques in beekeeping, it has not yet experimented with AI in full-scale in the field. Last year, Eco Park in Kolkata did a trial with an AI system in beehives that helps to identify diseases and monitor the functioning of hives to improve production (Bandyopadhyay, 2020). By bringing AI startup companies and bee research institutes, this technology can be gradually developed to major honey-producing areas of the states.
Being one of the largest honey producers in the world, the Sweet Revolution is indeed a push for India’s honey industry. As a cottage industry, this initiative can make it a more full-sized industry in the country. However, in India, there is still a lack of application of scientific beekeeping methods. Many apiculturists still follow traditional beekeeping methods. Increased risks due to climate change, insecticides, and other factors make it difficult for beekeepers to maintain the traditional methods. Research and development as part of the Sweet Revolution can bring a change to this. While promoting beekeeping in rural and urban areas, the initiative can focus on tribal areas of the states. Lack of transportation and proper management of produced honey is a challenge for extending the initiative to tribal areas. Establishing a systematic marketing network in these areas could help the producers to take their yields directly to the market.
Self Help Groups (SHG) play a vital role in bringing honey to the market. Leading honey-producing states such as Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and the rest actively include SHGs in marketing honey in the domestic markets. It also generates reasonable income for the SHGs. The Directorate of Beekeeping and Khadi and Village Industries Commission is promoting honey on a domestic level through a store chain. Though there are various international agreements on goods trade, there is no global agreement on the criteria of honey. As for India, it can push for introducing an international criterion for honey to ensure the quality which can further increase the production and export of high-quality honey and other products in the coming years. This can also benefit in expanding honey export through mutual international cooperation and promotion.
Debates on having a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) have been going on in India for a long period, dating back to the colonial era. In October 1840, the first Law Commission in British India submitted its “Lex Loci” report, emphasising the need and importance of having uniformity in the codification of Indian law relating to crimes, evidence, contracts, etc. It also recommended keeping the Hindu and Muslim laws outside of this codification. Furthermore, The Queen’s Proclamation of 1859 promised non-interference on matters of religion. During the drafting of the Constitution in the post-colonial era, leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru and B.R. Ambedkar pushed for UCC. However, the provision of the UCC was added to the Directive Principles of State of Policy-DPSP. Since then, various legislations, such as The Hindu Code Bill, The Hindu Succession Act, The Hindu Marriage Act, Minority and Guardianship Act, Special Marriage Act, etc., have been introduced. In the historic Shah Bano Case of 1985, the Supreme Court further pushed for UCC, which applies for all citizens irrespective of their religion. Changing governments have made attempts to implement UCC but in vain.
What is the Uniform Civil Code (UCC)?
Uniform Civil Code (UCC) simply is One Nation, One Legislation. Every citizen, regardless of their religious belief, shall be treated equally and uniformly according to the national civil code. Currently, all religions in India have their own laws on matters including marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance, adoption, and succession of the property. With the UCC, these civil matters will be under one set of secular laws. Recently, Delhi High Court backed UCC saying that it would ensure equal rights to the marginalised and vulnerable sections of the society. It would also ensure gender equality which ultimately reduces the gender gap and promotes national integration. Uniform Civil Code is mentioned in Article 44 of Part IV of one of the Directive Principles of States Policy-DPSP, which states “that State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a uniform civil code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.” These principles are non-justiciable, as mentioned in Article 37, but they are fundamental in governance.
While the nation debates on the need for UCC, Goa has adopted the Portuguese Civil Code in the form of common family law. The Code, which was introduced in the 19th century during Portuguese rule, has not been reinstated since its liberation. Though it allows equal division of property among children, abolishes polygamy among the Muslim community, allows equal ownership on properties by married couples, etc., it has been criticised for not being “completely uniform in nature.” For instance, while it allows bigamy for Hindu males under some specific circumstances mentioned in the Codes of Usages and Customs of Gentile Hindus of Goa, it completely abolishes polygamy for other religious communities.
Is The Uniform Civil Code Necessary in India?
Being a culturally diverse country, the question of the necessity of UCC in India has surfaced many times. Countries like France, the UK, the USA, Australia, etc., have common law for their citizens. But the challenge for India is its diversity. The Supreme Court and High Courts have called for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code several times by pointing out the principle of UCC that is enshrined in the Constitution of India. The framers of the Constitution felt the need for UCC to achieve equality and justice through it but did not want to push for it since the circumstances were unsuitable due to the traditional practices and customs that people closely followed (Mohanty,2021). The 2018 report of the Law Commission also suggested that UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage”.
Opinions on the need for UCC are mixed. The arguments favouring UCC state that it integrates India by bringing citizens together under a single civil code. It breaks the barriers of caste and religion and takes the country towards the path of progress. In time, it reduces vote bank politics which dominates the Indian elections. Supporters of UCC also argue that while minority communities have agreed on uniform criminal law, why not do the same for uniform civil code? They point out the scenarios of minorities in countries that have adopted similar practices. Furthermore, UCC ensures gender equality by removing religious life that restricts the basic rights of women and other gender minorities.
