Monday, August 15, 2016

Government doubled maternity leaves to 26 weeks

Rajyasabha passed amendments to Maternity Benefit Act [1961] to increase maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. Further, this benefit can be availed before 8 weeks from the date of expected delivery (earlier it was 6 weeks). Maternity Benefit Act covers establishments employing 10 or more workers.

Bill also introduces 12 weeks’ maternity leave to,
a. Woman who legally adopts a child below three months of age.
b. Commissioning mother (biological mother who uses her egg to create an embryo implanted in another woman). 

12 weeks will be calculated from the date child is handed over to adoptive/commissioning mother.

In addition to this, every establishment with 50 or more employees have to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance.  Woman will be allowed 4 visits a day (including her interval for rest).

With the passage of Maternity Benefit Bill 2016 in coming winter session in Loksabha, as many as 1.8 million women in formal sector will get its benefits. However, this law will not provide any relief for more than 10 crore women working in farms or as domestic help.

Government is also trying for a contributory maternity benefit scheme for unorganized sector employing more than 10 crore women. This will significant help them with the expenses due to child birth.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tripurasundari – All the way from North East

Sabroom - Chittagong distance
I was planning for a north-east trip on last May for 17 days. Due to some personal reasons I had to cancel that journey in last moment. One problem I faced while planning was - so many places to visit but limited transportation facilities. Even if I want, I wouldn’t be able to visit all North Eastern States due to lack of quick links between them. It is indeed hard to build railway tracks and 4/6/8 lane roads through those mountain ranges.

What make me smile now is the news that, rail track to Agartala became broad-gauge and new train Tripura Sundari express started running between Tripura and New Delhi. A regular train service between Agartala and Kolkata will start on next month.

Government also started working on a direct link between Agartala and Akhoura (Bangladesh), which will allow passengers and commodities to travel seamless across the border.

Tripura is located very close to Bay of Bengal in maps; but without any direct links, as it is separated by Bangladesh territory. Now a new rail track will be extended to Sabroom (the southernmost city in Tripura). The best part is, this town is just 60km from Chittagong Seaport. This will make the movement of goods from rest of India to North East very easy. For e.g. from Chennai, Visag, Paradip, Kolkata etc to Chittagong and then from there to other north-eastern states of India through rail and road.

Next time when I go there an itinerary through Tripura's rail network is definitely in the plan.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Good and Services (GST) Bill – This time it may pass

Hopes are high again regarding the passage of GST (Goods & Services Tax Bill) in Rajya Sabha (Council of States). After all, this is probably the biggest and most radical piece of legislation came out of Indian Parliament after revolutionary Right to Information Act (RTI) and Right to Education Act (RTE).

GST (122nd Constitution Amendment bill) basically put forward the concept of comprehensive tax code on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services in India. This will replace numerous taxes levied by central and state governments.

There were numerous oppositions from multiples states, especially manufacturing power houses of India – Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Gujrat, regarding various sections of the GST. Finally, the Union government on Tuesday agreed for the removal of 1% additional levy on supply of goods and full compensation to the states for all revenue loss they may encounter for next five years.

In addition to these changes; GST rate won’t be capped at 18% and dispute resolutions will be through a mechanism created by GST Council (not by dispute resolution panel as envisaged earlier).
As per many models and experts’ opinion; implementation of GST will not only simplify the tax structure but also help companies to operates more smoothly as far as taxation is concerned. Experts also hope that; this implementation may also add a couple of points to India’s GDP growth rate.

As two of the concerns raised by Congress is already addressed, they may in favour of the passage of GST bill in Rajya Sabha. Main problem in Rajya Sabha is, for passing this constitutional amendment government requires the support of 2/3 of Rajya Sabha members present and voting (i.e. 163 votes). Out of this, ruling NDA alliance only have 72 votes, and congress have 60.

The good side is, in addition to 72 votes GST is currently supported by 19 members of Samajwadi Party (SP), 6 members of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 10 members of Janata Dal (U), 5 members of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), 3 members of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), 12 MPs of Trinamool Congress and another 8 from Biju Janata Dal (BJD). This will take the total to 135 votes in favour. Now, if Congress also favours the bill; then it can be passed easily in Rajya Sabha in coming session.

