सीधे मुख्य सामग्री पर जाएं

PRIs just a beginning for transforming rural India via gender revolution

By Moin Qazi*
Not long after Nirmala Geghate took over as sarpanch in Wanoja, a remote hamlet in northern Maharashtra, groups of young men stopped hanging out in front of the shop at the village square, where they used to ogle and catcall female laborers who walked by in dusty saris.
There were several ripple effects of the new found women power in the village .Enrollment of girls in the local school increased. A mother asked for and received a mobile phone from her husband, which is a rare luxury for rural females. Other women who had been confined to their homes were suddenly allowed to venture outside the village boundaries for the first time.
A unique policy experiment in village-level governance that mandates one-third representation of women in positions of local leadership has revolutionised gender status across millions of villages in India. In 1993, the government brought in an epochal legislation called the ‘Panchayati Raj Act’ which reserves seats for women on panchayats (councils) that take decisions on every important subject in the rural political life. Once the sole preserve of men, panchayats now have women members and leaders, who are challenging feudal traditions and redefining the way councils are run. In this process, they are also learning some important political lessons.
This new law was the fruition of Gandhiji’s dream, to see local governance and gender justice being managed by village self-republics that have a purely localised approach. Gandhiji believed that the ‘Panchayat Raj’ system would obviate the feelings of alienation for locals and preclude the external intervention of higher-level urban civic officials. He strongly believed that those urban civic officers may not be familiar with the concerns of the local populace and may not share the same level of emotional attachment.
The new female role models that the law created had a dramatic impact on families and younger women. Today, these newly-minted panchayat leaders are concentrating much more on women-centric issues such as clean water supply, sanitation and education than their male counterparts. Their major concerns include construction of toilets, cleanliness and hygiene of villages, education for women and the problem of alcoholism. A higher share of funds is being allocated to public goods and services that benefit women as the well-being of women strongly influences the well-being of all others, especially the children.
However, this devolution of power has not been as seamless as it seems. Rural India is one of the world’s most diverse areas, constituting 833 million people who speak more than 700 different languages among them. To invoke cultural changes in these areas is no less than fighting for a revolution, but the restraining forces seem to be ebbing. Still, untouchability, feudalism, bonded labour, extreme caste, gender oppression; exploitation and land grab are few of the afflictions that must be eliminated completely if Indian women are to spend their lives fairly and peacefully.
Many of these leaders started as ‘showpiece’ elected women representatives (EWR), but over time, they have developed into proactive people’s representatives who are keen to strive for local development based on their own unique understanding of the needs and aspirations of people. When these seats are coupled with new skills from public speaking to budget management, they are better prepared to negotiate within the political space that has opened for them.
The most important feature of good local governance is participation. People not only vote every few years; they have a direct voice in decision-making and governance through public forums, citizen committees and voluntary action campaigns. However, in large swathes of rural India, representation has not necessarily translated into active engagement in the political space. Women still face a number of challenges including inadequate education, the burdens of productive and reproductive roles, financial dependence and an entrenched belief system that sees them as inferior to men.
India’s experience demonstrates that putting women in leadership positions can catalyse the change process. Although the first generation of women leaders had to cope with entrenched mores and traditions that left them locked into purely domestic roles, their presence in local organizations and committees has convinced the Indian masses of a woman’s ability and potential to lead.
There was a time when women were just titular heads, with their husbands, dubbed sarpanch patis who wore the crown and run the show. Most of those elected women were proxies for their husbands or fathers. They either sat mutely beside the male family member who made the decisions at meetings or they simply did not attend.
By increasing exposure to nontraditional leaders, the reservation system has changed the voter’s attitudes in regards to the ability of disadvantaged groups to lead. The quota system, beyond its immediate impact on gender balance among leaders, is now having long-term effects on the status and roles of women in the conservative Indian society by changing perceptions of their leadership capabilities and shaping beliefs about what they can achieve.
Women panchayat leaders are focusing on building separate bathrooms for girls. As studies have shown, this will directly reduce the number of female drop-outs after puberty. They ensure the delivery of safe drinking water to all students. Even though these may sound like simple palliatives, in reality, they are necessary developments in rural education.
It is clear that women’s leadership in panchayats is transforming India. The presence of a female leader in the village significantly increased the level of aspirations held by families for their daughters and female adolescents. They have also improved educational outcomes for adolescent girls, which will improve the labour market over time and help bridge the ratio of male-female working population in India.
Rohini Pande, a professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, finds that the quota system results in big aspirational gains for girls in those locations. Her research showed that compared with places that did not have a quota, the gender gap in aspirations closed by 25 percent in parents, and 32 percent in teenagers in villages assigned to a female leader for two election cycles. In Professor Pande’s own words “It’s not that they put women on the council and attitudes changed overnight; these attitudinal changes were gradual. But our research shows that perceptions of women as leaders improve. Seeing a woman in the village meeting has a big effect”.
The great strength of democracy, according to Amartya Sen lies in it that, “it gives people in need a voice and, by so doing, plays a protective role against so many different forms of political and economic abuse”. PRI is just a beginning for transforming rural India by engendering a gender revolution. It is only one step on the way, but fortunately, it is the right step on the right ladder.
In the long term, the journey is going to be harder and tougher than any policy wonk can imagine. The wait could potentially be eternal. Legislation and policy pronouncements seldom penetrate the surface of social and political barriers and are ultimately impotent against the grid of the established power structures inherent in most rural Indian households and villages.
The vision is truly not as romantic as many would like us to believe, but as women have shown, they have all that is needed to ride out every storm. The men know this very well, but they don’t want to concede that women possess the ability to be the better halves because they are afraid of losing their last refuge—politics.

