Pune: In the last couple of months leading to the 73rd Independence Day this year, Indians have seen several hard-hitting changes in the law. However, not all agree that the passing of the bills is positive. Sakal Times interacted with some stakeholders of important Bills (now Acts).
A bill that evoked mixed response from the public was the one for abrogation of Article 370 for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). While the country celebrated the abolishment of the article and the 'liberation' of Kashmiris, the voice of Kashmiris is still unheard. Bureaucrat-turned-politician from Kashmir Shah Faesal, founder of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM) was put under house arrest on August 14, however Sakal Times managed to speak with him a couple of days earlier.
“Unilateral abrogation of constitutional protections has hurt Kashmiris' self-respect. The state has been reduced to a Union territory. This will breed alienation in Kashmir,” claimed Faesal, as the country continues to celebrate ‘integration’ of Kashmir.
Faesal added, “The Kashmiri Pandits who lost their homeland feel the majority could not protect them. However, the abrogation of Article 370 is not the solution to that issue. The decision regarding Article 370 was only about a historical promise. It was never about Hindus and Muslims.”
Under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, all declarations of talaq (divorce), including in written or electronic form, would be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal. However, one of the sore points is criminalisation of the man who still declares triple talaq after it is banned.
“The Act hardly gives justice to Muslim women. It mostly seems to seek revenge,” said Muslim scholar and activist Razia Patel.
Patel asked, “Where is the equality here? A Muslim man could be imprisoned for just saying ‘talaq’. So, women would not get divorced, and if they manage to get it, how would her husband pay her alimony from jail? This would only boost polygamy, which would not help Muslim women.”
The National Medical Council (NMC)
Another controversial bill was the National Medical Council (NMC) Act, 2019.
“One of the most enraging clauses in the Act is appointment of Community Health Officers (CHOs). With a course of six months, the government will allow pharmacists, compounders to treat people. This is wrong. How can just anyone be allowed to practice medicine?” asked Indian Medical Association President elect Dr Avinash Bhondwe.
He said, “There was no need to dissolve Medical Council of India (MCI). They could have made some amendments, improvement was possible. The representations of doctors in the NMC is low, and it would hamper the doctors’ interest.”
He said training better doctors is more important than licensing those who are underqualified. “When India gained Independence 72 years ago, the average life expectancy was 36 years. Today, it is over 70 years. The credit for the same goes to the doctors in India, along with improved medical practices. However, the government fails to recognise our contribution,” Dr Bhondwe added.
Transgender Persons Bill, 2019
“The law has recognised us, but we are still far from gaining acceptance from society,” said city-based transgender activist Chandani Gore.
“The scrapping of Article 377 decriminalised us. While that was a happy moment, we are not truly liberated as there is a long way to go before we are truly recognised by society as fellow human beings,” Gore stated.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2019 has a clause regarding obtaining the certificate of identity for a transgender person. Gore asked, "Does a man or a woman need to get a certificate of his/ her gender? Then why us? This is why I assert that discrimination still exists, and we are still fighting our battle."