People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 02

January 08, 2006



Rousing Response To AIDWA’s "Social Awareness Jatha"


Mariam Dhawale


THE 2001 census has shown a decline in the male/female sex ratio in Maharashtra. The decrease in the child sex ratio (0-6 years) is a cause for deep concern. The following tables will give an idea of the gravity of the situation.


Sex Ratio


0 – 6 Years Sex Ratio


























This continuous decrease in the female population clearly reflects not only a bias against women and girl children, but also an alarming increase in the incidence of female foeticide. The AIDWA Maharashtra state committee decided to raise this issue along with its anti-dowry campaign. The sex ratio data in the state revealed that, the relatively better-developed sugar belt of western Maharashtra has the lowest child sex ratio. Hence this campaign was started off from western Maharashtra.


0-6 Years Sex Ratio

















The AIDWA Social Awareness Jatha started on November 28, 2005 (Mahatma Jotirao Phule death anniversary) from Pune district, passed through Satara and Sangli districts and culminated on December 6 (Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar death anniversary) in Kolhapur district. This jatha was inaugurated by AIDWA general secretary, Sudha Sundararaman, while AIDWA president Subhashini Ali participated in the jatha for three days and addressed the culmination meeting.




Maharashtra has a rich and glorious tradition of social reform that combined the struggle against untouchability with the struggle for women’s rights. The radical work of Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Savitribai Phule, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Vithal Ramji Shinde, Pandita Ramabai, Shahu Maharaj, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Maharshi Karve etc laid the foundation of the women’s movement in Maharashtra.


Carrying forward this tradition, the jatha began with the public rally at the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Udyan in Pune. The additional commissioner of police Divre who also addressed this rally promised to help in preventing the misuse of medical technology. He read out the pledge against dowry. After the public meeting, the jatha moved through the bastis and mohallas in Pune city and ended at Phule Wada, the house of the radical pioneers of social reform, Mahatma Jotirao and Savitribai Phule.


On the way to Daund in Pune district, the jatha visited the residence of Pandita Ramabai and the Mukti mission founded by her in 1898 at Kedgaon. It was an inspiring moment to be in the house of Pandita Ramabai who struggled against prejudice, class and caste barriers and continued her work for women’s education and widows. The jatha was welcomed by the National Railway Mazdoor Union (NRMU) at Daund where a large meeting of women was held.


The jatha began its tour in Satara district by paying its respects at Savitribai Phule’s birthplace in Naigaon village in Khandala tehsil. It was welcomed by the villagers led by the Naigaon gram panchayat sarpanch, Meenakshi Nevse Patil. The descendants of Savitribai’s maternal family still reside in this village. It was an extremely memorable visit.


After visiting various villages, the jatha moved in Satara city and ended with an oath-taking session by around 2000 students of the Ryot Shikshan Sanstha founded by another great social reformer and educationist Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil. Rahimatpur in Satara district gave an enthusiastic response to the jatha with 200 girl students along with the school music band welcoming it. The local Hind library had organised an essay competition for women on the issue of the decreasing sex ratio.


Sangli district which has the least child sex ratio, has 500 sonography centres in the district, with 111 sonography centres located in Sangli city alone. Programmes were organised in many schools and colleges in Sangli district.


The programme in Jaisingpur in Kolhapur district was organised by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). The doctors pledged that they would help the women’s movement in the campaign and impress upon the medical fraternity to take firm action against doctors conducting sex determination tests. After taking well-attended meetings in Ichalkaranji, Gadahinglaj and Kagal, the jatha finally culminated in a well-attended public meeting in Kolhapur city.


A total of 30 meetings attended by around 10,000 people were held during the eight days of the jatha. Doctors, lawyers, artistes, workers, peasants, students, youth, government officials, etc. participated in the programmes. The response from women and girl students was overwhelming. A signature campaign to stop sex-determination tests was conducted amongst doctors. Cultural personalities like Dr Shreeram Lagoo, G P Deshpande, Amol Palekar, etc. published an appeal to support the AIDWA campaign. A street theatre group performed a satirical play on son preference. Press conferences were held in all the districts and the jatha received very good media coverage.




After garlanding the statue of the champion of the oppressed sections, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundararaman inaugurated the jatha. She said that the birth of a girl child is not welcomed in our society. A woman is looked upon as a burden because of increasing dowry demands and marriage expenses. States which have progressed in economic development like Punjab and Haryana have the worst sex ratio. Maharashtra too will face serious repercussions because its child sex ratio is decreasing at an alarming rate. She condemned the misuse of medical technology for the elimination of the female foetus. She further elaborated on the shocking incidents of purchase of women from poorer areas by people from areas where the sex ratio is extremely adverse. This leads to a further lowering of the status of a woman and an increase in atrocities. She also condemned the two-child norm that will lead to more abortion of female foetuses. Finally she called upon the people to build a strong social movement for women’s rights and a society based on equality.


After untiring participation in the jatha for three days, AIDWA president Subhashini Ali lambasted the policies of globalisation in her speech at the public meeting during the culmination of the jatha at Kolhapur. She said that globalisation and market-driven economic policies have created tremendous inequalities. It is the need of a consumerist culture to sustain this inequality. In India, maximum sale of goods take place during marriages. Hence most advertisements focus on traditions linked to the marriage ceremonies or son preference rituals. The status of a woman is supposed to be enhanced if she, on her marriage, brings all kinds of goods. This directly increases the greed for dowry and lavish marriage ceremonies. Indebtedness ruins many poor families. This results in girl children being unwanted and a decreasing sex ratio. She also condemned the regressive ideologies that look upon woman as subordinate. Reminding the audience of the role and hard work of women in the development of society, Subhashini Ali appealed to fight against this menace of dowry and exhorted the students and young girls to uphold the glorious traditions of the social reform movement in Maharashtra.


The AIDWA Maharashtra state committee had given a call for programmes to be held in all districts during this period. Around 10,000 stickers and 1000 booklets against dowry were sold during this campaign. The state committee also distributed 10,000 leaflets as part of this campaign.


The jatha visited the following places – Pune city, Yawat, Kedgaon, Daund and Walhe in Pune district, Naigaon, Nalawadewadi, Khed, Satara city, Rahimatpur, Bhivdi and Karad in Satara district, Islampur, Nandre, Kavthemahankal, Sangli city and Kavtheaikund in Sangli district, Jaisingpur, Ichalkaranji, Rendal, Chandur, Gadahinglaj, Chikhali and Kolhapur city in Kolhapur district.


AIDWA vice-president Kalindi Deshpande, state president Kiran Moghe, state secretary Mariam Dhawale, treasurer Sugandhi Francis, joint secretaries Sonya Gill, Hemlata Patil, Subhadra Khillare, vice-president Saraswati Bhandirge, secretariat members Suman Patil, Mangala Gosavi and state committee members Shubha Shamim, Usha Datar, Anjali Mahabaleshwarkar, Parvati Jadhav, Suman Pujari, Hirabai Ghonge, Jaya Ghadge, Pratibha Patil, Nafisa Shaikh and Hanifa Shaikh participated in the jatha. Leaders of other mass organisations like CITU, NRMU, AIKS, AIAWU, DYFI and SFI also helped to make this jatha a great success.