*Author of “Village Diary of a Heretic Banker”, was for more than three decades in the development sector

टिप्पणियाँ

ट्रेंडिंग

हिंदी आलोचना जैसे पिछड़ चुके अनुशासन की जगह हिंदी वैचारिकी का विकास जरूरी

- प्रमोद रंजन*   भारतीय राजनीति में सांप्रदायिक व प्रतिक्रियावादी ताकतों को सत्ता तक पहुंचाने में हिंदी पट्टी का सबसे बड़ा योगदान है। इसका मुख्य कारण हिंदी-पट्टी में कार्यरत समाजवादी व जनपक्षधर हिरावल दस्ते का विचारहीन, अनैतिक और  प्रतिक्रियावादी होते जाना है। अगर हम उपरोक्त बातों को स्वीकार करते हैं, तो कुछ रोचक निष्कर्ष निकलते हैं। हिंदी-जनता और उसके हिरावल दस्ते को विचारहीन और प्रतिक्रियावादी बनने से रोकने की मुख्य ज़िम्मेदारी किसकी थी?

ગુજરાતના સ્થાપના દિવસે યાદ કરીએ ભારતના વિશ્વપ્રસિદ્ધ ગુજરાતી પુરાતત્વવિદ્ ને

- ગૌરાંગ જાની*  આજે કોઈ ગુજરાતી એ કલ્પના પણ ન કરી શકે કે વર્ષ ૧૮૩૯ માં જૂનાગઢમાં જન્મેલા એક ગુજરાતી વિશ્વ પ્રસિદ્ધ બની શકે! પણ આપણે એ ગુજરાતીને કદાચ વિસરી ગયા છીએ જેમણે ગિરનારના અશોક શિલાલેખને દોઢસો વર્ષ પૂર્વે ઉકેલી આપ્યો.આ વિદ્વાન એટલે ભગવાનલાલ ઈન્દ્રજી. ૭ નવેમ્બર, ૧૮૩૯ ના દિવસે જૂનાગઢના પ્રશ્નોરા નાગર બ્રાહ્મણ પરિવારમાં તેમનો જન્મ થયો હતો. જૂનાગઢના એ સમયે અંગ્રેજી શિક્ષણની સગવડ ન હોવાને કારણે તેમને અંગ્રેજી ભાષાનું જ્ઞાન ન હતું પણ પાછળથી તેમણે ખપ પૂરતું અંગ્રેજી જાણી લીધું હતું.

Under Modi, democracy is regressing and economy is also growing slowly

By Avyaan Sharma*   India is "the largest democracy in the world", but now its democracy is regressing and its economy is also growing slowly. What has PM Modi's ten years in power brought us? Unemployment remains high. Joblessness is particularly high among India's youth - with those aged 15 to 29 making up a staggering 83% of all unemployed people in India, according to the "India Employment Report 2024", published last month by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD). The BJP-led government did not provide jobs to two crore youth in a year as was promised by Modi in the run up to the 2014 general elections.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

ભારતમાં જિસસ ક્રાઈસ્ટના દર્શન, ખ્રિસ્તી ધર્મના આગમનને કારણે સમાજ વ્યવસ્થામાં પરિવર્તન

- ઉત્તમ પરમાર  મારી કિશોર અવસ્થામાં કેટલાક ચિત્રો અને મૂર્તિઓએ હૃદયમાં એવું સ્થાન જમાવ્યું છે કે આજદિન પર્યંત  ઉત્તરોઉત્તર વિકસતું જ રહ્યું છે. પ્રેમ કરુણાના મૂર્તિમંત અવતાર  જિસસ ક્રાઈસ્ટને વધુસ્તંભે ચઢાવેલી મૂર્તિ  મારી કોઈપણ ધર્મ વિશેની સમજ નહોતી ત્યારથી મારા હૃદયમાં સ્થાપિત થયેલી છે. મારા ઘરની દિવાલ પર વધસ્તંભે ચઢેલા જીસસની પ્રતિમા જોઈને કોઈ મને પૂછી બેસતું કે તું ક્રિશ્ચન છે?

