By Prarthana Mitra
On Friday, a TOI report cited a draft notification proposing amendments to Section 114 of the income tax Act, to lift the mandate on producing the father’s name for those with raised by a single mother. This means that you will no longer be required to mention your father’s name in order to procure a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card, an indispensable document for income holders and taxpayers in this country.
Why is this socially and culturally significant?
In a patriarchal society such as ours, the name of the father is often awarded such importance that it becomes the only measure of identity. Not only as surnames, which deems that we carry it around like a social (not to mention casteist) status but even when it comes to filing official paperwork, we are expected to furnish our fathers’ names without fail. From examination forms and driving licence, to filing for medical insurance and tax claims, the name of the father must be duly mentioned in almost every conceivable document.
We also don’t question this innocuous and internalised misogyny, and fill out forms demanding such information without a second thought. But the truth is, making the father’s name mandatory on any document is regressive in this day and age.
Today, millions around the world realise the gendered connotations of coalescing identity with that of our ancestral patriarchs. More importantly, there are plenty of Indians who hail from estranged families raised by hardworking single mothers, who don’t appreciate the precedence of guardianship to the father over the mother.
Towards a progressive idea of parenthood
Section 114 of the Income Tax Rules (1962) provides for the manner in which an application for allotment of a permanent account number (PAN) shall be made in form No 49A and form No 49AA. The tax department has in the recent past received several petitions seeking relaxation in the rules regarding father’s name in the PAN application, as the application process has posed several difficulties for those with mothers as single parent. Years of complaints and grievances from young Indians have culminated in this potentially historic development.
Last year, Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi struck down the obligation to mention the name of the father in students’s examination marksheets. In her appeal, she drew attention to the evolving nature of matrimony in India, with an increasing number of divorces and single mothers doing the work for two.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.