The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 has been listed for passage during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. This Bill was introduced in the Monsoon Session last year and referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, which tabled its report earlier this year. The Bill seeks to recognise transgender persons, and confer anti-discriminatory rights and entitlements related to education, employment, health, and welfare measures. This post explains key provisions of the Bill and certain issues for consideration.
Self-identification and obtaining a Certificate of Identity
The Bill provides for ‘self-perceived gender identity’ i.e. persons can determine their gender on their own. This is in line with a Supreme Court judgement (2014) which held that the self determination of one’s gender is part of the fundamental right to dignity, freedom and personal autonomy guaranteed under the Constitution.
Along with the provision on ‘self-perceived gender identity’, the Bill also provides for a screening process to obtain a Certificate of Identity. This Certificate will certify the person as ‘transgender’. An application for obtaining such a Certificate will be referred to a District Screening Committee which will comprise five members including a medical officer, psychologist or psychiatrist, and a representative of the transgender community.
The Bill therefore allows individuals to self-identify their gender, but at the same time they must also undergo the screening process to get certified, and as a result be identified as a ‘transgender’. In this context, it is unclear how these two provisions of self-perceived gender identity and an external screening process will reconcile with each other. The Standing Committee has also upheld both these processes of self-identification and the external screening process to get certified. In addition, the Committee recommended that the Bill should provide for a mechanism for appeal against the decisions of the District Screening Committee.
Since, the Bill provides certain entitlements to transgender persons for their inclusion and participation in society, it can be argued that there must be an objective criteria to verify the eligibility of these applicants for them to receive benefits targeted for transgender persons.
Status of transgender persons under existing laws
Currently, several criminal and civil laws recognise two categories of gender i.e. man and woman. These include laws such as Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) and Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Now, the Bill seeks to recognise a third gender i.e. ‘transgender’. However, the Bill does not clarify how transgender persons will be treated under certain existing laws.
For example, under NREGA, priority is given to women workers (at least one-third of the beneficiaries are to be women) if they have registered and requested for work under the Act. Similarly, under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, there are different eligibility criteria for males and females to adopt a girl child. In this context, the applicability of such laws to a ‘transgender’ person is not stated in the Bill. The Standing Committee has recommended recognising transgender persons’ right to marriage, partnership, divorce and adoption, as governed by their personal laws or other relevant legislation.
In addition, the penalties for similar offences may also vary because of the application of different laws based on gender identity. For example, under the IPC, sexual offences related to women attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, which is higher than that specified for sexual abuse against a transgender person under the Bill (up to two years).
Who is a transgender person?
As per international standards, ‘transgender’ is an umbrella term that includes persons whose sense of gender does not match with the gender assigned to them at birth.,  For example, a person born as a man may identify with the opposite gender, i.e., as a woman. In addition to this sense of mismatch, the definition provided under the Bill also lists further criteria to be defined as a transgender person. These additional criteria include being (i) ‘neither wholly male nor female’, or (ii) ‘a combination of male or female’, or (iii) ‘neither male nor female’.
The Supreme Court, the Expert Committee of the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare, and the recent Standing Committee report all define ‘transgender persons’ based on the mismatch only.1,, Therefore, the definition provided under the Bill does not clarify if simply proving a mismatch is enough (as is the norm internationally) or whether the additional listed criteria ought to be fulfilled as well.
Offences and penalties
The Bill specifies certain offences which include: (i) compelling transgender persons to beg or do forced or bonded labour, and (ii) physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse. These offences will attract imprisonment between six months and two years, in addition to a fine.
The Standing Committee recommended graded punishment for different offences, and suggested that those involving physical and sexual assault should attract higher punishment. It further stated that the Bill must also specifically recognise and provide appropriate penalties for violence faced by transgender persons from officials in educational institutions, healthcare institutions, police stations, etc.
. National Legal Services Authority vs. Union of India [(2014) 5 SCC 438]; Article 21, Constitution of India.
. Sections 354, 354A, 354B, 375, Indian Penal Code, 1860.
. Guidelines related to Transgender persons, American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/transgender.pdf.
. Standards of Care, 7th Version, The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, https://s3.amazonaws.com/amo_hub_content/Association140/files/Standards%20of%20Care%20V7%20-%202011%20WPATH%20(2)(1).pdf.
. Report of the Expert Committee on the Issues relating to Transgender Persons, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, January 27, 2014, http://socialjustice.nic.in/writereaddata/UploadFile/Binder2.pdf.
