Women power: Improvement in positions, a long way to go

The World Development Report of the World Bank says that as compared to $1 earned by a man, a woman in India gets only 64 cents. Overall, the report showed that despite some significant improvement in their quality of lives, women are still behind men in claiming their rights

The 2012 instalment of the Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) shows that the proportion of women holding senior management roles in India is steadily increasing, with 14% of the positions being held by women this year compared to 9% last year. However, the global average is at 21%, barely higher than the 2004 level.

India is way ahead of the global average in terms of flexible working conditions for women. The report says 66% of Indian businesses offer flexible working conditions (flexible hours, alternative locations, etc.) to female employees, against the global average of 52%.

“Human resource (HR) seems to be the favourite among Indian women, with 23% holding senior positions in this space, followed by 16% in financial positions and 10% in sales,” says that IBR. Nidhi Maheshwari, director, marketing communications, said, “A consistent rise though measured, in the number of women in the boardrooms of Indian companies is a positive sign.”

On the occasion of World Women’s Day on 8th March, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and executive director of UN Women said that nearly 400 chief executives worldwide have publicly declared their commitment to implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) over the last two years. The corporate support has doubled since last year.

According to the World Bank, Women now represent more than 40% of the global labour force, 43% of the agricultural workforce, and more than half of the world’s university students. But the World Development Report of the World Bank shows that female disadvantage within countries is more marked at low incomes; India being no exception. It also says that between 1998 and 2008, there were almost 856,000 missing women in India—second only to China.

The economic disparity is also pronounced. The report says that as compared to $1 earned by a man, a woman in India gets only 64 cents. Overall, the report showed that despite some significant improvement in their quality of lives, women are still behind men in claiming their rights.

In many parts of the world, it has been noted that the last year has not been fair to the fairer sex even at the higher levels. On 2nd March, a study by Inter-Parliamentary Union revealed that there are fewer women parliamentarians in the Middle-Eastern region post the Arab Spring. According to its ‘Women in Parliament’ study, despite the revolutions that toppled regimes, the Arab region was the only area in the world without a parliament of at least 30% women.

The most serious setback has been noticed in Egypt, where the percentage of women parliamentarians has fallen from 12% to 2%. However, Tunisia and the newborn South Sudan have been working towards having quotas for women in parliament.

According to the report, countries like Belize, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Solomon Islands have no women representatives.

 Ms Bachelet said that female heads of state and heads of government around the world are doubling since 2005 to 17, while the number of women ministers edged up by 2.5 points to 16.7%. She said that women find it difficult to contest elections because they have fewer resources at their disposal and face antagonism from political rivals.

She said, “Amidst all the challenges and opportunities in our world today, one fact is unassailable; countries and companies with higher gender equality enjoy higher levels of growth and performance.”

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The inconclusive truth about the media

How much can we really learn or understand from news reports and what are the actual facts

The recent instance of attack on the media by lawyers in Karnataka has drawn widespread criticism from all quarters. Yet, many citizens have raised their doubts as to why the media remains silent when it comes to self-introspection.

The Broadcast Editor’s Association (BEA) has condemned the attack on media persons by the lawyers in Bangalore while reporting a strike by the Karnataka State Bar Council.
“The BEA has decided to constitute a five-member fact-finding committee to go into the Karnataka Assembly incident and subsequent developments. The committee will be headed by NK Singh, general secretary, BEA,” said the BEA in a media statement.

While acknowledging that the attack is unwarranted and unjust, many activists and journalists have also pointed out that while the media has every right to protest against the attack, it is high time that it also needs to be equally active when it comes to issues related to its own workings.

Veeresh Malik, a veteran seaman and journalist, says, "Please note the absence of any set points, agenda, or even inviting the public for their views and opinions on the issue. Also, why not make the unedited footage of the incident available? Most importantly, after the attack, why did the media regroup and go back in the second part of the day to the place again?"

Mr Malik opines that the media itself has many things to answer for. "I would like to know as to what the BEA has been doing about the paid news phenomenon,” he asked. "Where is the BEA when the media pounces on people without any regards for privacy? What about the broadcasters’ (and publishers’) liability to people for the ads they carry?”
It is well known that controversial entities like SpeakAsia and IIPM legitimize their positions by placing ads, and sometimes, even advertorials in leading publications.

The inconsistency of media reportage on issues is also glaring. A prominent example in this regard is the case of the murder of veteran crime journalist, J Dey and an alleged conspirator in the case, Jigna Vora, the deceased’s former colleague and another senior crime reporter. Right after the murder, speculation was rife as to the motive behind the murder. Some suggested that Dey was silenced because he was pursuing a story on the oil mafia, while others pointed fingers at a senior police who has issues with Dey. At the same time, senior journalists have publicly discussed Dey’s closeness to a particular senior police official, who seems to be silent after his death.

