People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXX

No. 32

August 06, 2006

Kerala AIDWA Resolves To Take Up The Challenges

 

A special meeting of the Kerala AIDWA state committee was called on July 23 , 2006 to greet the 6 women MLAs newly elected to the Kerala state assembly, along with the appointment of P K Sreemathy, AIDWA national secretary as the minister for health and social welfare, and to formalise the election of K K Shailaja (MLA) as the new general secretary of AIDWA in Kerala. 

 

The meeting was presided over by national vice president M C Josephine and was attended by Sudha Sundararaman, AIDWA general secretary. Sudha reported on current developments, and the need for intervention on specific issues facing women in Kerala, for instance the higher rate of suicides, dowry harassment and domestic violence, trafficking, and the widespread internalisation of unequal value systems that lead to gender discrimination in economic, social and cultural spheres. She stressed the importance of responding to the aspirations and expectations of the women in the new context of an LDF government in the state. 

 

The state committee members participated actively in the discussion. The members stressed the need for continuous and vigorous struggle for the demand of passage of the womenís reservation bill in the monsoon session of the parliament. Although the representation of women in the local bodies in Kerala has gone up to 40 per cent after the 2005 elections, the womenís representation in the assembly is just 5 per cent in the 2006 elections (7 out of 140). Members pointed out that there is a need to give more representation for women in the elected bodies as well as in the director boards of the public sector corporations.

 

The role of women in overthrowing the previous regime for its complicity in facilitating the acquittal of the accused in the ice cream parlour case was pointed out. In fact, victims who were also the main witnesses were bought over by the accused with lure of money and by intimidation and threats to their life. The new LDF government has now filed an appeal in the high court against the acquittal. In the Kiliroor case which resulted in the death of the victim Sari S Nair who died after complications during delivery, the CBI investigation did not go into many aspects of the case, such as how large traces of copper was found in the body of the girl in the post mortem, the reasons for the death of four other persons in a related incident, the role and links of the main accused Latha Nair etc. AIDWA will have to strengthen the struggle on issues of sexual exploitation of women. 

 

Although fast track courts have been set up in the state, the cases related to atrocities on women are not being referred there. All the cases related to atrocities against women should be tried by fast track courts to speed up delivery of justice to the victims.

 

Members demanded that legislation should be brought to prevent the growing menace of luxurious and showy weddings, where the brideís side is forced to spend huge amounts to satisfy the groomís family.

 

NREGS IMPLEMNTATION

 

NREGS is being implemented in Wayand and Palakkad districts in the state. There were many complaints against the corruption in the implementation of the scheme in Wayanad under the UDF government. The guidelines for the scheme which have been formulated to suit the conditions in North Indian states should be modified to suit the conditions in the state. For example, the share fixed for construction of roads is not apt for Kerala, which has good network of rural roads. 

 

The minimum wages of Rs 125 fixed under the NREGS is not attractive to the male workers in the state. There is a demand to raise the menís wages to Rs 150 and when the rates are increased, equal rates for men and women should be made applicable all over the state.

 

Members highlighted the plight of the people of Idukki district who are adversely affected by the crisis in the farming and plantation sector. Many families engaged in farming of pepper and cardamom have been thrown into poverty with decline in the prices of these commodities, forcing many to commit suicide. The central team which visited Wayand could have visited and taken note of the suffering of the people in Idukki district as well.

 

NABARD is funding a lot of schemes in the state for employment generation like the self help groups which are however channelled through NGOís. The 9 per cent interest rate charged by NABARD is very high, which should be reduced. The women who take loans under the schemes are falling into a debt trap, with limited marketing outlets for their products. NABARD holds discussion with only the NGOís who are their associates. The local bodies should be consulted.

 

ON SABARIMALA CONTROVERSY  

 

Members expressed concern over the multiple forms of social discrimination that are still widely prevalent in society. They were of the opinion that the recent Sabarimala controversy is an indication of this malaise. The practice of not allowing women between 10 and 50 into Sabarimala shrine is rooted in patriarchal traditions and discriminatory cultural practices. This will have to be addressed from the perspective of gender equality which is a constitutional right, and which cannot be abrogated in the name of religion or culture. Women should have equal right as men to worship and to perform puja, if they choose to do so.

 

Members pointed out that there is a disturbing revivalism leading to many obscurantist beliefs and practices, and this trend is affecting all religions. For instance, purdah is being enforced with new vigour in places where such practices were hitherto unknown. Girl children go to anganwadi centres wearing purdah! In Malappuram district, many families are eager to marry off their girls at the age of 13. 

 

AIDWA would gear up to meet these new challenges in the state.

 

The committee resolved that in the 25th year of AIDWA, they would launch an effective social enlightenment campaign as part of the National jatha to address the issue of much needed social and religious reform. 

 

Other important resolutions included one demanding that that the Eleventh Plan approach paper should have a much stronger gender content and another against price rise, with the demand that PDS should be strengthened and universalised.