. Report no.43, The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, July 21, 2017, http://18.104.22.168/lsscommittee/Social%20Justice%20&%20Empowerment/16_Social_Justice_
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has decided to conduct an off-cycle meeting today to discuss the failure to meet the inflation target under Section 45ZN of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. As per the Reserve Bank of India Act (RBI), 1934, MPC is required to meet at least four times each year, to discuss the macroeconomic issues in the country, and take policy decisions to address those. This is the second time MPC has conducted an off-cycle meeting in 2022-23. The meeting is scheduled in light of inflation being consistently high for nine consecutive months.
In this blog, we discuss what the inflation targeting framework is, examine retail and wholesale prices, and the divergence between them.
What is the inflation targeting framework, and what happens if inflation is persistently high?
In 2016, Parliament amended the RBI Act, 1934 to change the monetary policy, and introduce an inflation targeting framework. This framework prioritises price stability to achieve sustainable GDP growth. Price stability allows investors to confidently invest their money for productive activities, without worrying about it losing value. Price stability also maintains the purchasing power of consumers, i.e., the ability to purchase a good (or service) with a given amount of money.
As per the new framework, the central government, in consultation with RBI sets: (i) an inflation target, and (ii) an upper and lower tolerance level for retail inflation. The target has been set at 4%, with an upper tolerance limit of 6% and a lower tolerance limit of 2%. The upper and lower limits indicate that although it is desirable for inflation to be close to 4%, deviation between these limits is acceptable. The target and bands are revised every five years. In March 2021, the existing targets were carried forward.
Retail inflation has been above 6% for the past nine months, and it has been above 4% from October 2019 onwards (See Figure 1).
Figure 1: Consumer price index (year-on-year; in percentage)
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.
If inflation is above or below the prescribed limits for three quarters, RBI must submit a report to the central government explaining why prices have been rising (or falling) persistently, what will be done to correct that, and an estimate as to when the target will be achieved.
The MPC uses tools such as interest rates to control the level of inflation in the economy. One such rate is the policy repo rate, which is the rate at which RBI lends money to banks. An increase in the policy repo rate makes borrowing money more costly, and hence is expected to control inflation by reducing the money supply. MPC increased this rate from 4% in April 2022 to 4.4% in May 2022, to 4.9% in June 2022, to 5.4% in August 2022, and to 5.9% in September 2022.
Breaking down the Consumer Price Index and the Wholesale Price Index
Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the general prices of goods and services such as food, clothing, and fuel over time. Retail inflation is calculated as the change in the CPI over a period of time. Goods and services such as petrol, food products, health, and education are considered for its calculation, which are assigned different weights (See Table 1). Between February 2022 and August 2022, the average annual inflation was 6.9%. The rise in prices of subcomponents of the CPI during this period is indicated in Table 2.
Table 1: Assigned weights for the calculation of CPI
Sources: MOSPI; PRS.
Table 2: Average inflation of some CPI components
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, RBI; PRS.
CPI is not the only index that measures inflation in an economy. The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measures the wholesale prices of goods. A change in wholesale prices reflects wholesale inflation. Table 3 indicates the weights assigned to goods for calculating the WPI. Manufactured goods include metals, chemicals, food products, and textiles.
Primary articles (23%) include food articles, and crude petroleum and natural gas. Fuel and power (12%) include mineral oils, electricity, and coal. WPI has remained above 10% from April 2021 onwards. It reached an all-time high of 17% in May 2022. This was driven by the inflation in metals, kerosene and petroleum coke, fruits and vegetables, and palm oil.
Table 3:Assigned weights for the
Sources: Ministry of Commerce and Industry; PRS.
Why has WPI inflation been consistently above CPI inflation?
Movements in the WPI have an impact on the CPI. For almost a year and half, CPI inflation has remained below WPI inflation. However, as per the design of the indices, it is expected that CPI would remain above WPI, and that any increase in WPI would reflect in the CPI after a time lag. This is because retail prices include taxes (as a percentage of price), while wholesale prices do not. Additionally, some of the goods in WPI act as inputs in the goods considered in CPI. An increase in input prices would lead to higher retail prices after a time lag.
We discuss possible reasons for why CPI has remained below WPI for a year and a half.
Figure 2: Consumer Price Index and Wholesale Price Index
Sources: Database on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India; PRS.
Composition of indices
As indicated in Table 2 and 3, the composition of the two indices varies. For instance, prices of manufacture of basic metals, chemicals, and machinery grew at an average rate of 13% between February 2021 and September 2022. They contribute 7% to the WPI. These are input goods for producing final goods and services such as automobiles, which are included in the CPI. The rise in prices of transport vehicles, communication devices, fuel for transport, and housing (CPI components) rose by 6% during this period.
The Ministry of Finance has observed that wholesale prices did not feed into retail prices (from March 2021 onwards) as wholesalers absorbed the rising input costs and did not pass them on to retailers. In August 2022, it noted that as retail prices are rising now, the pass-through may occur.