On the other hand, the challengers of Uniform Civil Codesay that since UCC is a direct principle, it cannot be enforced through a court. Also, it interferes with Article 25 that guarantees freedom of religion. But Article 25 states that “Nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law regulating or restricting any financial, economic, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice.” Minority religious communities feel UCC as an infringement of their religious freedom and pressing for reforms by the majority community.
Implementation of UCC is a mammoth challenge due to its nature and misconception. Misinformation on UCC makes the minority communities believe it as a way of imposing the views of the majority on them. Lack of political will is another major challenge. While some national parties support UCC, other regional and national parties and religious bodies oppose the move. To the question on the need for UCC, the answer is still uncertain.
Relevance of Article 44 of the Indian Constitution
The Directive Principles of State Policy are a set of guiding principles for the state to govern the country, and it is the duty of the state to enforce these principles while making the law. The relevance of the Uniform Civil Code has been questioned during various judgments considered by the Supreme Court. The most important instance is the Shah Bano case of 1985. The Court ruled in favour of Shah Bano under the “maintenance of wives, children and parents” of Section 125 of the All India Criminal Code. The section applies to all citizens irrespective of religion and was challenged by her husband. The Court said UCC is a “dead letter”. A similar verdict was repeated in Jorden Diengdeh v. S.S. Chopra for accommodating a uniform code of marriage and divorce. In the Sarla Mudgal v. Association of India, the Court demanded UCC and held that basic rights identifying with the religion of individuals from any network would not be influenced thereby.
Pluralism and Secularism in India
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution states that India shall be a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.” According to the Oxford dictionary, secularism is ‘the principle of separation of state matters and religion.’ Indian secularism is entirely different from western secularism. In India, both state and religion often interact with each other in prescribed legal and judicial parameters, while western secularism completely separates state and religion. Pluralism, on the other hand, is upholding the beliefs, values, and ideology of not only a religion but also of other groups.
In the largest democracy in the world, while in secularism, the state does not appease any religious or political group, pluralism embraces both political and social inclusiveness. The state promotes these ideologies for peaceful co-existence, acceptance, and accommodation of interests of every individual of the society. Leaders such as Nehru and Gandhiji embraced India’s cultural diversity as the nation’s strength. However, the definition of pluralism changed by subsequent governments. With the recent rise of Hindu nationalism, pluralism has become a part of the national identity. Political leadership plays an important role in promoting pluralism. Excluding minority communities and playing vote-bank politics can also lead to fragmentation of a diverse society.
Protection of minority rights, incorporated by the framers, upholds religious pluralism by upholding the diversity of the country. However, DPSP is sometimes criticised for being against secularism and being pluralist, since the approach towards it can vary from government to government. Post-colonial India has accepted religious pluralism to keep up with the principle of the Constitution. Though India is a secular state, it adopts the features of religious pluralism.
Differences in Laws and Practices Among Religious Communities
Being the lengthiest Constitution in the world, the Indian Constitution defines all aspects of the country, from its federal structure to religion. For different religions, family laws are different and distinct. This system was started in 1772, by Warren Hastings, by creating separate provisions for Hindu Law and Muslim Law. After independence, a uniform law was brought for custody and guardianship, adoption, succession, domestic violence, and child marriage.
Muslims in India follow the Sharia Law or Islamic Law as their personal law. The portion of the fiqh-the Islamic jurisprudence, applicable to Indian Muslims as personal law, is termed Mohammedan law. Though it is largely uncodified, Mohammedan Law has the same legal status as other codified statutes.
Christians have the Christian Law which is mostly based on specific statutes and is a separate branch of law. It covers all Christians in India and their personal matters, such as family. The Christian Law is based on English Law, and it has sub-branches for divorce, custody, adoption, etc. In recent years, there have been considerable changes in Christian Law on Succession and Divorce. The Indian Divorce (Amendment) Act of 2001 brought considerable changes in the grounds available for divorce.
Similar to the Christian Law, the law for Hindus also developed as a separate branch. In the first Parliament, an attempt was made to bring a common Hindu Code. Though it was not successful at the time, various changes in the Law were brought through modern-day legislation. Hindu Law also comprises religious communities such as Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Lingayat, Brahmos, Arya Samajist, and Santhals of Chota Nagpuri, if not varied by custom.
The Parsi community settled in India centuries ago, fearing persecution in Persia. Parsi Marriage, a form of contract, is governed by The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936. The Act talks about formalities for marriage as well as for divorce. Bigamy in the Parsi community is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. The Act also recognizes the right of the wife to maintenance – both alimony pendente lite and permanent alimony. Under the Indian Succession (Amendment) Act, 1991, both sons and daughters of Parsi have an equal share in their parent’s properties.
