Recently, the Union Cabinet cleared the women’s reservation Bill, which seeks to provide 33 per cent quota to women in Parliament and state legislatures.
Discussions about greater representation of women in politics began before Independence.
In the 1970s, the issue gained momentum in independent India.
In 1971, a committee called CSWI was formed to examine the status of women in India.
The committee’s report, “Towards Equality,” highlighted the failure of the Indian state in ensuring gender equality.
Following this report, some states began announcing reservations for women in local bodies.
In 1987, a committee chaired by Margaret Alva recommended reservations for women in elected bodies.
These recommendations led to the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, mandating one-third reservation for women in Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies.
Timeline of the Women Reservation Bill
1996 – The WRB was 1st introduced in 1996, and was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, however, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha and had to be reintroduced.
1998 – The Bill was reintroduced and yet again, it failed to get support and lapsed.
1999 – The Bill was reintroduced by the NDA government in the 13th Lok Sabha and was subsequently introduced twice in the year 2003.
2004 – The UPA government included it in its Common Minimum Programme and finally tabled it, this time in Rajya Sabha to prevent it from lapsing again, in 2008.
Few recommendations made by the 1996 Geeta Mukherjee Committee were included in this version of the Bill.
2010 – The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha and lapsed in the Lok Sabha, since then the demand for reservation for women in legislative bodies is not new.
Challenges in passing the bill
Heated debates and sexist taunts have hindered the passage of the WRB.
The demand for a quota within a quota, particularly for OBC women, has not been incorporated, leading to opposition.
Lack of political will and ability to pass the bill.
Critics argue that the WRB diverts attention from other electoral reform issues.
Status and Issues related to Women Reservation in India
Many states have low representation of women legislators in their assemblies.
Women’s representation in Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) across all state assemblies in India is even lower, with the national average at 9%.
Women hold just 14% of parliamentary seats even 75 years after Independence.
India ranks 143 out of 193 countries in women’s representation in parliament.
India’s ranking in women’s political representation has fallen, trailing behind countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Pakistan (20%), Bangladesh (21%), and Nepal (34%) have higher women’s representation.
Patriarchal backlash has hindered progress in women’s political representation.
Politics is often considered a male-dominated profession, discouraging women from entering it.
Female candidates have been made to contest elections as “namesakes” for their husbands.
Importance of the bill
Addresses systemic gender inequality and barriers that women face.
Emphasizes the need for representation of women across caste groups.
Gender quota is essential to increase women’s representation in positions of power.
Studies on panchayats show positive effects of reservation on women’s empowerment and resource allocation.
Countries led by women have demonstrated effective governance and gender equality policies.
Scandinavian countries prioritize gender equality and women’s representation in leadership.
Rwanda’s predominantly female leadership has contributed to healing after genocide and social reforms.
Norway implemented a quota system for corporate boards to have 40% women representation.
New Zealand is among a few nations with at least 50% female representation in their parliament by 2022.
According to Babasaheb Ambedkar, Women’s progress is a measure of a community’s progress.
India’s large female population presents significant potential if women’s participation is encouraged.
Women’s reservation can jump-start the democratic process and empower a significant portion of the population.
Focus on women’s welfare and empowerment Recent measures include reducing the price of domestic cooking gas cylinders and extending the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) to more poor households.Previous initiatives like Swachh Bharat, Jal Jeevan Mission, and women-centric schemes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana have been launched.
1.2 Pradhan Mantri Vishwakarma Yojana (PMVY)
Why is it in the news?
Recently, PM Modi launched the ₹13,000 crore PMVY scheme on Vishwakarma Jayanti to uplift artisans and craftspeople.
Aims to cover five lakh families in the first year and 30 lakh families over five years.
About the Yojana
Targets economically marginalized and socially backward communities, particularly the Other Backward Classes (OBC) groups.
18 traditional trades covered by the scheme, includes various sectors such as carpenters, boat makers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, tailors, and more.
Registration of Vishwakarma workers for free through Common Services Centers.
Recognition through PM Vishwakarma certificate and ID card.
Skill upgradation through basic and advanced training.
Offers collateral-free enterprise development loans of ₹1 lakh (first tranche to be repaid in 18 months) and ₹2 lakh (second tranche to be repaid in 30 months).
Concessional interest rate of 5%, with an interest subvention cap of 8% paid by the Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises.
Credit guarantee fees will be borne by the Central government.
Incentives for digital transactions and marketing support.
Stipend of Rs 500 for skill training and Rs 1,500 to purchase modern tools.
Toolkit incentive of ₹15,000.
A toolkit booklet and video elements in 12 Indian languages to aid knowledge of workers in new technologies.
1.3 Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS)
Why is it in the news?
The Indian Knowledge Systems, under Education Ministry, has developed 6 indoor games that are rooted in indigenous knowledge.
More about the news
These games have been divided into three segments: dice-based, strategic, and engagement.
The games promote interdisciplinary research and align with the Ministry of Education’s focus on fun-filled learning, as per the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
An additional 15 games are expected to be launched by the end of the year.
