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The Hindu Editorial

28-September-2023

1. The G-20’s screen over ‘mazdoors’, their rights.

Topic: GS3 – International relations

Introduction

         India’s recent leadership at the G-20 Summit highlighted India’s diplomatic prowess and global influence. While this marked a significant political achievement for India, an essential aspect remained underrepresented during the summit – worker rights and welfare.

Diplomatic Success Amidst Challenges

Inclusive Membership and Diplomatic Unity

  • The inclusion of the African Union as a G-20 member fostered unity among Global South nations.
  • Balancing competing interests and the Russia-Ukraine conflict were initial concerns, but a joint communiqué was issued.

Modi’s Diplomatic Finesse

  • Prime Minister Modi skillfully moderated language to avoid controversies.
  • Delicate issues, such as Russia-Ukraine and fossil fuels, were omitted to preserve diplomatic harmony.

Missed Opportunity: Worker Rights and Welfare

The Labor 20 (L20) Initiative

  • The L20, a part of the G-20, addresses worker rights and concerns on a global scale.
  • The L20 convened two meetings in India during the summit.

Politicization of L20

  • Controversy arose as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), affiliated with the BJP, headed the L20.
  • The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) boycotted the meetings, emphasizing the politicization of worker-related discussions.

Key Concerns: Indian Workers in the Arab Gulf

  • Millions of Indian workers in the Arab Gulf face exploitation due to the kafala system.
  • The G-20 provided a platform to advocate for improved working conditions and rights protection.

The Scope of Missed Opportunities

Addressing Worker-Related Issues

  • The G-20 missed the chance to tackle pressing worker concerns, including forced labor, modern-day slavery, gender equality, and equal pay.
  • Exploitation of workers affects India and is a global issue requiring concerted efforts.

Forced Labor Definition

  • Forced labor, as per the International Labour Organization, involves work exacted under threat of penalties without voluntary consent.
  • India’s role as a signatory to the Forced Labour Convention should have led to international advocacy.

Comprehensive Worker Welfare

Beyond Portable Insurance Schemes

  • While discussions on portable insurance schemes and social security are important, they are insufficient.
  • Worker welfare necessitates job creation, decent working conditions, gender equality, and robust rights protection.

Conclusion

         India’s leadership at the G-20 Summit demonstrated diplomatic finesse but also highlighted the need for a more comprehensive approach to worker welfare on the global stage. The missed opportunity to advocate for the rights and welfare of millions of workers, both in India and abroad, leaves room for future initiatives within the G-20 framework. Balancing diplomacy and worker welfare should remain a priority for all G-20 nations to ensure a more equitable and just global society.

2. The two heroes of ‘Sanatana Dharma’, their insights.

Topic: GS1 – Indian history

Introduction

         In recent discussions, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has drawn attention to the omission of the word ‘Sanatana’ before ‘Dharma’ in the name of Sree Narayana Guru’s organization. This move appears aimed at distancing progressive elements within Hinduism from what is perceived as the casteist ‘Sanatana’ version of the religion. However, it is essential to recognize that no Hindu reformer, including Sree Narayana Guru, criticized or disowned ‘Sanatana Dharma’ in favor of any other religion or philosophy.

Rediscovering ‘Sanatana Dharma’

Orthodox ‘Sanatanists’

         During the 19th century, opponents of reform movements such as Arya Samaj and the Ramakrishna mission proudly identified themselves as ‘Sanatanists.’ They emphasized the permanence of ancient textual doctrines over dynamism and change, considering this feature as the essence of Hinduism. Nevertheless, these ‘Sanatanists’ resisted change and remained on the wrong side of history. What they failed to grasp, much like certain politicians today, is that dynamism and the propensity for reform are the most ‘Sanatana’ or ancient and original features of Hinduism’s ‘Dharma.’ 

Dynamism in Hinduism

         The essence of ‘Sanatana Dharma’ lies in its dynamism and capacity for reform. This inherent quality has allowed for the evolution of Hinduism over millennia while preserving its core values. Reformers did not hesitate to use the phrase ‘Sanatana Dharma’ to describe their philosophies, signifying that the concept is not static but adaptable and evolving.