All religious laws are rooted in their history and centuries-old codes. The major issue caused by different personal laws among different religious communities is that it is largely discriminatory against women in terms of inheritance, marriage, and divorce. For instance, Sharia Law allows unilateral divorce and polygamy for men and deprives Muslim women of maintenance after the divorce. Before the Lata Mittal case of 1985, Hindu women did not have joint-heirship for their paternal property. This was according to Mitakshara, a school of Hindu law which deals with succession (Patel,2017).
In the Christian community, while women cannot obtain a divorce from their husbands on the grounds of adultery, husbands can do so on the same grounds. An amendment was made to Christian Divorce Act 1869 in 2016. Parsi daughters cannot ask for heirship if they are married to a non-Parsi, and a non-Parsi wife can only get half of her husband’s property. Women are also discriminated against in guardianship of children by these laws. These personal laws also lead to honour killing due to inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, disputes on properties, increasing adultery, polygamy, etc. (Patel, 2017).
Seventy-four years after independence, India is still looking forward to implementing the Uniform Civil Code. But, implementing and maintaining UCC is not an easy task. Fear, among minority communities, of undermining their rights and beliefs is a huge constraint in executing UCC. Awareness must be raised among the citizens about the Uniform Civil Code, its domains, and the impact it can have on their lives. UCC should be implemented keeping in mind the best interests of religions and should be able to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their caste, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It is a sensitive topic, and hence, religious groups should be consulted to make it inclusive. Bringing in legal experts can ensure that UCC maintains evenness. Implementing UCC could be a difficult process due to its sensitive nature, even though it is not impractical. With past judgments, it is understandable that there is a need for UCC in our country, and many people are open to this idea. It should be a tool to bring an end to the struggles faced by citizens over their personal matters due to differences in law. There is a need to change and modify legislation according to the changing time, and UCC can be the tool to bring about equal protection and equal treatment of citizens with dignity.
From time to time, the government of India has adopted numerous policies focusing on malnutrition and hunger among children. But most of these policies are ineffective. It was in 1975 when the government adopted a new holistic policy with a compact package of services, known as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), for the well-being of children (Dasgupta & Sachdev, 2001).
The program focuses on children below 6 years, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and adolescent girls both in rural areas and urban slums. The Anganwadi, meaning “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages, was launched under ICDS for the effective implementation of health, nutrition, and early learning initiatives (Anganwadi Functions, n.d.). Being the backbone of ICDS, many Anganwadis still lack basic infrastructure facilities such as electricity, proper buildings, play zones, and so forth. Furthermore, the pandemic has adversely affected the delivery of the services. In ensuring better amenities and service delivery in Anganwadis, the Kerala government is going the “smart” way.
Smart Anganwadi Project by the Government of Kerala
In February 2021, the Department of Women and Child Development of the government, sanctioned ₹9 crores for 48 “Smart Anganwadi Project”. Under this project, the conventional Anganwadis will be transformed into smart structures with better amenities to provide more child-friendly spaces for both the mental and physical development of children. The amenities include a study hall, kitchen, dining area, storeroom, creative zone, garden, swimming pool, and outdoor play zone, as per the availability of land.
The project will be carried out in a phased manner by replacing regular structures with a more modern one, along with the financial funding worth ₹5.74 crores from the local bodies (‘Smart Anganwadis’ to be a reality in Kerala; Rs 9 crore granted, 2021). The design for the Anganwadis would be selected subject to the geographical location and availability of land. The department proposed six new designs, named in alphabetical order from A to F, which ensure quality standards, better ventilation, and safety features.
The department is collaborating with Kerala State Nirmithi Kendra and the College of Architecture Thiruvananthapuram to build “smart Anganwadis”. According to the official statements, the government is trying to cut down the number of Anganwadis in the state to ensure better and quality child care (MOHAN, 2019). There are nearly 33,000 Anganwadis in Kerala, most of them in miserable condition (MOHAN, 2019). The new “smart Anganwadi” project would be creating more than just a four-walled building for children.
Analyzing the Impact of “Smart Anganwadi” Project
The deplorable plight of Anganwadis is not just the case of Kerala. Many Anganwadis across the country face deplorable plight. With the flexible role of state governments in ICDS, the governments are granting the latest technology and gadgets to Anganwadis to tackle the digital divide. Lack of electricity is indeed a challenge for this novel opportunity. Also, the government has started to roll out children to keep track of the number of beneficiaries. For families earning meager income, Anganwadis are the only source for their children to have healthy food for their growth. A study conducted by Harvard University in 2021 states that the existence of malnutrition among children aged 0-5 is acute at the state level, district level, and village level (Raghu, 2021).
The existing pediatric malnutrition has gotten worse during the pandemic. The Department of Women and Child Development of Kerala has been delivering mid-day meals as raw materials to the beneficiaries since March 2020 (COVID-19: Anganwadi centers in Kerala deliver mid-day meals to beneficiaries at their homes, 2020). Recently, Malappuram district ICDS in Kerala has introduced the smart diet scheme with nutritious and delicious food, three times a day (Bhaskar, 2020).