Sarp-Rajju (Snakes and Ropes)
Sarp-Rajju (Snakes and Ropes) is one of the games developed by IKS.
It resembles the traditional snakes and ladders game but incorporates indigenous elements.
The game features ropes instead of ladders and has 72 squares, each named after elements from Hindu philosophy.
Bhartiya Games Program
These indoor games will be introduced to school children in the next academic year under the Bhartiya Games program.
The Bhartiya Games program has already launched 75 outdoor games from different regions of India in the current school year.
Some popular outdoor games included are Langdi-Taang, javelin throw, Patang Uddayan (kite flying), Seeta Uddhar (prisoner’s base), and Mardani Khel (a form of martial arts).
Jadui Pitara (Magic Box)
Some indoor games have been included in the Jadui Pitara, a play-based learning program designed for children aged 3 to 8 years.
The Jadui Pitara program was launched by Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and aligns with the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), a key component of the NEP.
The program comprises playbooks, toys, posters, flashcards, and indoor games.
Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS)
IKS is an innovative cell established under the Ministry of Education (MoE) and operates within the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in New Delhi.
The primary objective of IKS is to promote interdisciplinary research on all aspects of Indian Knowledge Systems.
IKS aims to preserve and disseminate indigenous knowledge for further research and its practical applications in society.
It plays a crucial role in spreading India’s rich heritage and traditional knowledge across various domains, including Arts and Literature, Agriculture, Basic Sciences, Engineering & Technology, Architecture, Management, Economics, and more.
The goal of IKS is to bridge the gap between traditional wisdom and modern knowledge, fostering a deeper understanding of India’s cultural and intellectual heritage.
1.4 The Government’s push for regulatory mechanisms for OTT services
Why is it in the news?
Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper, seeking responses on the regulation of over-the-top (OTT) communication services and the possibility of selective banning of these services.
The consultation paper specifically focuses on OTT communication services like WhatsApp, Signal, Meta, Google Meet, Zoom, etc., rather than content-based OTTs like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Content regulation falls under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and not under TRAI.
The discussion on the selective banning of OTT services was prompted by a notice from a Parliamentary Standing Committee to the Department of Telecom (DoT) due to concerns about the unrest caused by these platforms, which have a broad reach and impact.
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Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) argue that OTTs should be regulated and charged because they use the infrastructure created by TSPs over the years, leading to a loss of revenue for telecom companies.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), representing telecom players like Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, contends that OTT service providers do not contribute to the exchequer or invest in network infrastructure like TSPs, creating an imbalance.
COAI proposes a policy framework for fair share contributions from large OTT providers to telecom network operators based on criteria like the number of subscribers or data usage.
The Internet Service Providers Association of India suggests that OTT services, if substitutable, should be subject to the same rules as services offered under telecom licenses, regardless of whether they are provided over the operator’s network or the internet.
The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) opposes cost-sharing mechanisms that may lead to double charging consumers for the same services and potentially raise the cost of internet usage.
IAMAI emphasizes the importance of net neutrality, which advocates network neutrality for all information transmitted over the internet.
The Internet Freedom Foundation expresses concerns about the proposal for selective banning of OTT services.
COAI argues that licensing OTT communication services would make it easier to implement location-based blocking of services when necessary, and source-level blocking should be considered by the government.
IAMAI and the Broadband India Forum (BIF) believe that existing regulations, such as the IT Act, 2000, and the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, are sufficient to govern OTT services, and selective bans are unnecessary.
COAI suggests that OTT providers should develop IT solutions to swiftly suspend their services during internet outages.
TRAI TRAI was established on February 20, 1997, through the enactment of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997.TRAI’s primary mission is to create and nurture conditions that foster the growth and development of the telecommunications sector in India.TRAI plays a crucial role in regulating various aspects of telecom services in the country.
OTT Services: An OTT media service is an online content provider that delivers streaming media content directly to users over the internet, bypassing traditional cable or satellite TV providers.OTT services primarily focus on video-on-demand content, offering movies, TV shows, documentaries, and original programming. However, OTT also encompasses other content types like audio streaming (music and podcasts), messaging services, and internet-based voice calling solutions.
Why is it in the news?
Santiniketan, a town in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, has been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The town’s name means ‘abode of peace,’ and it began taking shape in 1901 when Tagore laid the foundations for Visva Bharati University.
UNESCO announced the inclusion of Santiniketan on its World Heritage List, making it India’s 41st World Heritage Site.
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The Ministry of Culture proposed Santiniketan’s inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The dossier highlights its significance as a place of cultural exchange that has influenced architecture, technology, arts, town planning, and landscape design.
Efforts to have Santiniketan recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site have been ongoing since 2010.
The recent proposal for its nomination began in the fiscal year 2020-21.
Santiniketan stands out as a unique cultural destination where Rabindranath Tagore aimed to bring the world together through architecture, arts, and landscape design.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been involved in restoring various structures in Santiniketan over the past few years.
Originally known as Bhubadanga, the area was owned by the Tagore family.
In 1862, Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Debendranath Tagore, decided to build an ‘Ashram’ or hermitage in this picturesque location, which was later renamed Santiniketan.
