Delhi: Women Call for ‘BJP Hatao, Mahila Bachao’ in AIDWA’s National Convention
New Delhi: Hundreds of women across states gathered at a national convention held here on Thursday to share their experiences of violence and assault during 10 years of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule. Pained, hurt and humiliated, these women said were resolute in their fight for gender justice.
The national convention was organised by All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) to highlight the plight of women under the different policies of the BJP government backed by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), that they said had taken as “huge toll on the lives of women” be it inflation, violence on women, exploitation on the job, wage inequality among others.
Inaugurating the convention, Brinda Karat, patron, AIDWA, said that the current regime was following in the footsteps of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the man who coined the word ‘Hindutva’, whose repercussions were visible on half the population of the country in the form of increased crimes, indebtedness and loss of income.
“Savarkar clearly said that Manu Smriti remains the guiding text for Hindus after the Vedas and we know what this ancient text suggested about the social life of women,” she said.
Karat lambasted the Gujarat government for releasing the culprits of rape of Bilkis Bano during the 2002 communal violence, the Union government for protecting BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh who facing charges of sexual harassment by women wrestlers and the Uttar Pradesh government for protecting now expelled BJP leader Kuldeep Singh Sengar who is charged in a rape case. She added that the slogan of “BJP Hatao, Mahila Bachao” has special significance in contemporary times.
“It is often said by the leaders of this government that their state governments are run by ‘double engine’, but I must add that the conductor of this ‘double engine’ remains RSS and we have seen what venom they have filled in the minds of people in Manipur that there is an invisible divide between Kuki and Meitei communities, and the worst sufferers are women and children. The brothers and sisters have been raped and murdered. Yet, the Union government did not act,” Karat added.
Participants in the convention said women were facing a difficult battle for food and dignity.
Shabnam Bano, who came from Bikaner in Rajasthan, she did not receive any ration for 10 years despite having a ration card.
“I was told that I must submit some certificates to prove my poverty. I was frustrated. We faced difficult times during Covid when I had to literally beg for food. During this period, I took part in the ration survey that was being undertaken by the AIDWA. Through the survey I realised that I am not the only one facing problems; many women who had ration cards are also not getting rations. With the help of the organisation, a huge demonstration was organised and the women gheraoed the collectorate,” she said.
Bano said when they went to the collector with their memorandum, “he told us that the Central government has shut down the E Mitr portal now, since there is a condition now that only a limited number of people from a particular village will be considered eligible for ration. Once the allotted number is registered, the portal is automatically closed. This means that a lot of deserving families are not considered as eligible for getting grains under the Public Distribution System. This implies the exclusion of many women and poor families under the PDS.”
Bimali Nayak from Khurda district in Odisha, said her husband died by suicide because the family could not repay the loans to microfinance institutions (MFIs).
“Unable to get loans from the bank, poor and uneducated women were forced to take credit from MFIs which asked them to deposit only two documents - a photo and Aadhaar card. However, the interest rate of these MFls was very high and resulted in the exploitation of women, since many of them are not in a position to pay such exorbitant rates, which varied from 22% onward,: she said, adding that MFI agents frequently indulged in “abusing, insulting and harassing” these women when someone turned out to be a defaulter or was irregular in depositing the instalment.
“Gradually many women were caught in a debt-trap and in order to get out this trap, they were forced to mortgage their brass utensils, other household articles and even ration cards,” she added.
However, Nayak maintained that the struggle would only win them battles of livelihood. “Had government banks extended us loans at cheap rates, many women can live with dignity.”
Reading out the resolution, the participants demanded that there should be a roll-back of the pro-corporate policies of Central government and demanded greater allocations for women's welfare; withdrawal of GST on food and other essential items; imposition wealth and inheritance tax.
“It (the convention) resolves to fight for the roll back National Education Policy, 2020 and demands the restoration of scholarships,” said a resolution passed by the convention.
The resolution further added that it was against the “exclusionary practice of targeting, linking with Aadhar and use of biometric machines in the PDS; demands urgent measures to control prices of all essential items; Universalise the PDS; Recognition of Anganwadi, Midday Meal and ASHA workers as government employees; proper implementation of MGNREGA and the enactment of a Central Urban Employment Guarantee Act.
“We demand at least 200 days of guaranteed employment, the immediate payment of back wages and the delinking of the scheme from Aadhaar cards and online attendance; strict regulation of MFls and an interest ceiling of 12 percent, that all women be provided loans at 4 percent from public sector banks; one-time debt waiver for indebted SHG women,” said the resolution passed by the convention.
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