A recent government order (GO) by the Union Department of Personnel and Training on child care leave has irked a group of women IAS officers in Uttar Pradesh. The officers have contended that the new rules — according to which the leave can be granted to female government servants and “single male government servants” — constitute a “very regressive step”.
The group of women IAS officers has written a letter to the Uttar Pradesh IAS Officers’ Association demanding that the child care leave should be made optional for both parents for a combined total of 730 days.
The new rules, applicable throughout the country, came into effect through a notification on 11 December, 2018. Earlier, only women government servants could avail of child care leave. The suggestion to include single male government servants (those who are unmarried, widowers or divorcees) in the ambit of the provision for the leave was made by the Seventh Pay Commission. However, the officers who have objected to the new rules have argued that they, too, are “against the spirit of equality”.
Commenting on the provision on child care leave, the letter says, “This means all the female government servants are expected by the government to take care of their children all alone, without cooperation from their male counterparts. Not only is this unfair to women officers but also unfair to male officers and their children. The father should have equal opportunity to contribute in the upbringing of the children if he wishes.”
It further contends that the regulations amount to “officially announcing that care giving of children is solely a woman’s responsibility and the men are supposed to do it only if there is no woman in the family”.
However, Pravir Kumar, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh IAS Officers’ Association, has said that he is not aware of the letter and declined to comment on the issue.
Speaking to Firstpost, a signatory to the letter said, “This issue is an agenda point in our Annual General Body meeting (AGM), which is slated to be held on 3 February. That is a positive development for us."
Laying out the reasons why some officers have expressed objections to the child care leave rules, the signatory said, "When this announcement was made, it was seen in some quarters, including the media, as a positive step. However, such a view would not be correct. In today's day and age, when the government changes archaic rules, its actions should be based on equality. When the government formulates such regulations, it is like an official stamp of approval being given to the idea that child care is primarily a woman's responsibility and not that of a man."
She also compared the government's stand on this issue as against its stand on giving women equal property rights. "The Supreme Court had ruled that both daughters and sons have equal rights over their parents' property. The earlier law — in which it was presumed that the property would only be passed on to the sons — was an archaic one. When the government changed this law, it was a indeed a good step. However, unfortunately, such an approach does not appear to have been taken in this case."
The letter addressed to the Uttar Pradesh IAS Officers' Association also points to the "substantial number of women" who are part of the service. It states that about 32 percent of the IAS officers in the 2014 batch were women, while the corresponding figure for the 2015 batch was 31 percent.
The officer quoted above also rued that even paternity leave is rarely granted in Uttar Pradesh although a legal provision for it exists. "When officers apply for paternity leave, they are laughed at, or their letters are not forwarded. Since senior officers did not get paternity leave in earlier times, they are reluctant to grant the same to officers now. They ask applicants to get to work and sometimes say that applications for paternity leave are mere excuses. This is the mindset of several people."
While only a small minority of male government servants are likely to be eligible for child care leave, the paternity leave, which is open for all male members of the service, is only for fifteen days.
In its report, the Seventh Pay Commission had states, "The Commission notes that in the event a male employee is single, the onus of rearing and nurturing the children falls squarely on his shoulders. Hence extension of CCL to single male parents is recommended.”
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Updated Date: Jan 14, 2019 15:47:06 IST