Editorial 1 : Women want change, society needs change


17th edition of the Global Gender Gap Report (G3R) of the WEF or World Economic Forum (2023), based on data from 146 countries, has concluded that at the current rate of progress, it will take 131 years to close the global gender gap; it is 149 years in populous South Asian countries including India.

Global gender gap:

  • It “assesses countries on how well they are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities”.
  • Gender Gap Index measures gender equality based on the relative gaps between women and men across 4 key areas:
  1. Economic Participation and Opportunity
  2. Educational Attainment
  3. Health and Survival
  4. Political Empowermen
  • The value ranges between 0 (complete inequality) and 1 (complete equality)
India has progressed from 135th rank in 2022 to 127th out of 146 countries in the report’s 2023 edition. India has closed 64.3% of the overall gender gap.

Closing the gender gap:

  • What women want is a level playing field where the factor of gender which is completely irrelevant but looms large, is removed from the equation.
  • Reservation is the most effective form of affirmative action and equity is the first step to equality. That it leads to inefficiency or incompetency is simply making excuses for not rendering tightly guarded spaces to ousted classes.
  • The basic premise of advocates against reservation is that it will bring down competence. Incompetencies, even if they arise, are short term, and are removed soon after opportunity for skill building is made available. Statistics show that women perform much better than men in academics, more women graduate from colleges than men, and more women enter the workforce than men. In contrast to this trend, the number of women sharply spirals downwards in leadership positions not because of their incompetence, but because of the hegemony of men.

A fresh start

  • The Women’s Reservation Bill or (128th Constitutional Amendment) Bill, 2023, became a rare piece of legislation in independent India to be cleared overwhelmingly by both Houses. While India’s founding fathers ensured that India was early to adopt universal adult suffrage, the role of women in shaping the country’s political future still remains minimal.
The women’s reservation bill or Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam reserves one-third (33%) of the seats in Lok Sabha, State legislative assemblies and the Delhi assembly. This will also apply to the seats reserved for SCs (Scheduled Castes) and STs (Scheduled Tribes) in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures.However,  the reservation will not be effective immediately, but only after the next census. Based on the census, delimitation will be undertaken to reserve seats for women. The reservation will be provided for a period of 15 years. However, it shall continue till such date as determined by Parliamentary enactment.

In leadership roles

  • Historical evidence points out that but for a few Taleb’s black swans, all women who have assumed leadership roles did not get there by sheer industry, competence and intelligence. They were allowed only for the convenience of men who were disqualified from assuming these positions, or, if it served some political agenda.
  • In the Indian political arena women leaders were, most often, convenient choices. Historical evidence also shows that most women who make it to leadership positions have a mix of privileges — of higher education, the support of influential mentors or families, or belong to upper classes or castes. Despite these privileges, women also take longer to assume leadership positions, as can be seen from the relatively slow rise of Indira Gandhi vis-a-vis the mercurial rise of Rajiv Gandhi.
  • Even the handful of privileged women who assume leadership are not supportive or empathetic to the aspirations of those women who do not even have access to basic needs such as nutrition, education and financial independence. They reel under the misconception that they have become leaders by virtue of their own efforts and sacrifices, ignoring the personal advantages they possess. Thus, the biggest block is the regressive views on gender equality held by men and women.

Way forward:

  • Why do women have to wait so long to close the gender gap? The present Bill is the first step towards actualising gender parity. One only wishes that its implementation would be based on a readjustment of seats on the basis of the 1991 Census, as it is done in the case of Scheduled Caste seats by the Delimitation Commission, rather than waiting for the delimitation exercise pegged on the next Census, whenever it is held.


  • It is time to quickly set right historical wrongs. Women want change. Society needs change. And there is no reason why it should be late.

Editorial 2 : We need evidence based traditional medicine


  • The case filed by a manufacturer of indigenous drugs against a medical practitioner on the grounds that his social media thread affected their business has become a cause celebrè in medical circles.

Modern medicine

  • It is a fact that irrespective of the advances of modern medicine, several systems which lay claim to healing, and which all fall under the broad category of alternative medicine, exist. Certain systems such as Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha have their own pharmacopeia in India.
  • Modern medicine really became science based only from the late 19th century when advances in technology made not only the study of the functioning of the human body in health and disease more accurate, but also led to safe anaesthesia and surgery.
  • Later, this process led to marvels such as dialysis for kidney failure and the heartlung machine which made surgery on the heart a daily affair. The development of scientific thought in the 20th century, including the Popperian idea of falsifiability, led to advances in evaluating medical therapies.
  • Subjected to the methods of modern science, which are continually being refined, many therapies were found to be ineffective and abandoned. This is the strength of the modern method, the recognition that science continually advances and self corrects.
The Nobel Winning antimalarial artemisinin was synthesised thanks to investigators who were open minded enough to take cues from a 1,600 yearold text of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The case of Ayurveda:

  • The physiological basis of Ayurveda is not sound, but that does not ipso facto mean that its therapies are not sound either. Like many traditional medical systems everywhere, Ayurveda was constrained in its understanding of how the human body works by the lack of available technology.
  • A reason based world view is what differentiates Ayurveda epistemologically from the erstwhile faith based forms of the Atharva Veda. Proponents of Ayurveda who claim that everything was already known to the ancient people do it a great disservice and stultify its growth and development.
  • One of the greatest triumphs of modern epistemology is its ability to synthesise ideas from across the world to build a coherent system of how the world functions. This is an ongoing process, subject to corrections and improvements as thought and technology improve, building on past knowledge.
  • In modern drug development, the commonly used method is to isolate the active principle. Thus, most modern medicines are single ingredient and only a few are combinations. Also, the exact amount of the active principle is carefully calculated.
  • Ayurvedic medicines are commonly combinations, and it is uncertain how these combinations interact with each other. It would increase the acceptability of Ayurvedic medicines in the scientific community if they were evaluated by the methods of modern science in a way that does not compromise with the wholeness of Ayurvedic formulations.

Way forward:

  • New investigational methods and trial designs which can evaluate Ayurvedic therapies without undermining the classical bases of administering them must be worked out. The Ministry of AYUSH must facilitate this.
  • The purpose of government policy is to make life better for the people. The health of the people should not be hostage to false ideas of nationalism. The aim should be to carry out an evidence based appraisal of all traditional medical systems, retain and develop what is useful, and integrate them into one cogent system of medicine available to all.


  • A few individuals do a disservice to the cause of evidence based medicine by denouncing traditional medical systems wholesale. Science requires open mindedness disciplined by scepticism. Denouncing traditional systems in toto would result is a hasty dismissal of valuable medical experience that has undergone repeated, albeit informal, verifications at the hands of generations of practitioners.