A striking feature of the Anganwadi system is that it also targets the welfare of mothers. With a high risk of infant mortality and maternal mortality, regular health check-ups, and immunization, the well-being of both mother and child is ensured. The adult education of ICDS also helps women in ensuring the health of her family and the household economy (Yatsu, 2012). Self-help groups and local communities among women are helping them with social and economic empowerment. While discussing other facilities included in the scheme, it is also important to remember the need for infrastructure with specific needs for children, such as to live, play and learn. The infrastructure should also be accessible for children of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds (Tiwari, Kaur, Seth, & Surbhi, 2019). Children are open to vulnerability and there is a high possibility for abuse and violence. Improved infrastructure along with a safe and secure environment is also vital for the growth of children.
Anganwadis Need More Than Just a Makeover
Being the backbone of ICDS, it is certain that Anganwadi centers (AWCs) need to be reformed. But the effective implementation of the scheme is not just focusing on one or two aspects of the AWCs. Currently, there are almost 13.77 lakhs AWCs in which more than half of the centers lack drinking water facilities while 36% of them do not have sanitation. Lack of adequate infrastructure and assured nutritious food is making the beneficiaries think again about this free service. While it is difficult for low-income families to choose private daycare centers and nurseries, financially sound families choose the paid options. In a study conducted in Coastal-Karnataka on the utilization of ICDS, it was found that the reason for increasing enrolment in private daycare centers is the little trust in ICDS.
The study highlighted the need for improving meals provided to the beneficiaries (Anand & Verma, 2020). The number of AWCs with suitable play zones, recreations, and other learning facilities is limited. An approach that combines both play-based learning and nutritious food can make learning more fun and interesting. ICDS is a combined effort of Anganwadi workers (AWWs), ASHAs, and ANMs. But efforts for improving the skills and service condition of the workers remain indistinct. The government is also providing smartphones and tablets with installed apps for AWWs, to track the distribution of take-home rations and supplementary nutrition services. This helps in bringing further improvement in the scheme. (Anand & Verma, 2020).
Both central and state governments are taking measures in improving the condition of AWCs. In 2015 NITI Aayog proposed plans for refining drinking water and sanitation facilities, ensuring a stable power supply and availability of basic medicines in the centers. The central scheme, POSHAN Abhiyaan has adopted steps for the capacity building of AWWs. The Saksham Anganwadi Scheme by the central government aims to upgrade 2.5 lakh AWCs which promptly need a boost. For the electronic gadgets provided to AWWS, the Telangana and Andhra governments geotagged Anganwadi centers to enhance service delivery. Similarly, the Anganwadi centers of Gujarat digitized the supply chain of take-home rations and real-time data is being used to minimize stock-outs (Anand & Verma, 2020).
Adopting the Kerala Model
Through the new “Smart Anganwadi” project, Kerala is again setting a model for states to bring improvements in the AWWs. Apart from infrastructure development, Kerala is ensuring comprehensive training for AWWs and mobilizing communities to boost the performance of the centers. The AWWs in Kerala are provided with a pension, free medical care, festival allowances along with a basic monthly salary of Rs.3,500. An Anganwadi helper can be promoted to Anganwadi worker and later to supervisor if they have ten years of experience with graduation. It also generates employment for rural women.
Performance and management of the centers are constantly assessed by supervisors. Best performing centers are awarded by district collectors and panchayat members. Training programs and on-site visits by the supervisors help to address the performance of the workers and ensure effective delivery of services. Other than supervisors, retired teachers are also included in conducting training programs. Teachers are equipped with designing activities and experimenting with new designs to help children with activity-based learning. Kerala introduced ‘teacher banks’ to keep track of vacancies in AWCs. To ensure community involvement, committees composed of parents, ASHA workers, and panchayat members are created (Dang & Sarangi, 2020). Since the pandemic, the ASHA workers and AWW are facing stress from overwork. They are overworked and underpaid. The workers were also part of the COVI-19 battle in Kerala. Though they are respected for their role in society, efforts for better pay are often ignored.
Best Practices: Delhi and Rajasthan
In 2017, the Department of Women and Child Development of the NCT government announced substantial reforms in the Anganwadi centers through a massive inspection drive. The government also proposed new reformative measures such as decentralization, use of technology, and capacity building for employees. The government created an Anganwadi hub and introduced incentivized upgrades by bringing Anganwadi workers, supervisors, and Anganwadi Support & Monitoring Committee (ASMC) to work together. Furthermore, the government approved for providing smartphones with CAS (ICDS- Common Application Software) application pre-loaded and internet data pack reimbursement to Anganwadi Workers worth Rs.500/- per month for using the application (NIPCCD, 2018).
