Rural women present their vision of socio-economic change

Rural Women
Photo by Reena Yadav

Chingari is an organization mainly of rural women of weaker sections which has been involved in raising several issues of justice and equality in parts of Bundelkhand region. One of its more active units in Banda district recently organized a two day camp in Rai Kolawalpur village (Mahua block) to introspect on the problems facing them and the challenges ahead on February 28 and March 1 2024. After discussing various socio-economic issues concerning several villages by forming several groups for various villages, they held a combined meeting of women from all villages and adopted a charter of demands as well as a program of internal social reform.

The importance of what has emerged from here is in terms of very important but also very practical demands which these women see in terms of the difficulties and problems they face in their day-to-day life. There is no rhetoric here, only reality as seen in terms of actual life experiences. So as we shall see below, in terms of land reforms they don’t raise any big slogans like land to the tiller, but simply talk about what my still be in the realm of possibility—that they should be able to cultivate the land pattas already distributed and the process of distributing land pattas should continue. This is not to say that these women cannot think of a wider vision of land reforms, but simply that they are more concerned just now about what can be achieved at a practical level in the existing real conditions.

There was a lot of discussion in the small groups involving more women which would not have been possible in the wider group. Several men also contributed to the discussion, particularly those from the host village.

The following demands were adopted unanimously at the combined meeting of all those present for forwarding to the administration.

  1. MG-NREGA should function according to provisions of law, assuring 100 day employment to all those who demand this and ensuring payment of full wages within 15 days. Wage rates should be raised upwards keeping in view inflationary trends.
  2. The poor and deserving households should get the proper priority for PM Awas, and the allocation per beneficiary household should be raised.
  3. Households which have not constructed toilets yet should receive help for this and allocation per household should be raised.
  4. Support for self-help groups of rural women should increase with improvements.
  5. Wherever ordinary and poor villagers are suffering due to corruption or due to harassment by dabangs, the administration should provide quick relief to the victims.
  6. All laws relating to security of women should be implemented properly and many-sided steps should be taken to improve security of women, including migrating women workers. Complaints of victims should get prompt and effective attention.
  7. Baraat ghars ( for weddings and similar social occasions) should be provided, and there should be special emphasis on meeting the needs of poor and dalit communities in this respect.
  8. Har ghar nal ( water taps for every home) scheme should be taken further soon so that all people should start getting water in their taps, and at the same time steps for improving water conservation very significantly should be taken.
  9. Space for performing last rites (shamshan ghat) should be available to all and where there are encroachments on such land these should be removed.
  10. Roads and village paths in satisfactory conditions should be ensured in all villages with special emphasis on the needs of the hamlets of poor people.
  11. There is very high concern regarding increasing indebtedness of farmers as well as workers, and the government should take steps on the basis of urgency to reduce this indebtedness.
  12. All illegal sale of liquor should be banned. Setting up liquor thekas inside villages should be avoided.
  13. Education should be reformed significantly so that good quality education is available to children of poorer communities. Secondary education particularly for girls should be available within the village or very close to this. Children who are out of school education should also get at least some education.
  14. Health-care facilities, hospitals and above all maternity care should be improved significantly.
  15. Anganwadi benefits should reach all settlements of poor people, including the more remote hamlets.
  16. Quality of mid-day meal should improve.
  17. Electricity supply should improve. Where inflated bills have been sent these should be taken back.
  18. In villages like Bhanwarpur where flood or disaster threat has increased, prompt action should be taken regarding safety and relief.
  19. New pattas of farmland should be provided to the landless people. In the case of those who received patta earlier, proper protection and help should be provided so that they can cultivate this land in safe conditions.
  20. Chakbandi should be taken forward only in such a way that the land rights of the poor people are protected.
  21. Encroachment of river-land and ruthless sand-mining from rivers should be curbed strictly and important steps should be taken to protect rivers, rivulets and other water-bodies.
  22. Pensions to elderly people, disabled people and widows should reach them regularly and more of the eligible persons should be covered.
  23. Migrating workers should be registered, and complaints against their illegal exploitation should be promptly taken up to provide justice to them. Construction workers should be helped to get registration under the welfare laws enacted for construction workers.
  24. Public distribution system should be improved so that missing units can be added and new ration cards can be made wherever the need for this exists.
  25. Organic farming and low-cost ecologically friendly farming should receive more importance.
  26. Whenever honest panchayat leaders and social activists face harassment, the administration should adopt a protective attitude towards them.
  27. The government should be supportive towards those social reforms which are taken up by communities.
Women Empowerment
Photo by Reena Yadav

Apart from these demands to be sent to the administration the Chingari organization expressed unanimous agreement regarding the following program of self-reform and social reform.

  1. A continuing effort will be made to steadily reduce the consumption of liquor as well as all other intoxicants including ganja, bidis and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, gutka, drugs etc. Nasha virodhi samitis will be set up in villages with women taking the lead.
  2. Efforts will be made to reduce gambling as much as possible.
  3. Efforts will be made to reduce all kinds of violence against women on a continuing basis.
  4. Efforts will be made to reduce as much as possible any discrimination on the basis of caste or religion, and to promote village unity at all levels on the basis of equality and justice so that all people can be united to take up various constructive tasks, including tasks of environment protection and keeping the village as clean as possible.

The conference ended on a note of enthusiasm and commitment to meet the challenges ahead.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Man over Machine, Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071.               

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