रैंकिंग: अधिकांश भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिरा, इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी

- प्रमोद रंजन*  अप्रैल, 2024 में भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों की अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर उच्च रैंकिंग की चर्चा रही। मीडिया ने इसका उत्सव मनाया। लेकिन स्थिति इसके विपरीत है। वैश्विक विश्वविद्यालय रैंकिग में अच्छा स्थान मिलने की खबरें, कुछ संस्थानों को इक्का-दुक्का विषयों में मिले रैंक के आधार पर चुनिंदा ढंग से प्रकाशित की गईं थीं। वास्तविकता यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में हमारे अधिकांश विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिर गया है। इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी रही है।

नोएडा में मैन्युअल स्कैवेंजर्स की मौत: परिवारों को मुआवजा नहीं, प्राधिकरण ने एफआईआर नहीं की

- अरुण खोटे, संजीव कुमार*  गत एक सप्ताह में, उत्तर प्रदेश में सीवर/सेप्टि क टैंक सफाई कर्मियों की सफाई के दौरान सेप्टिक टैंक में मौत। 2 मई, 2024 को, लखनऊ के वज़ीरगजं क्षेत्र में एक सेवर लाइन की सफाई करते समय शोब्रान यादव, 56, और उनके पत्रु सशुील यादव, 28, घटुन से हुई मौत। एक और घटना 3 मई 2024 को नोएडा, सेक्टर 26 में एक घर में सेप्टि क टैंक को सफाई करते समय दो सफाई कर्मचर्मारी नूनी मडंल, 36 और कोकन मडंल जिसे तपन मडंल के नाम से जानते हैं, की मौत हो गई। ये सफाई कर्मचर्मारी बंगाल के मालदा जिले के निवासी थे और नोएडा सेक्टर 9 में रहते थे। कोकन मडंल अपनी पत्नी अनीता मडंल के साथ रहते थे। इनके तीन स्कूल जाने वाले बच्चे हैं जो बंगाल में रहते हैं। नूनी मडंल अपनी पत्नी लिलिका मडंल और अपने पत्रु सजुान के साथ किराए पर झग्गी में रहते थे। वे दैनिक मजदरूी और सफाई कर्मचर्मारी के रूप में काम करते थे।

प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने कुछ परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली: प्रमुख प्रस्थापनायें

- राणा सिंह   भारत में परजीवियों का एक विशाल समूह है जो बोलता है कि “सब कुछ माया है”,  लेकिन व्यवहार में यह समूह सारी जिंदगी इसी “माया” के पीछे पागल रहता है।  प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने इन परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली थी।

बिहार के ऐतिहासिक विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय के खंडहरों की परिक्रमा का रोमांचक अवसर

- सुमन्त शरण  कुछ दिन पहले एक सुदूर ग्रामीण अंचल (पीरपैंती)  से तकरीबन डेढ़-दो घंटे की दूरी पर अवस्थित ऐतिहासिक बौद्ध विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय (के अवशेषों) की परिक्रमा का अवसर मिला। विक्रमशीला विश्वविद्यालय की स्थापना पाल वंश के राजा धर्मपाल ने की थी। 8वीं शताब्दी से 12वीं शताब्दी के अंत तक यह विश्वविद्यालय भारत के प्रमुख शिक्षा केंद्रों में से एक हुआ करता था। कहा जाता है कि यह अपने कुछेक अत्यंत अनूठे नवाचार के चलते उस समय नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय का सबसे बड़ा प्रतिस्पर्धी था। हालांकि, मान्यता यह भी है कि अल्प अवधि के लिए दोनों विश्वविद्यालय के बीच शिक्षण एवं प्रबंधन के क्षेत्रों में घनिष्ठ पारस्परिक संबंध एवं शिक्षकों के आदान-प्रदान का सिलसिला भी रहा था। यह विश्वविद्यालय तंत्रशास्त्र की पढ़ाई के लिए सबसे ज्यादा विख्यात था। इस विषय का एक सबसे विख्यात छात्र अतीसा दीपनकरा था, जो बाद में तिब्बत जाकर बौद्ध हो गया। इसके प्रथम कुलपति ज्ञान अतिस थे।