The Rajasthan government’s Department of Women and Child Development developed Social and Behaviour Change (SBC) Communication to improve the nutritional outcome of the child and mother. State Nutrition Strategy – ‘Nourishing Rajasthan – Vision 2022’ was set up to ensure the convergence through government departments to address undernutrition. Schemes such as Khushi Anganwadi Programme, Praveshotsav-Anganwadi Chalo Abhiyaan, Nanda Ghar Yojana were introduced to boost the efficiency. Rajposhan Software was developed to successfully monitor and operate Anganwadi schemes (NIPCCD, 2018).
Today, ICDS has expanded its horizon through adapting to modern technology and development in the field of telecommunication to reach millions of children and women by providing nutritious food and education. But the question of the scheme’s achievement still stands. Some centers don’t even have their own building and are unable to provide clean drinking water and proper sanitation. The absence of these basic needs creates a reluctance in beneficiaries. Instead of a total upgrade, what the AWCs need is improvement in their basic needs. Along with new buildings and healthy food, clean drinking water and sanitation is also inevitable. The standard of the services should be upgraded.
Southern states like Kerala, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu are comparatively better than other states in terms of skill development and capacity building of AWWs. Along with these drives, regular evaluation of the work of AWWs can help in understanding to bring further improvement in ensuring service delivery. Moreover, adopting the best practices from other states can help to advance the existing schemes or in drafting new ones (Anand & Verma, 2020). Collaboration with architectural colleges can also be adopted by bringing young minds to this initiative. As a community initiative, participation of local communities should be ensured for the scheme to attain its goal. While learning from new practices, the need for ensuring basic facilities should also be noted.
Every citizen is unique, so is their identity. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), provides a unique identification card called ‘Aadhaar card’ with 12-digit Unique Identification Numbers (UIN) for the citizens of India by taking biometric and demographic details. The UIDAI is a statutory body established under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (“Aadhaar Act 2016”). The Act was enacted on 12 July 2016 by the Government of India. Before its statutory status, the UIDAI was part of the Planning Commission, now NITI Aayog. The first UID number was issued in November 2010. It is a digitally signed card encrypted with a QR code. Citizens can use this card for identity verification anywhere in the country. Today, this unique number card is linked with bank accounts, PAN cards, and ration cards of public distribution systems, government schemes, LPG subsidies, to receive food at a subsidized rate, and so forth. Eleven years later, the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to implement a single Aadhaar for the entire family for better welfare distribution (DUTTA, 2021).
Universal Family ID
A common family ID will be a breakthrough in India. According to government officials, the universal family ID will help in keeping track of beneficiaries of both the Central and State government schemes by making each family an “identifying unit” (DUTTA, 2021). The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY) will carry out studies to plan and develop the project together with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the National Informatics Centre Services Inc (NICSI). As per the MeiTY, this project will make government welfare schemes more effective by eliminating “inherent deficiencies and gaps” due to “non-standard beneficiary identification”. Under the universal family registry, each family will be provided with unique IDs. This will also help to identify “family-based beneficiaries” for all Central and State government welfare programs. A common national digital platform will also be developed. In April 2021, a meeting of various patrons to discuss the implementation strategy and the involvement of ministries for smooth accomplishment was held. A nodal officer will be appointed by various central ministers for the enactment and for coordinating data sharing. A statement given by a government official said that they are studying a similar project implemented in Haryana to understand the system of the project.
Impact and Challenges of the Project
Through the implementation of the Universal Family ID, the Government will be able to ensure delivery of services without the hassle of documents and even without physical presence. Though Aadhaar contains the details of individuals, the unique number is different for all family members. Even the ration card does not have sufficient family records and it is not updated regularly. In the Universal Family ID, every detail of the family members shall be regularly updated so that the government can keep track of beneficiaries. People will no longer have to wait in government offices for schemes and certificates they need to receive. Migrant workers shall also benefit from the labour welfare schemes, the government ration scheme, and the street vendor schemes implemented through this project. Medical facilities, including health insurance, can also be linked to this ID so that universal access to health care is ensured. By linking the ID with one’s bank account, employees can track their salary as well as future benefits such as pension schemes they are eligible for. Further, social welfare schemes such as unemployment and disability benefits could be tracked easily and regularly. It also allows the government to know about the employee’s contributions and eligibility to calculate future benefits. Besides, the ID can also be used for paying taxes and to check eligibility for various loans including student loans. As the family ID includes details of family members, it will be easy to access these details for obtaining a passport and driving license.
Governments are now adopting more advanced technologies to deliver their schemes and services. As a consequence, hacking has become a major threat to the government’s data storage. In 2019, the rate of cybercrimes reported by the National Crimes Bureau (NCB) was 63.5%, of which nearly 60% were cyber fraud. Lack of enough security can make it easy to access sensitive public information from the data center through an application programming interface (API) calls. The non-existence of strong cyber law is a serious concern in the effective implementation of the universal family ID project. Due to the absence of data protection, there is a high chance for potential abuse of the collected data. Establishing and maintaining error-free links between the person or the family and the associated number is quite challenging (The Use of the Social Security Number as the Basis for a National Citizen Identifier, 1997). The absence of privacy or leakage of data can lead to identity theft, which makes it compulsory for people to change their existing ID numbers.