In addition to the passage in Rajya Sabha, this bill has to be ratified by half of Indian state assemblies.

Hope that this time there will be consensus for the smooth passage of bill.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For those who lost their childhood to elder's senseless wars

It is not easy to give hope to those whom are otherwise betrayed of their joyful and innocent life. Millions of kids in Asian and African war zones are paying heavy price for their previous generations greed and crimes. A generation lost their play time and hope due to the senseless war for power, money and religion. It is here where Tim Jahnigen and Sting’s efforts to bring hopes to that very people by designing and popularizing a new type of football - which can withstand rough grounds of Rwanda, Congo, Sudan and many other war ravaged countries where playing is more than a luxury – is important.

“…Tim Jahnigen, when he saw a documentary about children in Darfur who found solace playing soccer with balls made out of garbage and string, he was inspired to do something about it. The children, he learned, used trash because the balls donated by relief agencies and sporting goods companies quickly ripped or deflated on the rocky dirt that doubled as soccer fields. Kicking a ball around provided such joy in otherwise stressful and trying conditions that the children would play with practically anything that approximated a ball.

he happened to be having breakfast with Sting, a friend from his days in the music business. Jahnigen told him how soccer helped the children in Darfur cope with their troubles and his efforts to find an indestructible ball…

One World Futbol Project has distributed more than 700,000 footballs in more than 165 countries, impacting the lives of an estimated 21 million children around the world since July 2010… Doctors Without Borders and a U.S. Army colonel in Afghanistan have taken balls with them on their travels.”

For reading the full story, please visit – Balls that make the difference


Friday, July 22, 2016

Raped Again - No lights at end of the tunnel

There are many things in which we Indians are not proud at. One such area is the attitude towards women at some regions in India; many consider them more or less as a tool for sexual satisfaction than an equal human being.

Rape is not unique to India; there are many places in this planet were rapes are routine and culprits walk free. But that doesn't make our record good. We are not supposed to compare our country with some stateless places where rule of the law is never heard of (or still rules by medieval rules).

What troubles me more is, even after so many incidents and too many laws every day it happens.

However, media reports those incidents depends on its news value to them (after all they are not doing any public service). Hence, instead of presenting the simple fact that a girl was raped; they highlight the social status of that girl and family. Those who don’t fit into these brackets hardly matters. Hence it is not an innocent girl who was raped but a Dalit girl. What you think? A girl was raped because she is a girl or because she is a Dalit girl?

Another thing which troubles me is the way laws are implemented. First of all, court affairs are very costly and not affordable even to middle class. Another problem is lengthy proceedings; by the time you get final copy of verdict (after all appeals) your you might have spent all most all money and life. If the accused are rich enough to hire good lawyers, then it may even turn out to be a futile exercise. Assume that you are ready for all this. Will that decision offer any protection to you? A girl from Rohtak (close to National capital and seat of Union government - Delhi) is an example of that irony.

Couple of days back this 20-year-old college student was found in the roadside bushes of Rohtak. She was raped and left to die. What makes this case deadly is; those who raped her now already raped her three years back. They probably did this again because she was determined to fight against them in courts.

As per news reports, "Family members said the attack last week was retaliation for not withdrawing the case. Instead of settling the matter in court, the five men had wanted to do so out of court, the victim’s family members said. The accused wanted to pay about $75,000... but the victim’s family members said they repeatedly rejected the offer."

So who are the culprits here? Those five men? or Indian Law & Order and Judicial system towards which those five men had any respect or fear. Earlier the state failed to protect her, later state failed to bring those culprits to justice, later state failed to stop the culprits from threatening her family, finally state failed to protect her when those five raped her and left her body in the bushes to die.

What we want is not extraordinary laws or all power to police; both actions are useless. We need our law and order machinery to protect citizens, their life, wealth and property and judiciary to make things fast and less costly. Is it too much to ask?