The Espionage of Working Women in Madhya Pradesh

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“We need to accept that we won’t always make right decisions, that we will screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success but it is a part of success”

-Arianna Huffington

The above mentioned quote is by a well-known women influencer who has changed the game. Now the readers might be confused about the reference that is being drawn with respect to the title of the article and the quote by Arianna Huffington. The reference cannot be fathomed unless and until the readers don’t keep their eyes and ears open for the current news around the nation. To simplify things for the readers, the quote empowers the women to go ahead and work whereas the title takes the readers’ minds to the old spying movies. And now when we amalgamate both the ideas, we come across the recent proposal put forward by the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh which talks about the surveillance of working women. This led to outbreak of massive protests within the state of Madhya Pradesh and several contentions were raised.

But what is this entire fiasco about? Why is it becoming so controversial? Is it good or bad? The answers to the erupting questions in the minds of the readers would be answered in this very article. But before coming right at this particular aspect of the scheme launched by the government of Madhya Pradesh, let us understand from the beginning.

Recently in the initial days of January, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh launched a fortnight-long awareness program named “samman” or “सम्मान” which aims at the creation of a safe and secure atmosphere which ensures the dignity of all women. To quote Mr. Shivraj Singh Chuahan from the inauguration ceremony of the project,

“Our campaign is a campaign to change the attitude and mentality of the society. The work of ensuring safety and respect for daughters is not only of government and police, but it requires change in mentality of the society. The attitude where all wrongdoings of sons are condoned but multiple restrictions are put on the daughters and daughters are held guilty for any crime against them has to change”

With this statement, not did he acknowledge the fact that the society needs to improve and change with the changing times, but also implied to the fact that it is not the women who should be ashamed of the sins committed by the men. This project, which was dedicated towards the safety of women was bifurcated into three main parts. They are:

  1. Increasing the legal age of marriage for girl child.
  2. Ensuring safety of women and girls in Public transport facility.
  3. Registration of working women with their local safety for safety purposes.

Now when we talk about the first bifurcation, which talks about the increase of legal marriage for the girl child, the BJP government at the centre has already informed the citizens of the nation about the creation of a committee for the same purpose. Talking of the second point, this move was also welcomed by the citizens of the state as it ensured the protection of women in public transport where women and girls are often subjected to sexual harassment, both physically and verbally. To prevent this, the state government promise the installation of the Vehicle Location Tracking Devices (VLTDs) and Control Command Centres (CCCs) which would ensure that the integration of these devices and the state emergency response system would alert the police and transport department immediately in case of occurrence of any and every kind of unpleasant activity. The third bifurcation is the part which carries the burden of contentions and has raised several questions.

The fortnight-long awareness program in its third bifurcation aims at ensuring safety of the women who are going to work outside to register themselves with their local police station so that they could be tracked every time. This move was welcomed by some but was protested by many. This move by the state government welcomed a lot of contentions, both legally and morally. The contentions were followed by protests not just across the state but also away from the borders.

One such protest was organized by Women Rights Activists Maimoona Mollah, Shabnam Hashmi, Anjali Bhardwaj, Poonam Kaushik, Deepti Bharti, Ritu Kaushik and Madhuri Varshney outside the Madhya Pradesh Bhawan in Delhi where they had termed this initiative as utterly draconian and paternalistic. In a joint statement issued by the activists they said,

“This surveillance proposal is just a means to divert from governance failures in the state. We condemn this proposal to exercise control over women in the guise of their safety and call upon the CM to publicly rescind his comments,”

This particular bifurcation aims at tracking the movement of the working women and has various legal contentions, prima facie. Now the legal contention revolves around the Article-21 of the Indian Constitution regarding the privacy of an individual. It has been observed under the two prominent landmark judgements that the privacy of an individual is a Fundamental Right and couldn’t be compromised at any cause. Such was the judgement under the case Justice K.S. Puttuswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India AIR 2017 SC 4161 which observed that Right to life and personal liberty includes Right to privacy as an integral part guaranteed under part III of the Indian Constitution. A similar judgement was observed under the case Ram Jethmalani v. Union of India, (2011) SC 247: JT 2011 (7) SC 104: (2011) 6 SCALE 691 that Right to privacy is an integral part of life. This (right to privacy) is a cherished constitutional value and it is important that human beings be allowed domains of freedom that are fee of public scrutiny unless they act in an unlawful manner. And now when we look at the proposal made by the state government of Madhya Pradesh, this becomes ultra vires to the Constitution of India as it tracks the movement of the female individual, hence encroaching their privacy.

The second contention was raised with respect to the workforce in place and the crime rates when it comes to crimes related to the female individuals. It was observed in an article that the Madhya Pradesh state department has just about 125 cops per lakh population against a national average of 147 and a very high crime rate across the state when it comes to the feasible success of this initiative.

So the above mentioned were some of the prime contentions by the people who have also labelled the Madhya Pradesh government as ‘misogynist’. Now I won’t speak in favour of the initiative as it crosses the limits of personal space at various levels. However, the readers should keep this thing in mind that it is not yet a law. It is still at the initiative stage and it has to yet reach the level of being the law, hence I would bring the quote that is mentioned right at the beginning of the article which could be directed towards the government of Madhya Pradesh.

To conclude with, the initiative as a whole is like a beautiful rose with a refreshing and pleasant smell of programs for ensuring the safety of women. However, the rose also has thorns on it and it won’t be hard for the readers to understand the thorns mentioned here.

Hence, I leave the readers with the question, would the espionage by the Madhya Pradesh government be successful in the near future or not?

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