The new universal family ID project can learn from the various aspects such as the right to privacy and data protection of the Aadhaar for better implementation.
Similar Practice: Parivar Pehchan Patra, Haryana
The government of India is looking into the Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP) scheme introduced by the Haryana government for its future universal family ID project. The PPP identity card with 8-unique digits was introduced to enable smooth delivery of the state government’s scheme to the citizens. The card ensures that no citizen is left behind in the welfare schemes and will automatically deliver the services using the code. Under this card, each family is considered a single unit. The PPP will contain personal as well as geographical details of the family. It is mandatory for families to have a PPP card to receive state government services and schemes and also for State government employees, failing which their salaries may be held back. A similar scheme is being planned to be adopted by Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.
As part of the PPP, the government takes the Aadhaar once and puts it into the Aadhaar vault. The government can verify the individuals of the beneficiary families through this vault. Without exposing the data, PPP can be linked to all family schemes. The minority PPP family ID card was later revised by the government to “voluntary.” But to benefit from any kind of government services, the PPP card is mandatory. With a PPP card, the government can maintain a complete database of all citizens residing in the state. The government is compiling the details of families from the 2011 census (Bhatia, 2020).
Recently, the PPP came under the watch of the Punjab and Haryana High Court after a petition was filed. According to the petition, there is a chance for abuse of family data by the ruling party for its political gain and the government’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory to enroll in PPP (Sura, 2021). The government announced that PPP is completely voluntary and not mandatory for the residents of Haryana state. But the mandatory requirement of PPP cards to avail the government schemes and other basic services places people in uncertainty. Technical issues in PPP enrollment are also another side of the story. Though the project was able to make an impact, especially during the pandemic, the issues of privacy, mandatory requirements, and technical aspects still prevail.
Some International Practices
Similar to the Aadhaar card, various countries including the US, the UK, South Korea, Singapore, etc. have a Social Security Number or Resident Registration Number.
The Social Security Number (SSN) in the US is a nine-digit number issued to the citizens, permanent and temporary (working) residents in the US. It is mandatory to have SSN to avail all social security benefits, government schemes, and other services like financial services. Since the number is used for various services, the fraudulent risk and identity theft are also high. In the past few years, a number of child identity theft cases have also been reported.
National Insurance Number or NI or NIN is the UK version of SSN used primarily for tax purposes. As NIN is used for financial purposes the risks of identity theft are low. However, there are reported cases of scam calls to obtain the financial or personal details of victims.
In South Korea, the government issues a Resident Registration Number (RRN), a 13-digit number for every resident, regardless of their nationality used for identification and tracking private transactions like employment and banking.
Every Singapore permanent resident and citizen is assigned a unique card known as National Registration Identity Card (NRIC). The NRIC is used for identification, voting, and availing of financial and public services.
The primary purpose of the identification numbers is to ensure the efficient delivery of public services. The threats relating to identity theft, cyber crimes, and privacy rights exist in every identification number issued by the government. Even in a technically advanced country and a major tech hub of the world like South Korea, the citizens had to face serious intrusion in 2011. The government later adopted strict punishment. One thing we can learn from such incidents is that in India, we need to adopt strict privacy laws and punishments for cybercrimes, including identity theft. The government needs to address privacy concerns and cybercrime issues associated with the identification scheme.
Data Protection and Right to Privacy: An Indian Scenario
Legislatures are often criticised for assigning the least priority to issues relating to the right to privacy and data protection. The first attempt towards data protection was made in the form of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which equally incorporated the technology sector along with other sectors. Three provisions of the Act, Section 43A, Section 72A, and Sections 72 refer to personal data protection and the punishments for misusing the data. Even though the right to privacy is not mentioned as a fundamental right in the Indian constitution, in the 2017 Justice K S Puttaswamy and Anr. Vs. The Union of India case, the Supreme Court defined it as a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19, and 21. Following the judgement, a committee headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna was appointed, which later submitted a report in 2018 to the Ministry of Electronics and Information along with a draft for the Data Protection Bill, 2018. The 2019 Data Protection Bill, which deals with privacy and data protection, is based on one of the recommendations of the committee. The Bill is still under the consideration of the Parliament. In December 2020, a member of the parliamentary committee representing the Government said that the current bill won’t be passed, stating the Bill “itself is something that is not working” (Waris, 2021). In the 2018-19 Economic Survey released by the Government, Section 4.12 justified the actions of data surveillance because of the increasing needs and for improving the economy (Rai, 2020). Considering the justifications and past legislations, little has been done by the government to ensure privacy and data protection to users.
