People's Democracy

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


No. 48

November 29, 2009



Women Demand Food Security, Work Security, Social Security


                                                                                   Sudha Sundararaman


MEETING at Chennai on November 14 and 15, the central executive committee (CEC) of the All India Democratic Women�s Association (AIDWA) discussed many important matters pertaining to Indian women�s status and movement, and took important decisions for its future campaigns and struggles. AIDWA president, Subhashini Ali, presided over the meeting though some sessions were chaired by Shyamali Gupta (working president), M C Josephine (vice president) and P K Zainaba (vice president). The CEC meeting was attended by 57 members from 22 states. Despite heavy rains, the Tamil Nadu state committee of the AIDWA had made excellent arrangements for the meeting.

Through a resolution, the meeting condoled the death of the CPI(M) activists and sympathisers who were targeted and murdered by the Maoists in West Bengal. It expressed sadness that while Children�s Day was being celebrated in the rest of the country, 19 children had lost their lives in this ruthless killing spree.

The meeting condoled the loss of lives in a recent series of calamities, floods, the landslip in the Nilgiris, etc, which were linked to environmental degradation and exploitation of natural resources by profit making corporate bodies and individuals. The meeting also noted that a series of railway accidents had claimed many innocent lives in this period, and demanded proper rehabilitation for the victims, as also improved safety measures for railway travellers.

A separate resolution condoled the demise of Kalindi Deshpande, vice president of the organisation, recalling her tremendous contribution to the women�s movement and to the AIDWA.




AIDWA general secretary, Sudha Sundararaman, placed the report on current developments, which was adopted after an extensive discussion by the members. Some of the main issues that emerged were as follows.

The blatant and vigorous implementation of the neo-liberal agenda by the UPA-2 in the fields of education, agriculture, industry, social sector etc and its pro-US tilt has adversely affected women�s life and livelihood. Prices of foodstuffs like dal, wheat, rice, sugar, vegetables etc have touched astronomic heights because of the policies of the central government that not only encourage hoarders, speculators and  black-marketeers by its refusal to take action against them but also follows policies that are responsible for shortages and high prices. Its recent announcement of a very low price for the purchase of sugarcane, combined with its insistence that private sugar mills be protected against higher support prices announced by state governments, is pushing up sugar prices everyday and increasing the misery of sugarcane farmers.

High prices, cuts in ration quotas and cancellation of existing ration cards are all leading to increased food insecurity and starvation. One of the speakers in the CEC meeting pointed out that the PMO has sent out a circular for a cut in BPL ration cards, at a time when people are unable to buy food grains in the open market due to the high prices. Even the N C Saxena committee, set up by the rural development ministry, had made a clear recommendation that at least 50 per cent of population should be given BPL cards, though the actual BPL numbers are even higher. The CEC reiterated its commitment to a universal public distribution system (PDS) which is the need of the hour. It condemned the UPA-2 for proposing a retrograde Food Security Act which would in fact lead to greater insecurity through the withdrawal of existing grain quotas, and by weakening the reach of the public distribution system. The CEC decided to launch powerful struggles for food security in the coming period.




The CEC noted with disappointment that the 100-day assurance given by the president on the 33 per cent women�s reservation bill has been given a quiet burial. The UPA government has once again put the bill in cold storage. Its willingness to increase the representation in the panchayats and local bodies is in stark contrast to its reluctance to bringing women into the topmost decision making bodies. In the recent assembly elections in Maharashtra, the representation of women had come down to a paltry four per cent. In Haryana, the number has decreased from 11 in the previous assembly to 9 now, out of 90 members. The women�s movement will have to intensify this fight. The AIDWA has decided to launch countdown calendars at 100 places across the country to remind the people, and the UPA, of this shameful betrayal.

The central government�s emphasis on privatisation of various schemes is encouraging many state governments to take steps like handing over mid-day meal and ICDS schemes to the NGOs and corporates, leading to thousands of poor woman losing their livelihood. In Karnataka, 20,000 women mid-day meal workers were thrown out by ISKON, which has been given the contract for supply of the meals. In Orissa, a corporate body like Vedanta is being given the contract. This has to be firmly resisted.

The government has still not come out with a policy on the self-help groups (SHGs) to protect and promote the interests of women. Speakers noted how private micro-finance institutions (MFIs) were exploiting women in SHGs by charging exorbitant interest, and how women were getting into more debt to repay the amount. Banks were also discriminating between groups, and refusing to give loans, especially to those groups which were more proactively taking up social issues. Corruption is also rampant. The need for proper regulation of SHGs, keeping in mind the interests of the women, was reiterated in the meeting.

