Dr Nita Mukherjee finds a rich collection that provides published and unpublished materials relating to Indian women
On a recent visit to Delhi, I had the opportunity to personally explore the rich resource that the library of the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) provides on all aspects of gender research.
CWDS has been functioning as a think tank on women’s issues since it was set up in 1980 by a group of people involved in writing ‘Towards Equality’, the first comprehensive government report on the status of women in India. It was registered under the Societies’ Registration Act, 1860, in New Delhi, in response to a felt need for an autonomous institute that would build on the knowledge generated, but with a wider mandate and resources to expand its activities in research and action. It began operations with a grant from the Vikram Sarabhai Foundation. In 1985, CWDS was recognised by the Indian Council of Social Science Research, which now gives the Centre an annual grant. It also receives funds raised from various national and international donor agencies for specific research projects.
Crucial to the functioning of any think tank is a source for information and documents. The CWDS library has been playing this role remarkably, with its comprehensive collection of published and unpublished materials relating to Indian women. More commendable is its effort to ensure that the needs of those who work on gender issues are fulfilled. To keep its users abreast with current information, it publishes a “Current Awareness Bulletin”. Since January 2008, the Bulletin is available in PDF format and is sent by email, on request.
Anju Vyas, the librarian at CWDS, has been proactive in marrying technology with information. She says that “most people get immersed in the technology aspects of the IT revolution and forget its information part. It is here, that we librarians play a vital role.” To this end, she has prepared various databases that can be searched through OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue) on the Centre’s Intranet and are also searchable online.
Among the important searchable databases are: a) Articles Index Database comprising news items and articles from selected periodicals and journals received in the Library since 1994; b) Mahila Database of books and analytical entries from edited volumes, monographs, government documents/ policy papers, institutional publications, reports and conference proceedings; c) Periodical Database about the journals/ newsletters/ bulletins being received in the Library; d) Women’s Studies Articles Database which contains some 3,000 full text articles on women’s studies from various journals; and e) Chitra—An Audio-visual Database on over 1,000 posters, films and videos relating to women from South Asia from secondary sources.
Among the many initiatives of the Library—applying the latest developments in information technology—has been providing electronic platforms for discussions on women and health, to begin with. One of these is called ‘Bol’ (Hindi for talk), which is a moderated e-discussion group about issues pertaining to women from South Asia that was started in 2000, much before social media became a rage. Currently, ‘Bol’ has nearly 1,000 subscribers from 25 countries.
Anju, and her team, has also brought out several bibliographies on subjects like “Voices of Resistance, Silence of Pain: An Annotated Bibliography on Violence against Women” and “Gender Dimensions of Employment and Wages in Selected Asian Countries”.
Anju says that she has noticed a surge in publication of women’s memoirs and biographies. These provide insights into the status of women over the past century. Maybe a bibliographic compilation of these publications would enable scholars to do a content analysis to study these as cases of social change.
A membership-based research institute, currently, CWDS has 93 life members and four institutional members. Members are drawn from among scholars, activists and intellectuals with the expectation that they would actively participate in fulfilling the Centre’s aims and objectives.
Centre for Women’s
25, Bhai Vir Singh Marg (Gole Market)
New Delhi 110001 India Phone: 91-11-23365541;
+91-11-23366930 Email: [email protected]
http://www.cwds.org; [email protected]
Finance Minister P Chidambaram promised to keep his budget speech short and did it, but as in the past, a detailed reading by experts has thrown up many twists in the tale that need careful analysis
The base income-tax brackets for the assessment year (AY) 2014-15 for individuals, Hindu Undivided Families (HUF), association of persons and body of individuals have not been changed, except with respect to some minor tax rebates provided to individuals whose income does not exceed Rs5 lakh.
The Budget has sought to introduce a surcharge at the rate of 10% on such persons if their total income exceeds Rs1 crore, thereby increasing the maximum tax rate to 33.99%.
The income limit on the Rajiv Gandhi Equity Savings Scheme (RGESS) has been enhanced to Rs12 lakh from Rs10 lakh to include investment for three successive years. The impact of the enhancement may still be limited as it is restricted to only new investors.
Some pointers that need more clarification…
The finance minister has sought to incentivize household savings to be channelized into financial investments (and reduce dependence on savings in gold) and accordingly provided for certain relaxations in respect of such investors which would serve to expand the investor base. Mutual fund transactions will also benefit by the reduction in the Securities Transaction Tax (STT) which will take effect from 1 June 2013 and will apply to transactions made on or after that date.
Although the measures proposed are positive, all demands/expectations of the mutual fund industry have not been met, especially those in relation to additional tax relief and reduction in the applicable rates which if adopted might have had more positive impact on the mutual fund industry.
