By: Parul Sood
While India will remain to be an agrarian society for a long time to come – despite the fast pace of urbanization – the rural population still does not seem to trust policymakers, whom they accuse of being urban-centric. This view emerged at a meet held here in Shimla on the occasion of the International Rural Women Day on October 15. Rural women who had gathered to discuss issues relating to their lives rued that though science and technology has changed the rural landscape in the country, women living in villages are still a deprived lot.
Chandra Thakur from Banjar in district Kullu said that it is the woman who does maximum labour from home to fields, but when it comes to rights in property she has no say. Narrating her tale of woes, Chandra said she was married to a drunkard at the age of 17 and after eighteen long years of marriage her husband deserted her as she refused to transfer the land she inherited from her father in his name. Today she is single, but happy, and is also supporting her widow mother and an aunt. She weaves shawls and also teaches the same to girls for which she earns an incentive from the industry department. Chandra regrets that being an illiterate she was totally unaware of her rights, but after being associated with GVS, she became more aware of her rights.
She recounted how embarrassed she felt when during a workshop conducted in her village she was asked to sign but she could not as she was illiterate. Determined to learn reading and writing, she enrolled herself under the Shaksharta Mission and is today a lettered woman. She shared that she has a daughter who is her legal heiress but when the actual property transfer will take place her male relatives too would claim the right.
“Women have to fight a battle at every step,” said Shakuntala Verma from Theog, a former pradhan and presently a Panchayat Samiti member. Shakuntla narrated how she was discouraged by men not to fight elections in the open category and was advised that women should come ahead only where seats for women were reserved.
She admitted that though educated, she still had never seen a panchayat ghar before she fought an election. But now she had made it a point to spread awareness among other women to make them understand their rights better. Shakuntla rued the insensitivity existing among the policymakers regarding problems being faced by rural women.
Similar was the story of Devaki Verma (50) from Baichadi Panchayat near Jutogh in Shimla. She has been helping poor women earn a better livelihood through the agent scheme run by post offices.
Devaki said it was easy to talk about environment conservation and animal rights sitting in air-conditioned offices, but it has hardly been understood that rural women were the most affected by such laws made by government. Explaining it further, she said by not finding a permanent solution to the monkey menace problem, the government has further added to their problems. She also condemned the opening up of liquor shops at every nook and corner in the state and alleged that the same had been the cause of several families ending up on roads.
Most of the women rued that there was no market for their products and no one had ever though about helping them in this sphere.
(A reader-reporter initiative)