In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore selected a vast tract of land to start a school based on the ‘Brahmachary Ashram’ model, inspired by the ancient Indian Gurukul system.
This school eventually evolved into Visva Bharati University, described by Tagore as a place “where the world makes a home in the nest.”
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Established in 1945 with the goal of fostering intellectual and moral solidarity among humanity to promote lasting peace.
UNESCO is headquartered in Paris, France.
Its primary mission includes the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage worldwide, recognized for their outstanding value to humanity.
UNESCO administers the World Heritage Programme, which maintains the list of World Heritage Sites.
The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted in 1972, is the international treaty that guides UNESCO’s efforts in this regard.
The UNESCO also included the Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas in Karnataka in the list.
This takes the total number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in India to 42.
1.6 AI cameras to curb poaching in Madhya Pradesh
Why is it in the news?
Wildlife officials in the Kanha-Pench corridor in Madhya Pradesh are testing a new camera trap system that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor wildlife and detect potential poachers.
This system, known as the TrailGuard AI camera-alert system, is designed to be inconspicuous and can be placed discreetly in the foliage of trees.
It is slim, shaped like a pen, and wired to a communications unit about the size of a notepad.
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The TrailGuard AI camera system is equipped with embedded software that can be programmed to capture images of specific species, including humans or animals of interest, such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs.
Unlike traditional camera traps, which capture images of any motion-triggered activity, the TrailGuard system can send pictures within 30 seconds if it’s within the range of cellphone towers. If out of range, it can rely on a longer protocol, taking 3-10 minutes.
Researchers and developers tested 12 TrailGuard AI camera-alert systems in the Kanha-Pench corridor and seven systems in the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
Notifications of tiger presence were received via email or push notification within 30 to 42 seconds after detections, marking the first-ever transmission of wild tiger detections using embedded AI.
India’s tiger population has been increasing, but this has led to more man-animal conflicts, including attacks on livestock and humans, as well as poaching.
The TrailGuard system has proven effective in tracking tigers and capturing images of poachers, leading to arrests.
The product was developed by RESOLVE, an international non-profit, and utilizes Intel’s Myriad chip for AI processing.
The embedded AI technology optimizes power consumption by transmitting only images of interest to forest officials, enhancing its longevity and accuracy in capturing wildlife images.
There are plans to incorporate the TrailGuard AI camera system in other tiger reserves to further protect wildlife and combat poaching.
1.7 PM-WANI’s potential to transform India’s digital public infrastructure
Why is it in the news?
According to experts, PM-WANI (Prime Minister WiFi Access Network Interface) will gain momentum similar to UPI and other Digital Public Infrastructures being developed in India.
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India’s Digital India Program aimed to address three main vision areas: connectivity, software and services on demand, and digital empowerment of citizens.
Connectivity has seen significant improvements, including mobile telephony, 4G coverage, reduced tariffs, and increased smartphone penetration.
Policies like Net Neutrality and the focus on Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), including Digital ID and UPI, have contributed to the growth of digital transactions. However, there is still a gap between demand and affordable data supply, especially in rural areas.
The concept of creating inter-operable public Wi-Fi hotspots, similar to PCOs, was proposed by TRAI in 2017.
It envisioned creating millions of Wi-Fi hotspots known as Public Data Offices (PDOs) to provide last-mile distribution of broadband in affordable packages.
PM-WANI, approved in December 2020, transformed this idea, allowing operations without the need for licenses or permits.
Start-ups and operators known as Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs) began implementing the concept.
PM-WANI creates an open and scalable framework involving PDOs, PDOAs, app providers, and a central registry.
It’s expected to become a unique Digital Public Infrastructure for connectivity, similar to how UPI transformed the financial space.
This framework presents a compelling business opportunity for aggregators, eliminating the need for additional licensing fees and enabling affordable internet access, especially in underserved areas.
PM-WANI supports the growth of local nano entrepreneurs, such as small shops and households, who become last-mile providers, earning extra income and promoting internet usage.
While existing infrastructure by major companies like RailTel and GAIL exists, it remains underutilized.
PM-WANI offers an opportunity for this framework to thrive and benefits ISPs and Telcos by expanding bandwidth sales through end customers.
PM-WANI (Prime Minister WiFi Access Network Interface) Scheme
Administered by the Department of Telecom (DoT), Ministry of Communications.
Initially recommended by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2017.
Aims to provide public Wi-Fi services through Public Data Offices (PDOs) across India.
Public Wi-Fi Networks set up by Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOAs).
No license, registration, or fees required for PDOs.
PM-WANI ecosystem involves various players, including PDOs, PDOAs, App Providers, and a Central Registry.
PDOs can provide internet themselves or lease from other Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Central registry managed by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT).
App developer to create a platform for users to discover WANI-compliant Wi-Fi hotspots.
Expands internet access, strengthens Digital India, reaches rural areas, and offers a low-cost alternative to 5G.
Challenges includes security risks, lack of supporting infrastructure, low network speed, Right of Way (RoW) issues.