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Child care leave sparks debate PDF Print E-mail
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Written by DNA India   

Should only women bring up kids? What about single fathers?

NEW DELHI: The Centre may have seen it as a progressive move but not everyone agrees. The decision to give  women in government service paid child care leave (CCL) for two years has set off a debate. Critics argue that it may lead to gender bias and negatively impact women’s career prospects.

The department of personnel and training (DoPT) under the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions through a circular on September 11, 2008, has clarified that this leave is for the entire service period. CCL can be availed of over more than one spell, and is over and above the regular leave an employee is entitled to. It will not affect seniority and regular promotions.

In addition, maternity leave has been enhanced from 135 days (four-and-a-half months) to 180 days (6 months).

The government argues that the decision will help women balance home and office responsibilities. Critics, however, contend that it could trigger  resentment among men who comprise more than 70% of the central government workforce.

More importantly, the move could harm the chances of women getting challenging responsibilities because of long absence from work.

For instance, Reva Nayyar, former secretary in the woman and child development (MWCD) ministry, lost the  race for Cabinet secretary reportedly because of the long leave she had taken to bring up her children. The number of workdays was counted while determining seniority.

Another view was that the decision would only burden women more with child care  while the men would not get a chance to change from the traditional role of breadwinner to babysitter.

Already there is a growing feeling of discrimination among men, particularly  single fathers who also have child care responsibilities. Men complain that nowadays they share equal responsibility and by giving all the benefits to the women the government is going against  its own policy of challenging the mindset that child  care is solely the woman’s  responsibility.

“Even men should be given some extra leave like this so that they can share the responsibility of childcare. Otherwise, you are simply dumping the responsibility of childcare on women. Why should she be the only person responsible for teaching, for examination or taking care during illness, if the father is also willing to perform similar duties? Fifteen days of paternity leave is not enough. A more gendered approach is required and CCL should be extended to both parents with either of them taking the leave to share childcare responsibilities,” says women rights activist Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for Social Research.

“The government forgot about the single fathers. With the numbers of divorce cases increasing and more and more fathers getting custody of their children, it is equally important for them to spend time with their little ones. There should be special provision for single fathers,” says Kumar Jagirdhar, president of Bangalore-based Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP). Jagirdar is ex-husband of cricket Anil Kumble’s wife Chetna and is fighting a legal battle for custody of his daughter.

In addition there are extra benefits for women with disabilities. They will be paid Rs1,000 over and above their gross salary for a period of two years as a special allowance for childcare. The allowance will be paid from the time of the child’s birth till the child is two year old and will be given for two children. This money will increase by 25% every time the dearness allowance is enhanced by 50%.

The concept of CCL, as followed in Japan and The Netherlands, has been introduced for the first time in India on the recommendations of the sixth pay commission.


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