Manifesto by Vulnerables
Himachal Pradesh has made tremendous `progress’ since its inception on economic front. It has achieved one of the best growth rates and is being rated as best Pradesh on the North of Vindhya as far as `Euro-centric’ indicators of development are concerned. This has happened due to hard work of people and far sightedness of politicians of previous generation.
But unfortunately, it is the misfortune that in last couple of decades, Pradesh got second generation of ‘political masters’ who practised `politics of patronage’. To strengthen this (politics of Patronage), the political masters have created a mentality of `Dev Bhoomi’ meaning, there is happiness everywhere and nothing is going wrong. We also need to remember that Centralized Administration becomes a tool for `politics of patronage’ which results into either ‘favour seeking’ or ‘corrupt’ population.
Consequences of these are seen and felt on all aspects of public services where in `quality of life’ has become redundant and only figures and numbers have become important.
This path of `development’ has created newer sections of vulnerable population on one hand and on the other hand it has created an illusion of fragrance of rhodium.
Due to this, these newer sections of `vulnerable’ population has become an `unseen’ person or person non-grata that have to struggle for `survival with dignity’.
In short, Himachal Pradesh today is muddled with:
- Politicians without any vision for future
- Spineless and / or corrupt bureaucracy
- Unaccountable Front-line public servants
- NGOisation of civil societies, and
- Decommunitised population
The only answer to this is to create an enabling environment for `Right Based Politics’. The forthcoming elections should be used as an opportunity to create debate around these issues and we appeal to all the conscious citizens to join this debate.
To be specific, this Manifesto by Vulnerables 2007, prepared after consulting members of Ekal Naree Shakti Sangathan (membership over 5,500 spread across 7 districts); ward members of 200 Gram Panchayats, large number of Social Organisations and people who are concerned; looks in greater details of following issues:
- Newly created vulnerable sections of population
- Decentralised Governance.
- Health care services
Issues Concerning Single Women:
The Ekal Naree Shakti Sangathan across the Pradesh was successful in drawing attention to the plight of single women who as of today constitute the largest section amongst the most vulnerable population of Himachal. Every 7th married woman is a single woman and the number of `deserted women’ is completely unknown but they are seen and felt everywhere. Their plight is deeply rooted into `de-communitization of population’.
Re-communitization of population and re-establishing Gender Just Community Governance shall take long time, but this cannot happen without active persuasion of a well-laid policy and programs.
Therefore, we demand from the State, a `Policy’ on single women, based on `principles of inclusiveness’. The policy should address to all those women who are widows, Unmarried (above certain age), Divorcee, deserted by their husbands/ in-laws and women whose husbands have gone missing.
We also demand, instead of `patronage’, the policy and programs should aim at providing `rights’ to Single Women to `live with dignity’.
Therefore we have following specific demands:
A: Socio-Economic front:
- Those Single women who are able bodied but belong to poorer sections of the society and are willing to become `Self Employed Kisan’ the State should give them 2 acres of land from its surplus pool on long-term lease
- All the peripheral jobs in public sector must be reserved for Single Women
- All Single Women should be included in the list of Below Poverty Line.
- The old age pension should be on the patterns of Haryana and should be paid every month
- Every Single Woman should be provided Health Care from primary to tertiary level, free of cost.
B: Welfare Measures
Mother Teresa Scheme needs to be revamped and it should include:
- Children of Single Women upto the age of 21.
- Children of those Single women who have been driven out by their in-laws and are staying in their parental homes and are fighting court cases against their in-laws.
- Those unfortunate orphan children who are looked after by their foster parents,
- Children of those Single women, who have migrated to towns for sundry jobs.
Other Welfare Measures:
- Old and vulnerable single women must be included in Anpoorna Yojana’ and should be given nutritious food.
- Mukhy Mantri Kanyadaan Yojana should be rephrased as `Rights of Daughters of Single Women’ and daughters of Divorced women should be included.
- All those women who have been driven out of their in-laws homes and are forced to stay at their parental homes, should be `declared as independent person / family’ and should be included as such into `Parivar Registers’ of Gram Panchayat
- Each of such Single Woman must be issued a separate ration card
- All single Women who are fighting for their Rights at sasooral should be given a Separate Identity card and free Legal Aid and such all cases should be referred to Fast Track Courts.
- Husbands who are not paying `maintenance’ as awarded by the Gram Panchayats / Civil courts must be brought to books through Fast Track Courts.
- Women whose husbands are in government jobs but have gone missing or have disappeared, should be given `special pay’ till the legal period of absenteeism is over.
To cure the polity of today’s Himachal, we find no other answer than true Decentralised Governance.