After the underworld don Chhota Rajan claimed that he had got rid of Dey because he suspected that “Dey was getting close to Dawood Ibrahim”, the ruckus died down. However, soon Jigna Vora’s name appeared in the case. It was revealed that she had supplied Dey’s description, bike number and exact location to the contract killers. The startling revelation and her arrest led rise to a situation of palpable confusion and embarrassment within the media.

“Jigna was working under a senior crime reporter. Has he been questioned? And for that matter, why did even Dey’s friends and colleagues not raise the demand?” commented a journalist who had worked with Dey earlier.

Dey’s murder is not a solitary case where the public as well as most of the media is clueless as to what really happened. A more recent example is that of the reportage on the court battle between the army chief and the government. After the Supreme Court disposed of General VK Singh’s petition about his birth date, it was declared that the chief has lost the battle.

The judgement, however, read, “As a matter of fact, the question before us in the writ petition is not about the determination of actual date of birth of the petitioner, but it concerns the recognition of a particular date of birth of the petitioner by the respondent (Union of India) in the official service record. In view of the statement made by Goolam Vahanvati, attorney-general, and the limited controversy in the writ petition, counsel for the petitioner does not wish to press the matter further and he seeks withdrawal of the writ petition. Writ petition is disposed of as withdrawn.”

None reported of a petition which has been forwarded to the president, signed by retired veterans, to ask for her interference into the matter in the capacity of being both the head of the Union and the supreme commander of the armed forces of the country. The petition can be viewed here http://www.satyamev-jayate.com/ .

On the other hand, the media was quick to publish dubious reports suggesting that the army chief’s office had a role to play in bugging Union defence minister AK Anthony’s office. The army chief has vehemently denied this and pointed fingers at a retired army official already embroiled in the Adarsh housing society scam.
 
“It is possible that the chief, who is known as an upright, honest man has become a thorn that needs to be removed,” said a retired IAS officer, who has also known the chief during his stay in Haryana. “We know that many arms deals are going to take place. India will be buying armaments, vehicles and other technology soon. There is a high chance that efforts are being made to fix the deals. General Singh may thwart such plans, so his absence from the scene is preferable.”
 
There have been several instances of attacks on journalists and even murders. But none of that has been reported in the media. In November, the Supreme Court upheld the Bombay High Court’s decision to fine the channel Times Now Rs100 crore. Former Supreme Court judge justice PB Sawant had sued the channel for wrongly displaying his photo; instead of the then sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court, justice PK Samanta; in a provident fund scam-related news report. While media bodies were quick to slam the judgement, the mistake was not acknowledged.

However, journalists have defended the method of reporting. On the Karnataka assault, a reporter said, “At one point, it is the very nature of journalism. A reporter has to report on things that are happening. You get beaten up, but you go back and write about it and revisit the place where you were beaten up, because that is your job. You get information, and write your story based on the available facts. If you are proven wrong later, you have to say that, too. We cannot expect journalists to stop relying on ‘insiders’ and sources, because without such information, there will be no news.”
 
A similar argument has been made by Mihir Srivastava in the last issue of Open, where he talks about the denouncing of his story on the Batla House encounter by a section of intelligentsia and civil society. “I did what any journalist must do—report a story on the basis of available facts,” he says. While his article got a quick rejoinder from Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association that slammed his article and his stance, he hit back by saying: “By all means continue to struggle for justice. Just do not sacrifice facts while doing so.”
 
But then, when facts lie in between the lines, how much truth can we hope for?

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COMMENTS

bankim desai

7 years ago

Media is one of the pillar of the democracy. But, in India media is not playing the role it should have been. Complete media sector is running like a competitive company circle fighting for taking the best position in the sector. None of the media is thinking about the social justice to the people of the country. Role of the media if played in the right direction can bring the revolution in the country. No social worker all Anna Hazareji or other NGO' will be working if Media bring the correct story in every aspect of life which is in the interest of the country. But, unfortunately today media is so biased that you can not rely on the authenticity of the news as well as many news under grounded by them in the interest of ? .

Near victory for Indians abroad for filing online RTI applications

After several years of persistent campaign by RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra and several RTI activists abroad, the RBI, early this week, has given a “no objection” to the government for the sale of electronic postal orders through credit/debit cards for paying RTI fees. Now the Department of Posts has to quickly find a technology solution

Each time that Vishal Kudchadkar, an RTI (Right to Information) activist from Los Angeles wanted to file a RTI application or file a second appeal to the state chief information commissioner of Maharashtra, he had to seek the help of his family and friends back home in Pune. For hundreds of others residing in various countries abroad, the right to procure information under the RTI Act was denied due to the Indian government’s lethargy in giving a green signal to online payment for the applications.

The victory is almost in sight as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), on 1st March gave its “no objection” to the government. Now, it is for the Department of Posts to stand by its commitment of implementing the electronic postal orders through Axis Bank—a module which it is already familiar with. However, the DoP would have to would have to work on technology solutions to meet the conditions laid down by the RBI.
 
