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  • Women’s group demands accurate BPL surveys

    Participants at the one-day Sangharsh Sabha, organised by the All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) in Delhi on April 24 came down heavily on government officers who were sent to the villages to conduct surveys on people living below the poverty line (BPL). “All they do is stay put in the house of the sarpanch and write the report on the basis of what he feeds them.”

    The convention was organised to mark the 10th anniversary of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments relating to the setting up of panchayati raj institutions.

    The BPL survey reports, based on data collected by officers, have always come in for a lot of criticism. “This time, when the officers came for the survey, a group of women went to the sarpanch’s house and (asked) them to actually visit every house for an accurate survey. The men did go to the houses but the kind of questions they asked were totally irrelevant,” said Raj Dulari.

    The Sangharsh Sabha also sought to create a new food policy to provide low-priced foodgrain and work for all.

    “The prime minister and the chief minister could do us a great favour by diverting the money spent on organising rallies to setting up industries where the poor and Dalits could get jobs,” Dulari added.

    Laxmibai of Rangareddy district in Andhra Pradesh had another story to tell. She said that foodgrain received under the various government schemes was either sold in the black market, or the sarpanchs refused to distribute it.

    “The government has also increased the prices of subsidised foodgrain from Rs 2 per kg to Rs 5.50 per kg and reduced the quantity to 4 kg per head. The result is that people are forced to sell their young daughters, mortgage their wives or even commit suicide,” she said.

    The convention resolved to intensify the struggle for a new food policy based on the universalisation of the Public Distribution System, low-priced and edible foodgrain and employment guarantee schemes. The convention supported a strike call given by trade unions on May 21, 2003.

    Reiterating their demands for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill, the participants said that the official definition of `empowerment’ was meaningless without addressing vital issues, the most important being the guarantee of the right to food and work for women.

    Inaugurating the convention, CPI (M) leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet said the government did not seem committed to passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, as it had been a decade since women were given reservations in panchayats.

    “When large sections of women are struggling just to ensure the survival of their families and themselves, the full potential of the 73rd and 74th amendments cannot be realised. Thus, the demand for food and work is related to strengthening the processes of democracy and women’s participation,” said AIDWA’s Brinda Karat.

    Source: The Hindu

    April 25, 2003

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