The government has adopted various policies to ensure the smooth delivery of services to the citizens. With the advancement of technology, the challenge of protecting the privacy of people has become imperative. Owing to the large geographical area, the existing digital divide in the country is acute and this has become an important point of consideration for better implementation of the project. While the government is focusing on ensuring the effortless realization of schemes, it is also essential to acknowledge as well as work towards finding a solution to this issue. Partnership with private companies can contribute towards resolving arising technical challenges efficiently. Strong security on the database can also be verified through the partnership. Further, the government can carry out mass awareness campaigns about the project and its benefits. By highlighting the cross-sectional benefits of welfare schemes and programs, the government can use the Universal Family ID to register the property of families to the databases so that it can prevent fraudulent transactions and clarify the ownership of the land (Parivar Pehchan Patra and Privacy Concerns, 2021). Apart from easy accessibility to government welfare schemes under the project, effective implementation of these schemes should also be the grail of the government’s approach in executing the universal family ID project.
The term transgender encompasses people who have a gender identity or gender expression which differs from their sex assignment at birth (Mondal, Das, Ray, & Banerjee, 2020). The word “hijras” is widely used in the Indian sub-continent to represent intersex, eunuchs, and transgender people. The transgender community even holds a place in Hindu mythology and ancient pieces of literature – Vedas and Puranas. The status of transgender persons started to deteriorate during British rule. The British officials tagged them as “ungovernable”, cross-dressers, beggars, and unnatural prostitutes, and even considered them as a “threat to colonial political authority” (Biswas, 2019).
The increasing discrimination against the transgender community is forcing them to migrate from rural areas to urban areas (Tandon, 2015). Though the state governments and the central government have passed various legislations, the transgender community is still fighting for their basic rights to have a decent life. Their aspiration for better living and social conditions is hindered due to the lack of a good environment to address their issues without fear. Given the discrimination and other issues faced by transgender persons in Hyderabad, the Gachibowli Police Station launched a unique initiative to help them with their current status quo.
The Transgender Community Desk at Gachibowli Police Station
The existing discrimination and violence against the transgender community have surged since the outbreak of the pandemic. The Transgender Community Desk in Hyderabad’s Gachibowli Police Station was inaugurated earlier this March as India’s and the world’s first such initiative and is expected to be a source of immense support for the community in a difficult time like this. The desk was established by the Commissionerate of Cyberabad in a collaboration with Prajwala, an NGO working on the issues of sex trafficking and sex crimes, and Society for Cyberabad Security Council, a not-for-profit collaborative initiative between the IT industry and Cyberabad Police Commissionerate. The community desk will be managed by a police liaison officer and a member of the transgender community, who will be a community coordinator (Pandey, 2021).
The Transgender Community Desk provides different facilities for the community and supports transgender people with filing cases related to discrimination or violence and provides legal aid for them. It also provides services such as skill development, training, job placements, etc. The Desk also refers to welfare schemes in association with the Department of Child and Women’s Welfare and the District Legal Services Authority. Prajwala, furthermore, provides short-stay facilities for transgender persons in need. Being the first such initiative, the Transgender Community Desk is assuredly a breakthrough accomplishment.
Impact of the Desk
The goal of the Desk is to create a better surrounding for the transgender community through creating awareness and other activities. Transgender persons are often afraid to file complaints due to stigma and fear. The initiative is a huge step in breaking the barriers and bringing the community closer to the mainstream of society. Though today many transgender persons are getting educational opportunities, their work-life is still in a quandary. Through skill development and other necessary support for employment, they can become self-sufficient, take up entrepreneurial roles, and provide opportunities for others within their community. Self-help groups of transgender persons show that they are also capable of actively engaging in productive activities.
The notable involvement of MNCs in the Transgender Community Desk can deliver equal employment opportunities for the transgender community. But until the scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, in 2018, which criminalized same-sex relationships, many MNCs used it as an excuse not to hire transgender persons, provide sponsorships, or any other benefits. Section 377 was used as a discriminatory tool to harass and exclude transgender persons from the workforce (Sapam, 2018). Since 2018, there has been more participation of transgender persons in MNCs which makes the sector rethink its existing policies and introduce new trans-specific policies for arising needs and challenges of the transgender community. By giving them equal opportunities and representation, MNCs are not only giving them a stable profession but also challenging the stereotypes and marginalization of the community.
Though transgender persons receive basic support from the government, it is surprising to see the ignorance from the general public and the police against their community. Many have reported being falsely charged or suspected of prostitution by the police. For those who migrate to urban areas in search of employment, the absence of adequate housing facilities could eventually lead to quitting jobs. Incorporating government welfare schemes and assistance from the government authorities can ensure the basic right to safe and secure housing for every trans individual. However, the lack of mainstream participation of transgender persons could be a challenge to the initiative. Due to shame and humiliation, people tend to draw back from society. Along with the active participation of frontline activists, the involvement of other members within the community is essential in bringing other transgender persons to the dominant.