Delhi-based activist Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra has filed over 150 RTI applications since 2008 to pursue this issue. For this, Commodore Batra sought information on action taken by different government departments, whether it is the ministry of finance, the Department of Personnel and Training (which implements the RTI Act), the Department of Posts (which can make e- payment possible), the National Advisory Council (NAC) and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Finally, his relentless efforts bore fruit when on 1st March, the RBI stated in a reply to another of Commodore Batra’s RTI application filed on 15th February this year, asking for the status of the issue of `approval for purchase of Indian postal orders by Indian citizens abroad for RTI fees that it has sent its “no objection letter” to the government.

In a letter dated 3 February 2012 to the ministry of communications & IT, Department of Posts, Anita Kumari, manager of the RBI has stated, “the payment gateway provider will be Axis Bank’’ and “online payments from abroad should be made only through debit and credit cards issued by the bank having affiliations with one of the card payment networks authorised under the PSS Act 2007”.

Mr Kudchadkar stated enthusiastically that, “we have been working very closely with Lokesh sir on this issue. All kudos to him for doggedly carrying forward a fight, we started, to its conclusion. Without him I don’t think we would have been able to navigate the bureaucratic hoops. This process started almost four years ago and finally we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are excited to finally be able to exercise our right to seek information!”

Another RTI activist from the US, Somu Kumar stated, “We are ecstatic that finally Indian government has taken action on a long-standing demand of Indians living abroad, which was to establish a proper and easy mechanism for us to seek information from our government. We have so far been stone-walled by the Indian embassies and consulates from actively seeking information by using various excuses but finally we hope this new announcement will end the difficulty and allow free flow of information.”

Not ready to give it up until the ‘actual’ implementation, Commodore Batra predictably has dashed off a letter on 6th March to Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications & Information Technology, seeking his intervention in expediting the issue of electronic Indian postal orders (IPOs) to help Indian citizens abroad to make online payments for RTI application. He says, “It’s not a complete victory unless Department of Posts implements it”.

So, what would this mean for the Indians living abroad?  They would be required to log on to the Department of Posts website and then register (if it is his or her first time) and click on the “RTI counter”. He/she would have to upload passport copy after filling the RTI application. Then he/she would require to pay the fees through the electronic postal order. Thereafter, the RTI application would be sent to the relevant public information officer of the department that the applicant is seeking information from. The CPIO can verify the IPO number by logging on to the ePO portal.
 
Way back on 4 February 2011, Commodore Batra found out under a RTI reply that the Department of Posts had written to the RBI stating, “The Department of Posts has developed a portal called ‘e-portal’ office. We have received a reference from the secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, requesting to include a provision for the purchase of Indian postal orders by Indian citizens living abroad to enable them to seek information under the RTI Act, 2005. The challenge faced by the Indian citizens is in remitting the prescribed fee for seeking information as per the specified mode of the Act. The post office can provide a solution to this challenge, since the Indian postal order is one of the most prescribed modes of payment under the RTI Act. To put a system in place to facilitate this, we would require clearance to accept credit card/debit card for online payment from abroad through e-portal.'”
 
Further, RTI documents revealed that the Department of Posts had also written to the RBI on 15 March 2011 stating that Axis Bank has been accepted as the “payment gateway provider'” for such online payments.

However, the RBI in its reply on 15 June 2011 to Commodore Batra’s RTI query on the status of letters from the Department of Posts said quite ridiculously, “The RBI has not taken a final decision on the request of the Department of Posts. As such this information cannot be given as per Section 8 of the RTI Act.'”
 
Commodore Batra steered the campaign for Indians abroad, when he had a personal experience in 2008 when he was in the US. The date for his appeal before the Information Commission in Delhi was fixed while he was abroad, and then chief information commissioner, Dr Wajahat Habibullah, allowed the hearing through audio-conferencing. However, when he began to ask about regular RTI applications filed from the US, he found that Indians there faced many hurdles.

The Indian embassy in Washington put its hands up, saying that it could only accept RTI applications pertaining to queries related to its office, or at the most those related to the ministry of external affairs. Indians tried to impress upon the embassy that under Section 6(3) it is the duty of the PIO to forward applications not relevant to him, to the concerned departments. But the embassy refused to take responsibility.  This triggered off his campaign.

He was joined by activists abroad. In 2010, a delegation of US-based Indian activists submitted their petition to prime minister Manmohan Singh, carrying 316 signatures from Indians residing in Australia, Burundi, Canada, Dubai, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Kuwait, Maldives, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, UAE, the UK and the US. However, the PMO was silent on this issue (not surprising).

My earlier article on the same topic: Indians living abroad keen to use RTI, but the government isn’t making it easier

(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected])

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COMMENTS

SANarayan

7 years ago

If the technology can be made applicable to NRIs, I am sure the same can be made applicable to residents too so that the process of physically buying a postal order is eliminated. Then the whole process of online RTI application can be facilitated. But will the authorities oblige? Its not in their interest!

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