The Centralised Governance that is the tool for Politics of Patronage has alienated people from Local Governance.
In last couple of decades, the freedom and importance of Gram Panchayats were systematically destroyed. In mid 1980s, the cadre of Gram Sevaks and Panchayat Secretaries was merged and brought under Rural Development Department, making the Gram Panchayats hapless. When 73rd Amendment to Constitution was enforced in Himachal Pradesh, all the technical provisions were made but no funds, functions and functionaries were handed over to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Zilla Parishads were converted into `adjustment for nuisance makers and relatives of higher level of politicians’ whilst Block Development Committees were converted into post-office.
Gram Panchayats were flooded with tied-funds without any mechanisms for people’s participation and transparency and without a full time Secretary accountable to Panchayats. The Department of Rural Development has always saved its functionary (Gram Panchayat Secretary) and held the elected representatives responsible which has further deteriorated the functioning of Gram Panchayats. So instead of Institutions to deliver Social Justice, the Gram Panchayats have become Agent of the State or Extension machinery of the State carrying forward the Agenda of the State Government and earning enough profit on the way at individual levels.
This has created a chasm between people and Panchayats resulting in wide spread corruption with a nexus of Pradhan and Secretary.
It is not that every political party that has come to Power in last 10-12 years has not made `public utterances’ regarding `empowering Gram Panchayats’ but they have created an illusion of their efforts and tried to fool people.
Whether men or women man the Gram Panchayats, it has no meaning unless they become Institution of Governance.
Therefore we demand complete overall in the content and framework of Panchayati Raj Institutions and not merely in Gram Panchayats.
To be Specific, we make following demands:
- 1Panchayat Raj Bodies to be freed from the clutches of Rural Development by establishing a separate Department for Promotion of Local Governance at State level to be headed by Additional Chief Secretary
- Elections to the Panchayati Raj Bodies should be conducted on Political Party symbols.
- To remove the present status of Gram Panchayats being Pradhan-centric, indirect elections for Pradhan should be introduced.
- Formation of District Level Development Committees free from direct / indirect interventions from Ministers
- All the Departments (with functions, functionaries and funds) at District Level to be handed over to Zilla Parishad / Urban Local Bodies and Block level to BDCs and Panchayat level to Gram Panchayats according to 73rd Amendments
- To provide Gender Justice and resolve the Gender Related issues, two Special Gram Sabhas for women should be organised every year on 17th October (International Poverty Eradication Day) and 8th March (international Women’s Day) and the Resolutions passed in these Gram Sabhas should be enforceable.
- To further strengthen the participation of Women Ward members, special provisions for them is needed to be done such as Special Training Programs; Panchayats must be asked to reimburse their travel to Block Office etc.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION SYSTEMS AT GRAM PANCHAYAT LEVEL
Nyaya Panchayats were legally established in Himachal Pradesh in 1952 to provide speedy, affordable justice at the doorsteps of people in a transparent manner. Nyaya Panchayats worked at two levels, one at Gram Panchayat level and another at Circle of Gram Panchayats thus providing people an opportunity to appeal against the ruling of the lower bench of Nyaya Panchayats to a full bench.
In 1977 the Government of HP merged the independent Nyaya Panchayats with existing Gram Panchayats. Thus the Gram Panchayat, a democratically elected body (wherein vote bank politics gains importance) was asked to discharge judiciary functions. This was possibly the most undemocratic step taken by the then Government and people’s faith in Nyaya Panchayats started eroding. The elected Panchayat representatives also find it difficult to discharge their duties as members of Nyaya Panchayats due to electoral compulsions. Therefore there is a need to have a fresh look at Nyaya Panchayats and their relevance in a changed scenario.
The primary importance of Nyaya Panchayats is to provide speedy and affordable justice for the citizens of the state. There is currently no mechanism available if a dispute takes place between a Gram Panchayat and the citizens of that Panchayat. If a citizen feels that she/he has not received fair treatment from Gram Panchayats (especially in developmental activities); she/he has no place to go and seek justice except appealing to bureaucrats at Block or District level.
Due to several factors the bureaucracy is more keen on disposing off people’s complaints’ instead of resolving them transparently. Thus there is large scale frustration amongst the people as far as having a genuine say or share in developmental work at Gram Panchayat level.
At the Gram Panchayat level people often have complaints against non-performing civil servants – such as absenteeism amongst teachers, non-receipt of potable water, non-availability of Health Workers at Health Sub-centres, etc. To sort out these complaints people again have to depend upon bureaucrats, who in turn are sometimes helpless because of political pressures brought upon them by organised village level functionaries. The result is large level of dissatisfaction amongst the people as far as these services are concerned. While higher level politicians are held responsible for local level lapses, often this may not be the case.