Demography of the Transgender: India and Hyderabad
In the 2011 Census, an option “Others” was given to people who identified as other than male or female, before which transgender was not identified as a gender identity. According to the Census, there is an estimated 4.88 lakh transgender in the country in which 55,000 children are identified as transgender by their parents (Sawant, 2017). Uttar Pradesh has the highest transgender population (1,37,465) in the country. As per the 2011 Census, the transgender population in Hyderabad is roughly around 800. It is said that people were not willing to identify themselves as transgender due to existing social taboos, family pressure, and so on (Sengupta, 2011).
The number has been changing since then. In the electoral roll published before the 2019 general election, the number of transgender voters in the city is 1,504. The number has decreased compared to the previous general election for the reason that more people prefer to identify themselves as either male or female rather than identifying as transgender (Telangana: Number of transgender voters down from 2014, 2019). It was in 1994 when transgender persons were legally granted the right to vote in India. The government has adopted initiatives to provide equal opportunity for transgender persons to vote and contest in elections. However, there are still situations where transgender persons are rejected in contesting elections because of their gender identity.
Present Status of Transgender Persons
In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgment recognizing transgender as the third gender in the NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) Vs. the Union of India verdict by upholding any individual’s right to identify their gender. The apex court interpreted fundamental rights mentioned in Articles 14, 15, 16, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Indian Constitution (NATIONAL LEGAL SERVICES AUTHORITY (NALSA) VS. UNION OF INDIA, n.d.). In the light of the NALSA judgment, the government introduced various bills in the later years to ensure and protect the rights of the transgender community.
In 2014, Rajya Sabha passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill to end discrimination against the transgender community. The bill includes provisions such as a National and State Commission for transgender persons, a court for transgender courts, and others. The Rights to Transgender Persons Bill of 2015 is a modified version of the 2014 bill. The bill suggested devising a comprehensive policy to ensure the overall progress of transgender persons. The 2015 bill was criticized for discarding the remedial measures suggested in the previous bill.
The 2016 Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill completely deviated from the provisions mentioned in the 2014 bill. As per section 4(2) of the bill, one has to face a medical examination of a District Screening Committee comprising of a Chief Medical Officer, a psychiatrist, a social worker, and a member of the transgender community. This completely disputes the right to self-identity of one’s sex and it creates a situation where an individual has to prove their identity. Anti-discrimination was also extended to education, health care, and social security (Abraham, 2017).
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 bill defines a transgender person as one whose gender does not match the gender assigned at birth. It prohibits discrimination against transgenders in education, housing, employment, etc. But for a person to recognize themselves as transgender, they would need an identity certificate issued by the District Magistrate. The bill was widely condemned highlighting the provision of identity certificates, absence of reservation in employment and education, and lack of focus on other gender identities like intersex, genderqueer, and transmen (Watch | The Transgender Persons Bill explained, 2019). Thousands of protesters took over the streets and social media platforms showing their disapproval of the bill. While the defenders of the bill said that the Ministry of Law and Justice consulted with various associations on transgender rights and the members of the transgender community, many transgender persons said that they were not consulted on the bill.
Best Practices: Kerala
Intending to make the state more gender-inclusive, the government of Kerala has adopted various schemes in the past to safeguard the rights of transgender persons in the state. The 2011 census data shows that the total transgender population in Kerala is 3,902. Kerala is the first state to establish a school for transgender in India and to introduce Transgender Policy soon after the 2014 NALSA verdict.
The Kochi Metro Rail project, which was flagged off in 2017 appointed transgender persons as its staff as part of the gender-inclusive policy. This is the first such move in India. To end discrimination in employment and education, the Social Justice Department of the government introduced skill development schemes and scholarships for transgender students.
Other schemes include; self-employment assistance, continuing education program, marriage assistance, financial assistance for sex reassignment surgery and further treatment, financial assistance for providing hostel facilities for transgender students, 24×7 helpline, transgender cell, and identity card for transgender persons. The 2016-2017 state budget announced an old-age pension scheme for transgender persons above 60 years old (Kurian & Manoj, 2021). Recently the government launched housing schemes for transgender persons and also announced the inclusion of transgender as a gender option in every government application form.
Seven years since the historic NALSA judgment the government of India and the state governments have adopted various schemes to ensure gender equality. In a similar initiative to the Transgender Community Desk, in 2018, the government of Kerala introduced a 24×7 helpline, which acts as a crisis management center to provide emergency assistance in terms of legal assistance, providing information about their basic rights and counseling for the transgender community.
To strengthen the status of the transgender community, rather than regular policies, transparent and inclusive schemes such as ensuring more education and employment opportunities, legal protection, housing facilities, and accessible health care are substantial. This could increase the frontline participation of the transgender community, even in public decision-making. For creating a society that is more gender-inclusive, sensitizing the general public from grass root level and among public servants, including the police force on the transgender community is indispensable.
The initiative of the Gachibowli police station is an inclusive approach by including both state and non-state actors in breaking the stigma and taboo around the transgender community. Such comprehensive approaches could be pivotal in bridging the gap between the transgender community and society.