Transfer of ‘real’ assets at reckoner value
Earlier, as per Section 50C (Special provision for full value of consideration in certain cases) of the ITA, a provision similar to Section 43CA (special provision for full value of consideration for transfer of assets other than capital assets in certain cases) was introduced for computation of capital gains by a transferor. However, being limited only to capital assets, most real estate developers in the business of trading in real assets were outside the purview of that provision.
Extending it to all assets is likely to be a major dampener for real estate developers who may want to do an intra-group transfer or restructuring at book value.
Some pointers that need more clarification…
GAAR and distribution tax on buy-back of shares by unlisted companies
While the deferral of general anti-avoidance rules (GAAR) by two years is welcome, there is much ambiguity on its scope and application to current investment structures.
Unlisted Indian companies buying back shares will be subject to a 20% distribution tax, a cost which will ultimately be borne by the investor, but which may not be subject to treaty relief or creditable in the investor’s home country.
Withholding taxes on royalty, technical and consultancy fees paid to non-residents is proposed to be increased from 10% to 25% on a gross basis. This will directly impact FDI in joint ventures and technology transfers and the additional tax burden may be shifted to the Indian company.
Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) will be allowed to participate in exchange-traded currency derivatives, thereby improving their hedging options. Stock exchanges will be able to open a dedicated debt segment. The development of a robust debt market and boost to infrastructure debt funds is a step in the right direction. However, the structuring of foreign investment into such funds and are often hit by tax related challenges.
Some pointers that need more clarification…
To understand the implications of these provisions and more Moneylife Foundation has organised a seminar on Saturday, 2 March 2013 at The Royal Bombay Yacht Club, near Gateway of India in Mumbai. Two prominent experts, Anil D Harish, partner of DM Harish & Co and Vimal Punmiya, partner of Vimal Punmiya & Co would simplify the Budget for the audience. (Read more Budget Simplified http://www.moneylife.in/events/Budget_2013/)
While our government’s tax rates are as per developed country standards, India’s accountability for the way money is spent are as per third world standards
An average Indian travelling home by Indian Railways has to shell out money even for basics like drinking water en route and toilets at stations. In some parts of the country, an assortment of authorities now try to levy tolls and entry taxes, as soon as you disembark and move towards the exits. Searches are carried out en route on person and baggage; in the name of security is another transactional cost.
The highest transactional cost, of course, is safety of life, limb and luggage. You cannot put a cost to this, nor is data on this available. But does anybody believe things have not got worse in the last few years from an already bad reality? This is because the delivery side of the Budget has gone totally unaccountable to the very people that the collections are made from. This is to such an extent that the only way these truths can be notched up now are through the media. There is nobody else even willing to listen.
At every step, visible and often blatantly aggressive symbols of the way the power of the State are being misused. This has changed the equation for the people at the base of the pyramid—from mis-governance to oppression. A budget does not address this, other than providing lip-service, and this therefore represents yet another additional cost. An example would be the way tolls are applied on ordinary buses going into the interior areas, while government vehicles which are exempted from such payments are flagrantly misused in a way that even our colonial rulers did not dare to do.
How much would it cost the Indian Railways or the Indian Government to put up proper automated complaint booths which could record both audio and video, at every railway station and bus terminal? Or for those in governance to ensure that toilets and drinking water were made available at railway stations and bus terminals?
But no, to the vast majority of people in India, the government now increasingly appears to be nothing more than an insatiable machine, collecting taxes wherever possible, dredging the last drop of sweat from people. At the same time, the vast majority of people in India have also learnt that where constituencies get together and simply stop paying, the Indian government tends to back off—Kashmir, the Maoist areas, some parts of the North-East, for example. And most of all, the aspirational ruling classes, who also do not pay while they continue to scam, loot and scoot.
In short, while our government’s tax rates are as per developed country standards, our country’s tax spending accountabilities are as per third world banana republic standards. That is where the complete concept of a budget in India is faced with a rapidly reducing credibility year after year, and that is also why for a larger and larger number of people, the budget as presented will have no effect on the biggest tax on people—inflation. This, in rupee terms, is more than a rapid gallop now, and is likely to ride over us even faster.
It will be interesting to see how the government is going to get over the increasing tendency for commercial and other interactions to be denominated in barter or kind or cash, in many parts of the country where this is seen as a more efficient way of staying alive with dignity. And how, if at all, will they ever be able to factor this into the business of the annual budget?
(Veeresh Malik had a long career in the Merchant Navy, which he left in 1983. He has qualifications in ship-broking and chartering, loves to travel, and has been in print and electronic media for over two decades. After starting and selling a couple of companies, is now back to his first love—writing.)