Icons of Progressive ‘Sanatana Dharma’

Swami Dayananda Saraswati

         Swami Dayananda Saraswati, in his ‘Satyartha Prakasa,’ referred to ‘Vedic Dharma’ without many prevalent features of Hinduism, such as untouchability and idol worship, as ‘Sanatana Nityadharma.’ This illustrates how reformers saw dynamism as a fundamental aspect of ‘Sanatana Dharma.’

Mahatma Gandhi

         Mahatma Gandhi, a proud ‘Sanatani,’ played a pivotal role in integrating women into India’s social mainstream. His commitment to social justice and gender equality demonstrates that ‘Sanatana Dharma’ can be a driving force for positive change.

Swami Vivekananda and Subramania Bharati

Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago Speech

         Swami Vivekananda, who passionately called for reform, grounded his activism in ‘Sanatana Dharma.’ He criticized regressive practices within Hinduism, particularly in Kerala, and called for change. His famous Chicago speech outlined ‘Sanatana Dharma’ as a dynamic and evolving philosophy, countering the perception of Hinduism as static and unchanging.

Subramania Bharati’s Vision

         Subramania Bharati, deeply influenced by Swami Vivekananda’s teachings, expressed anguish over India’s material and spiritual decline during his time. He believed that spiritual awakening within the framework of ‘Sanatana Dharma’ was essential for achieving political liberation. Bharati’s works reflect the importance of rejuvenating the ‘Sanatana’ spirit within Hinduism.

Rediscovering the ‘Sanatana’ Spirit

         Attempts to distance these reformers from their ‘Dharmic’ backgrounds miss the point. Swami Vivekananda and Subramania Bharati were able to embrace ‘Sanatana Dharma’ while challenging its established norms. Hinduism’s unique characteristic lies in its persistent search for truth through continuous renewal of experience, allowing for evolution and reform.

Conclusion

         Hinduism’s ‘Sanatana Dharma’ is not a stagnant belief system but a dynamic philosophy that accommodates change and reform. Swami Vivekananda and Subramania Bharati exemplify how one can embrace ‘Sanatana Dharma’ while challenging its regressive elements, reaffirming the idea that the essence of Hinduism lies in its relentless pursuit of truth and the continual renewal of experience.

3. From women’s reservation to gender equality.

Topic: GS2 – gender equality

Introduction

  • The recent passage of the women’s reservation Bill in the Indian Parliament, providing one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies, reflects a moral imperative to increase women’s representation.
  • India currently ranks 141 out of 193 countries in terms of women’s representation in Parliament, lagging behind nations like Pakistan, South Africa, and Kenya.

The Impact of Local Body Reservations

  • Reservation for women in local body elections has boosted their participation in governance.
  • Research shows that elected women representatives have asserted their presence despite interference from male family members.
  • Similar positive outcomes may be expected at higher elected levels.

Challenges with Implementation

  • The successful implementation of the reservation law depends on the upcoming Census and delimitation exercise.
  • Delimitation has been frozen since 1976 to ensure a level playing field for states in controlling population growth.
  • States that have excelled in women’s empowerment and reduced population growth may lose parliamentary seats if delimitation occurs.

Legality of Contingency Clause

  • The legality of a law contingent upon a future event needs to be determined by constitutional courts.
  • This legislative reform, though much-needed and widely supported, is tied to another future law, raising uncertainty.

Changing Societal Approach

  • True gender justice requires a shift in societal attitudes toward gender roles.
  • Women’s representation in elected bodies must be viewed within the context of low female labor force participation.
  • A fair distribution of household responsibilities is essential for substantive gender equality.

Addressing Unpaid Labor

  • Women bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid household chores and caregiving.
  • Government programs recognizing and addressing this issue, like Tamil Nadu’s Magalir Urimai Thogai, aim to bridge the gap.
  • Such initiatives are crucial for promoting women’s participation in the labor force and politics.

Building Capacity for Women Representatives

  • Increasing women’s representation is one aspect; building their capacity is another challenge.
  • Programs like EMILYs List in the U.S. offer mentorship and guidance for women entering politics.
  • The government, through agencies like the National Commission for Women, must focus on capacity building to ensure the reservation model’s success.

Conclusion

  • While the women’s reservation Bill is a significant step toward gender equality in Indian politics, it must be accompanied by efforts to change societal attitudes and build capacity.
  • Recognizing unpaid labor and equitably sharing household duties are crucial for achieving substantive gender justice.
  • Effective government programs and initiatives are needed to ensure the success of women in politics beyond mere representation.

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