Shedding Light On Saubhagya : An Electrification Scheme
Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya) launched in September, claims to ensure
- Electrification of all willing households in the country
- to provide a free electricity connections to all willing below poverty line & to all other households who are not covered under this category on a payment of Rs 500 in 10 instalments of Rs 50 each along with their monthly bill.
but it expects the poor to pay the bills without providing any subsidy to ease their burden.
This new scheme is just a way of refurbishing the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), the earlier scheme of rural electrification launched in July 2015, which aimed to electrify all un-electrified villages by May 2018 but now Saubhagya Scheme will focus on all households rather than Rural households.
Definition & The Gap between Two Schemes :-
- the government managed to electrify 14,701 villages while 2,760 villages remain un-electrified.
- Out of these, work is still in progress in a total of 2,611 villages.
- However, out of the 14,701 villages, only in 8%, i.e. 1,198 villages, do all households have connectivity.
Even if we take into consideration the fact that so many villages have been “electrified” but a village is considered to be electrified if 10% households have an electricity connection and related basic infrastructure.
- Furthermore, even in these 10% of households, there is no promise of minimum hours of supply.
The question we then need to ask is this – Given that 90% of households may not have power supply and of those 10% with electricity not having a regular supply, can we still consider such a village to be electrified in a meaningful way?
The objective of the Saubhagya scheme is to provide energy access to all by last mile connectivity and electricity connections to all remaining un-electrified households in rural as well as urban areas to achieve universal household electrification in the country.
But the problem arises because,
- It can guarantee neither regular electricity supply nor continuation of those connections in case of non-payment.
- There would still be the problem of regular supply. Industry estimates suggest that this scheme would potentially require an additional 28,000 MW and additional energy of about 80,000 million units per annum, which is roughly 7% of India’s current installed power capacity. There is a power shortage even at this moment leading to scheduled and unscheduled load shedding, often up to 10 hours or more.
- Considering the huge lapses as far as electricity availability is concerned in rural india.
Certainly, Saubhagya has some positives such as provision for households outside the reach of grid lines. Thus, the policy echoes the commitment to facilitate economic growth and social development.
Complicated terms of Engagement
On October 17, the Supreme Court read down the marital rape exception for married girls between the ages of 15 and 18. Essentially, the court held that since sexual assault in marriage is already a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), it is discriminatory and arbitrary to suspend the protection of the rape law for these underage married girls. The Supreme Court set aside the state’s argument
- that marriage presumes consent that compulsory sex in child marriage is protected by customary or personal law
- that husbands of child brides must have impunity from the rape law
- that poverty and lack of development means compulsory sex in child marriage must be de-criminalised.
Understanding the law
The Supreme Court decision makes it clear that sexual consent can only be given by an adult woman of 18 years. In other words, consent to sex in underage marriage cannot be assumed by the husband nor can parents give such consent on behalf of the underage minor.
POCSO privileges age to define to a child, wherein consent of a child is not a defence to sexual assault. Sexual consent is defined as an adult category. Hence, the argument that marriage presumes consent is not tenable in the law on sexual assault of children.
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 prohibits
- The solemnisation of child marriages wherein a child means a person who if male has not yet completed 21 years, and if female not yet 18 years.
- Every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the Act came into effect, can be made void by either the man or the woman within two years of attaining majority. Karnataka has passed a law making all child marriages void.
Child marriage – What is it & how it happens ?
- Child marriage is a specific form of customary practice arranged by parents or male community elders. These may be community marriages dictated by religious calendars or by caste customs.
- These are a distinct form of early marriages in which the consent of the patriarch of the family or elder determines the matrimonial fate of the child.
- The second species of marriage is found in different customary and personal laws wherein the age at which a girl can be married is lower than the legal age of marriage.
- The impetus for early marriages, across customary or personal laws, is to prevent young girls from falling in love and experimenting with illicit sex, which is seen to bring dishonour to male defined communities.
This is a field of legal pluralism, where pre-marital sex rather than rape of young girls by their husbands is seen as a social problem. Of course, pre-marital sex is considered a social problem only when women or young girls experiment with sexuality before marriage — it is not a social problem for boys to engage in consensual sex at any age.
Responsibility on Governments
POCSO defines a child, (irrespective of gender) as a person under the age of 18 years, which prevents the “inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity”.
It mandates the Central and State governments to act to secure the best interests of the child. This includes child-wives hitherto protected by custom, since the Indian state acceded in 1992 to the UN General Assembly’s Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Supreme Court judgement rightly reversed the position that the jurisdiction of sexual impunity preventing husbands from being prosecuted for rape of child wives must lie with customary or personal law through the marital rape law exception.
Traditionalist Approach :-
- They make an argument for de-criminalisation of compulsory sex within child marriage arranged by elders and dictated by custom, while approving the criminalisation of sex for unmarried girls up to 18 years to prevent pre-marital sex between young adults.
- They also find common cause with families who criminalise love affairs, by using state law against daughters.
Where as Feminists have critiqued
- the custodial violence of the family and the state towards women who marry of choice.
- they have protested against familial and state violence towards transgressive daughters who often are imprisoned at home or in state institutions, if they consented to sex or marriage, against the wishes of their parents.
- They have also insisted on bringing to the law a recognition of sexual assault of children, irrespective of gender.
- They have also gendered the notion of childhood & elaborated how adolescence is gendered.
There are two broad responses to the age of consent.
- The first perspective that evokes the political economy of custom and law argues for a lowering of age of consent to 16. This, however, creates a conflict with the definition of the child under POCSO, unnecessarily pitting women’s rights against child rights.
- The second stance recommends a proximity in age clause in the age of consent provision to prevent the criminalisation of young people who are sexually active between 16 to 18 years, thereby suggesting a limited form of legal exceptionalism in the best interest of the child.
Both these perspectives are guided by a recognition of the vulnerabilities of young adults to pressure at home to marry early and against their wishes.
The question of sexual consent is clearly one that must lie with the individual woman. Parents, elders, political parties, priests or vigilante groups should not be permitted to force women, adult or minor, into marriage or compulsory heterosexuality. This also means that young adults should not be forced into heterosexuality per se, if they are not sexually attracted to the opposite sex.
The Supreme Court rightly holds that the ‘the girl child must not be deprived of her right of choice’. The right to choose, which is free and unfettered, includes freedom from parental pressure to marry early, freedom from forced marriages, freedom of choice of sexual orientation, and freedom to find self-fulfilment through study, work, profession, vocation or talent.
Although the law offers a specific grammar of rights, forcing young persons into compulsory heterosexuality is not seen as a social evil.