The best way to know the self is feeling oneself at the moments of reckoning. The feeling of being alone, just with your senses, may lead you to think more consciously. More and more of such moments may sensitize ‘you towards you’, towards others. We become regular with introspection and retrospection. We get ‘the’ gradual connect to the higher self we may name Spirituality or God or just a Humane Conscious. We tend to get a rhythm again in life. We need to learn the art of being lonely in crowd while being part of the crowd. A multitude of loneliness in mosaic of relations! One needs to feel it severally, with conscience, before making it a way of life. One needs to live several such lonely moments. One needs to live severallyalone.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

RHETORIC AGAIN, DISCRIMINATION REMAINS AT ROOT

Mister Sharad Yadav said he would consume poison if the Women’s Reservation Bill were passed in current form.

Cut to the euphoria expressed by across the section on Meira Kumar being elected as first Women Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

It was said to be proud moment for women of the country! The country sang the eulogy in the louder vein. The chorus to the politics of conditionality and unilateralist viewpoint, as is the case with Sharad Yadav and other opponents of the Bill, is also growing louder.

Ironies of the 11th hour! Is this an indication of conflict of interests? Conflicts of interests of pro-egalitarain and anti-egalitarian approaches to the society? Is this desperation of the last hours to maintain the patriarchal flow of society by a section (or majority, who knows)?

An answer or a solution is certainly a tricky and complex one in the light of various affirmative actions taken since we became sovereign. A change in an orthodox society is always tough to be brought about. But then we lack even in the basic premises towards the other half of us. Chorus of both the types mentioned in the opening paragraph is just about this.

We say it is a proud moment for women that a woman will chair the Lok Sabha. In saying so, we, very conveniently, forget the basic discriminatory nature of the text. Rather it was a long overdue that just has come to the fore. It becomes even more ironical when we look back, when we see stateswomen and politicians like Sarojini Naidu and Indira Gandhi or emergence of Sonia Gandhi or Mayawati. Therefore this overture should not have been expressed like a new beginning made. What is relevance of adoring women with a self-conceited array of words, time and again, that makes women realize their secondary status? Rather we should introspect and retrospect to look at failed initiatives, either spontaneous, or through efforts.

Indeed, it is a long journey of failed initiatives, failures not just on part of men, but women, too, have played their role. Somewhere, somehow, they became part of the patriarchal flow of the society. While man is undoubtedly the culprit, it is a truth to be accepted that almost of dowry deaths are abetted by in-laws including mother-in-law. Seems somewhere it is the basic nature of humanity to seldom to learn from one’s own miseries and hard times though sometimes a woman has no option but to become a silent party to these atrocities. Agreed, suppression suppresses voice. Agreed, voices, though at a low pitch, can be heard sometimes, even being heard louder than ever. But, mostly these are individuals who stand out; something needs to be massified desperately. Agreed, we’ve improved women participation in most walks of the life. But, has there been a change in the mindset or the kind of the change in the mindset that is required at the first place for a change to take place. There can just be ‘either’ or ‘or’ answers. Either there has been no change or change at a pace where we have failed to keep a tab on to realize a process of change.

Government of India reserved one third of the seats for women in Panchayats way back in 1993, yet it has not been able to invite a healthy debate in the House over the Women’s Reservation Bill since it was first introduced in 1997. Every time it was tabled, chaos erupted and pushed it for a postponement without a date. It should be seen as an eye-opener to the pace of reforms, of our intentions, to project a society of ‘equal-opportunities’. Providing reservation to rural women in the rural governing bodies 17 years ago was an initiative that was akin to hitting the malaise at the root, a right approach to start the process from ‘Basics’. Ideally, it should have resulted in a qualitatively strong representation base for women in local rural governing bodies in 17 years and that should have been echoed at national level, at least. As per the ‘The State of the Panchayats,' a mid-term report on panchayati raj system, 36.7% of total panchayat representatives was women in 2007. As on December 1, 2006, Bihar had the highest number of women panchayat leaders in the country, incidentally a state with lowest development indicators. Though the statistics reveal women have increased their representation in rural governing bodies, still the achievers are accorded with ‘proud moment for women’, indicating why still terms like ‘Pati Pradhan’ are used for women Panchayat Heads. It is, therefore, a corollary, just to mention, that ‘bottom of pyramid’, the basic crust of our multi-layered society, have not produced the desired result. It too has become debatable like ‘reservation to weaker sections’ of the society, a still debated concept that was initially introduced for five years in 50’s and is continuing without any social or accountability audit to bring about period refroms. It presents a very reasoned prospect that ‘do we really need a category of reservation’ again’ when we adopt such a lackadaisical attitude to such an important affirmative action that had and that has potential to produce a egalitarian society? We have been witness to how it has been handled and we will be witness to.

Ideally, statistical success of women in Panchayats should have been echoed and the Women’s Reservation Bill should have been adopted. But on the surface, the condition is still gloomy as far as the basic women development indicators are concerned.

In some rich Indian states like in Punjab and Haryana, sex ratio never reached to the level of 900 since the Census started in 1901. Gujarat, with a sex ratio of 921, and Maharashtra with a sex ratio of 922, is also below the national level of 933. In fact, Maharashtra has seen a gradual decline in sex ratio after independence except the 1981 Census while Gujarat never crossed the 950 mark. And, with growing prosperity, sex ratio is on growing decline. The ‘defined’ urban landscape is no better, even worse. Just see the sex ratio of places-South Delhi (788), New Delhi (785), South West Delhi (771), Mumbai (770), Chandigarh (740). In case of female literacy, only Maharashtra, out of the four mentioned above, could find 10th spot in the best ten states in terms of female literacy according to an Indicus report for female literacy for 2008-09 estimates. Also, an Indicus report estimates at least 25 districts in the country with more than 60% of under-aged girl marriages. When we take industry, women representation has increased there with brilliant figures in sectors like IT and BPO but making relieving moves at such figures would be nothing more than complacency. If we go by a 2008 ILO report, while the 78% of working age men had jobs, only 34% of women could get a professional vocation and mind you, these are global figures. Think of India perspective here. Also a report says,“The National Sample Survey 2004-05 shows that across all kinds of income, social or wage labour categories, farm or non-farm, rural or urban, women tend to get the least. Compared with a scheduled tribe male worker earning Rs60 as average daily wage for a non-farm job and Rs41 for farm labour, a tribal woman would be getting Rs42 and Rs29. A male college graduate, similarly, would earn Rs130 for a non-farm job, while a female would earn Rs95.” Add it to increased cases of glass ceiling. An eye-opener?

Language is the most potent tool, to elevate, to maintain a make-believe situation, to continue the domination. When we say a ‘proud moment’ about a moment, we need to look beneath. We need to go for ramifications before we act. It is indeed a welcome change that some of most dominant figures in Indian politics today are women but we need to weigh this proposition historically.

Detailed analysis on the way..

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