Forum for Justice for Women
Nyaya Panchayats, irrespective of their current failings including inadequate basic training and the absence of gender-sensitive training, still remain the first port of call for aggrieved women at the village level. Officially or unofficially a large percentage of women-related cases are handled by the Nyaya Panchayats, especially those pertaining to domestic violence and marital disputes. The institution will also serve as the forum for addressing grievances of women members of Gram Panchayats on issues they may have against their marginalisation within the functioning of the Gram Panchayat.
The 73rd Amendment of the Constitution of India clearly states that the Gram Panchayats shall work towards Social Justice. However there are no local level institutions to monitor this role of Gram Panchayats. The Government of India is introducing the concept of Social Audit but there are no mechanisms to resolve disputes arising out of the findings of Social Audits.
Therefore there is a need for Nyaya Panchayats, which can:
- Resolve disputes between and amongst citizens.
- Resolve disputes between citizens and their Gram Panchayats.
- Address the issues of non-provision of services, which are the rights of citizens, by state functionaries.
- Resolve disputes arising out of Social Audit of Gram Panchayat’s activities.
We firmly believe that a vibrant Nyaya Panchayat, with powers at par with District Courts, can go a long way in providing gender-just governance at Gram Panchayat level. We also believe that such an Institution shall develop proper checks and balances on the working of Gram Panchayats as well as other departmental services so that people get speedy justice at affordable cost in transparent manner.
Suggestions for Nyaya Panchayat Reforms
- Gram Panchayats must be divested from judiciary functions and separate Nyaya Panchayats must be re-established at Gram Panchayat level. The precedence of the HP Panchayati Raj Act 1952 provides the necessary enabling legislation.
- Nyaya Panchayats must be legally empowered and appropriately equipped to undertake dispute resolution between citizens and their respective Gram Panchayats.
- Nyaya Panchayats must be empowered to resolve any disputes that arise out of Social Audit of Gram Panchayat’s activities.
- Nyaya Panchayats must be empowered to ensure that all the services that are guaranteed by Government reach the people. Any complaints in this regard will be heard by the Nyaya Panchayats with appropriate powers to award punishments to defaulting functionaries.
- Nyaya Panchayats should be imparted adequate gender-sensitive and women-rights oriented training and should be eligible to handle all women related disputes and grievances.
- Every Nyaya Panchayat must be provided with a Nyaya Sahayak (paid for from Government resources) who is trained as Para-legal activists.
- Verdicts / judgements of the Nyaya Panchayats must be enforceable at par with the sanctity given to verdicts of District Civil Courts. Any appeal against the verdicts/ judgements of the Nyaya Panchayat must only be heard by Hon. High Courts.
Health Care Services – Reproductive Rights
Himachal Pradesh was known as one of the best Public Health Care Providing State till very recently.
The founding fathers of Himachal Pradesh made heavy investment into Health and Education. The importance given to the Health Care Services can be gauged by a simple fact that most of the time, the Chief Minister handled this Department.
No wonder, Himachal Pradesh achieved one of the best indicators in Health whether it is IMR or MMR or Life Expectancy at Birth (69 years for women and 65 for men) etc.
But unfortunately, in last decade or so, the decaying of system is being noticed and symptoms of this decay can now be seen in almost all the indicators.
The Immunisation Coverage has gone down (from 84 % to 73%) and there is marginal increase in IMR (from 34 to 36). What is more worrying is that HP was considered a Gender Friendly State as far as IMR was concerned, but recent SRS data shows that there is increase in female IMR (47 male – 51 female).
The most worrying factor is the increase in anaemia amongst the pregnant women (from 31% to 37% and that is after achieving fastest growth rate) and consequently malnutrition amongst young children is very high (58 % children between the age of 6 to 35 months are anaemic).
The cost of Health Care Services are going up and on an average a delivery of a child costs somewhere Rs 10 to 15 thousand.
This rising cost of Health Care Services is due to introduction of User Fee and increasing tendencies amongst Public Health Service Providers to refer cases for tests to private clinics.
The rise of Private Clinic thus, becomes synonymous with the above trend.
Thus, a proper diagnosis of the disease that has affected the Department is required so that the Department can be put on proper medication.
Whilst this is being done, we immediately demand the following:
- Private Medical Establishment Act must be enacted and enforced strictly.
- Stern action against those Service Providers who refer cases for various tests to private clinics.
- The efforts to strengthen the Community Monitoring of NRHM and formation of Gram Panchayat level Monitoring Committees (a requirement under NRHM).
- All the Female Health Workers must be made to stay at the Sub-centre (which is actually one of their service condition that no one follows).