The initiatives under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) also are in dire peril of getting farmed out to NGOs. The meeting warned that this would lead to further corruption and diversion of funds.

One speaker pointed out that though the government had announced an increase in wages to Rs 100 under NREGA, women were still being grossly underpaid. When they organised a dharna and demanded their rightful wage, the authorities simply ignored them, and sent off their wages, calculated at a lower rate, to their bank accounts. In states like UP, rural banking services are extremely poor, and the infrastructure for opening hundreds of new accounts are absent. This is leading to inordinate delays in wage payment under NREGA. The AIDWA will continue to demand work, equal wages and time rated payment under the Act, and also insist on the inclusion of more gender sensitive tasks in the list of works




The meeting noted with concern that attacks on women, especially young girls, has increased in many states. The range of atrocities is very disturbing. One trend is the recent spate of acid attacks, leading to permanent damage and lifelong suffering for the girl, if she survives. These attacks are perpetrated by jilted aspirants or suitors if the girl refuses to respond to their proposal. In AP, a boy who was turned down, murdered the parents of the girl who refused him. Action was taken after a huge public outcry, led by the AIDWA, SFI and DYFI, and a relief package has been organised for the victim. But a separate law for victim rehabilitation is still to be finalised by the government.  

In Delhi, a senior research scholar raped and murdered a girl from the north east for not responding to his overtures. This attack also revealed another disturbing feature. An anti-north east profiling in Delhi is fuelling targeted assaults on women from this community. The AIDWA unit in Delhi resolved to address this issue.

The meeting also discussed the increasing incidents of �honour crimes� over the country. The right to self-choice marriages is denied to young women in different ways. Not only have they been punished for entering into inter-caste or intra-biradari marriages; new attacks on inter-community marriages have also taken place. These have revealed communal prejudices not only in society but, most dangerously, in the police, administration and judiciary. The AIDWA will organise a Young Women�s Convention on the Right to Choice in Bangalore in early 2010 and will also prepare a draft legislation to deal with all aspects of the �honour crimes� issue.

At a time when violence against women and young girls is on the increase, the CEC condemned concerted efforts, being made not only by individuals and organisations but even by sections of the judiciary and government. to water down laws that have been made for the protection of women. It decided that on December 10, the Human Rights Day, all state units will present memoranda to their state chief justices regarding the denial of justice to women victims of violence.




The meeting discussed in detail the attacks by the Maoists in tandem with reactionary political parties on the democratic forces in West Bengal. The CEC condemned in the strongest possible terms the murder of 153 people that have occurred since the Lok Sabha elections. Most of the victims were Left supporters and 19 of whom were children of Left activists.

A presentation was made by Shyamali Gupta, and by Subhashini Ali, highlighting the ways in which the attacks were being orchestrated as part of a larger anti-Left campaign. The report underlined how violence was being perpetrated to create terror and exert control over large regions in the name of liberating them. However, the Maoists have little concern for the poor tribals whom they are exploiting in many ways. They do not hesitate to use the women and children as human shields. Various levies are imposed on villagers, and even on tribal women going to forests to collect tendu leaves, etc. The elected panchayat members are being forced to resign. They prevent administration and police from coming into these zones, for which purpose they plant land mines. All development activity is being stalled. There is an utter contempt for democracy, and control is sought to be exerted by the rule of the gun. The targets of Maoist violence are the poor, the adivasis and dalits, not the landlords.

The AIDWA recognised the need for a widespread campaign to address this issue, especially since large sections of the media have distorted the picture, and many are misled about the intentions of these forces.

The CEC decided that the Maoist tactics have to be exposed and countered forcefully. On December 19, Susheela Gopalan Day, a public meeting will be organised in Delhi to condemn these heinous attacks. Relatives of the victims will be invited to participate in the meeting.

With the ninth AIDWA conference due in 2010, a call was given for completion of membership by December 31, with efforts to approach all sections of women and bring them into the organisation.

The meeting passed a resolution condemning the withdrawal of Rs 50 subsidy by the Tamilnadu state government on single cylinders. Another resolution condemned the lathi charge in Villupuram on activists of the Unouchability Eradication Front, injuring many, including Latha, a woman MLA.