Government hikes child care leave for women
In a major decision affecting the well-being of its women employees, the MP government has increased the duration of child care leave for women employees in public sector enterprises to 730 days.
The announcement was made by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at the Mahila Panchayat held in Bhopal on Tuesday.
While the decision marks a milestone in the history of women’s right struggle in the second largest state of the country, the state government continues to keep the woman doctor, who was the first to raise the issue of child care leave, on suspension for ‘unauthorised absence from duty’ following child birth in 2014.
Dr Gauri Rai, a gynaecologist, was suspended by then principal secretary, health, Praveer Kishn, during an inspection of a government hospital in Mhow town, as she had proceeded on leave without pay (LWP) when her demand for child care leave in 2014 was turned down.
Her fight for women’s right for child care leave on the lines of the Central government employees, had begun much before she became mother herself.
In 2012, Dr Rai first wrote to the chief secretary on the issue.
She had enclose a letter of then Union minister for women and child development Krishna Tirath to the state government, recommending child care leave for the state government employees and a similar recommendation made by the State Women’s Commission in February 2012.
But, papers obtained through Right to Information revealed that her demand was turned down by the principal secretary (finance) and his counterpart in general administration department (GAD), who were asked for their opinion on the issue.
They had maintained that the sixth pay commission might have made the recommendation, but the state wage commission had not made any such recommendation.
“Maternity leave for women employees of the state government had been raised to 180 days and therefore there was no need to provide for child care leave to women employees,” the state government had maintained.
Following this, Dr Rai moved the high court on September 30, 2014, through public interest litigation (PIL) praying for child care leave to state government’s women employees.
In her petition, Dr Rai had said: “The importance of legal regulations and legislation with respect to child care leave is that it not only places upon parents to satisfy their needs for sustenance, education and health. Especially the role of a mother at primary stage is must for providing dedication, affection, time for proper development of child.”
The state government is yet to file its reply clarifying its stand on child care leave. The lawyer appearing for the government only said that it was a sensitive issue and the state government needed time to respond to it.
Meanwhile, Dr Rai gave birth to a child and proceeded on LWP on August 1, 2014, in the absence of provision of child care leave.
Later on January 7, 2015, during an inspection of Mhow hospital, where Dr Rai was posted, then principal secretary, health, Dr Praveer Krishn placed her under suspension for ‘unauthorised absence from duty.’
Subsequently, Dr Rai filed another PIL in the Indore bench of the MP high court challenging the validity of Rule 38 of the state government on leaves to its employees, seeking that it be declared ultra virus because it has no provision of child care leave.
Besides, she prayed that her suspension be revoked with immediate effect.
“I don’t want credit for fighting for a crucial right of women employees, but now that the chief minister and his government has realised the importance of child care leave for women employees, they can at least reinstated me,” said Dr Gauri while talking to HT from Indore.
When director, health, Navneet Mohan Kothari, was contacted for comments on Dr Rai’s case, he said “Only (the) commissioner can talk on issues concerning administration.”
Meanwhile, commissioner, health, Pankaj Agrawal, did not talk to HT despite several attempts to contact him.
SC upheld 2 yrs child care leave
The Supreme Court in April 2014 had upheld that a woman employee of central government could get uninterrupted leave for two years for child care, which also included needs like examination and sickness.
The Bihar government in January this year increased the duration of maternity leave to 180 days from 135 days, and also made provisions for two years of child care leave for the well-being of its women employees.