- Doctors must be employed on a regular basis and Contract system of Employment must be abolished.
- Students who get admission to State run medical colleges under `tribal quota’ must be made to serve in tribal areas after completion of the course for a period of minimum 5 years.
- Tribal Sub-cadre started in Himachal must be revived.
- Students who have filled a bond at IGMC regarding serving in the State and have not fulfilled the condition, recovery of Bond Amount should be initiated immediately (preferably through Fast Track Courts).
Declining Sex Ratio, Rising Morbidity, Mortality
Looking at the data of births – sex disaggregated – one can notice the continuous decline in sex ratio at birth.
According to Civil Registration of Himachal Pradesh (which is one of the best in North India) during the year 2001 to 2006, there are total 3,74,424 male children born whilst only 3,25,290 female children have born.
The Sex ratio at Birth for the year 2001 to 2006 is as follow:
Year Total male children born Total Female children born Sex ratio at Birth
2001 71,993 61,607 855
2002 54,976 46,999 855
2003 70,885 62,177 877
2004 73,418 64,055 872
2005 52,067 46,231 888
2006 51,085 44,221 865
Total 3,74,424 3,25,290 868 (average)
The ideal Sex ratio at Birth should be 965 girls per 1000 boys. Thus we have lost on an average 97 percentage point girls at birth.
Please also remember the SRS data showing higher IMR amongst the girl children than male children in the year 2005.
The most interesting factor is that the State Health Department has not filed more than couple of cases of violation of PC-PNDT Act and it seems that even these cases are a `show case’ in response to the criticism on its inaction. At present a single person manages the Desk on PC-PNDT at Directorate level and there are no desks-officers at District level. This shows how much importance the State is giving to the issue of Missing Girls.
Therefore we demand that the State should declare itself as `Demographically Challenged State’ and draw-up programs in consultation and involvement of Civil Societies and Panchayats to revert the trends.
This meant that we need to initiate a movement on Reproductive Rights as well as the State should re-direct its Family Welfare program – functionaries and funds- towards saving the girl child (as it has already achieved 1.9 TFR, which is far below the National Goal of 2.8. Thus, it doesn’t require to put all its energy in Family Welfare Programs) and instead of propagating sterilization, it should give emphasis on temporary methods.
We need a well-equipped Section at Directorate level to oversee and continuously monitoring of Sex ratio at Birth. We must remember that one of the Objective of NRHM is to achieve Gender Balance. The PHC and District Level Service Providers must be made directly accountable to PC-PNDT section at Directorate of Health Services.
This Section should coordinate its activities with Panchayati Raj Institutes, Women & Child Development Department and District Administration for strict implementation of PC-PNDT Act.
High prevalence of anaemia amongst the women should become major concern.
The anaemia not only results in low weight babies born, but it also creates various morbidities. Though there is no authentic data available as far as Morbidity is concerned, the Planning Commission study shows that Women in Himachal are facing large number of varied morbidities.
According to the Paediatrician Department of Dr. R.P. Medical College, Tanda, new risks are emerging for the newborns such as Hypoglycaemia (children born with low sugar) and Bronchial Asthma (due to pollution), which need to be looked into urgently.
Therefore we make following Demands:
- Himachal be declared as Demographically Challenged State. The energy that is being spent on Family Welfare Programs must be re-directed towards achieving the Objective of NRHM-namely Gender Balance.
- Instead of sterilisation, emphasis should be given on temporary methods and use of condoms should be propagated.
- Stern action against those clinics where ultra-sonography is used for sex determination.
- 4.Women who are forced to go for sex determination and sex selective abortions, must be viewed as `victims’ of system and be treated accordingly.
- Facilities for safe abortion for women must be provided with pre and post abortion counselling.
- Regular and continuous monitoring of sex ratio at PHC level should be done and the PHC, which shows better results, must be awarded.
- Massive program must be launched to remove anaemia amongst women in general and young children.
- Janani Suraksha Yojana must be made inclusive (it is being available only for BPL + SC + ST women) and special nutrition for pregnant women should be provided to remove anaemia amongst them and a two-child norm applied to JSY must be removed.
- Health Department must strive to achieve 100% immunization.
- Participation of Civil Societies under MNGO and other Schemes for creating enabling environment for Reproductive Rights must be enhanced. Each one of them must be motivated to work towards NRHM Objectives – namely Achievement of Gender Balance.
SAY NO TO POLITICS OF PATRONAGE, POLITICS OF COMMUNALISM
SAY YES TO RIGHT BASED POLITICS
Contact: H.P. Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan
SUTRA, Jagjit Nagar, H.P.
SAHI, Paunta Sahib, H.P.