People's Democracy

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


No. 20

May 19, 2013




AIDWA Conference Calls for Intensifying Struggles, Strengthening Organisation


 Mariam  Dhawale


THE ninth Maharashtra state conference of the AIDWA was held in Captain Laxmi Sehgal Nagar at Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district from May 3-5, 2013. The conference hall was named after Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule and the dais was named after Shaheed Mathi Ozare, the first martyr of the AIDWA in Maharashtra. Mathi Ozare of Talasari tehsil of Thane district was an adivasi activist who was brutally killed by BJP goons on February 27, 2012 because she worked devotedly for the victory of the CPI(M) in the local body polls.




The conference began with AIDWA vice-president Subhashini Ali hoisting the flag. After paying floral tributes to martyrs, 222 delegates from 15 districts assembled for the inaugural session. They included women from all sections – urban, rural, dalit, adivasi, Muslim, peasants, agricultural labourers and unorganised workers.   


In her inaugural address, Subhashini said, “All sections of people unitedly fought for our independence. The idea of liberation from the British also included the objectives of the liberation of the poor, an end to the caste system and the promotion of gender equality.


“But today, all has changed. In the neo-liberal era, the corporate-controlled media blacks out the burning issues of the masses. The government has stopped talking about the poor and their problems. People are being divided along caste and religious lines. Identity politics is breaking the unity of the exploited sections, when unity is the only weapon in their hands.


“There is a growing attack on women’s rights. Fundamentalist and reactionary forces, while opposing equal rights for women, seek to impose their dictates reinforcing the subordinate status of women. We have seen the attacks of the Khap panchayats on women in Haryana.


“We are having this conference in Ichalkaranji which is a centre of working class struggles. Kolhapur district has a legacy of the progressive movement where Shahu Maharaj made reservations in education for dalits and backward sections. Jotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule started the first school for girls in Pune. They faced harassment and abuse, but did not give up their ideals. We should learn from their lives and never be discouraged. The only way to change the situation is to study issues, wage struggles and build the organisation.”


The chairperson of the reception committee Supriya Gondkar, president of the Ichalkaranji municipal council, welcomed the delegates. Professor Chhaya Patil gave the welcome address. The conference was greeted by CITU state vice-president Datta Mane, AIKS state vice-president Professor A B Patil, DYFI state president Bhagwan Bhojane and SFI state secretary Vinod Govindwar. The session was presided over by AIDWA state president Kiran Moghe.




After the election of the conference committees, the 36-page political-organisational and work report was placed by AIDWA state secretary Sonya Gill. Coming to the situation in Maharashtra after briefly dealing with the international and national challenges, the report underlined the seriousness of the drought situation and the tremendous corruption in the irrigation department. Due to the agrarian crisis, more than 3000 debt-ridden peasants in the state commit suicide every year. 38 per cent of the rural population is below the poverty line. Yet the implementation of the NREGA is dismal. 21,000 out of 28,000 gram panchayats in the state have not even started any NREGA work.


The PDS is in shambles, with corruption being rampant. Mumbai, Pune, Amravati, Wardha and Nandurbar districts have been selected for the ‘direct cash transfer’ scheme in the first phase. Women are being forced by ration shop keepers to get Aadhaar cards and open joint bank accounts. But the banks are refusing to open ‘zero balance’ accounts.  


The state government has been criminally apathetic in the implementation of the PcPNDT Act. The 2011 census shows a further decrease in the child sex ratio in the state since 2001. In 2001, it was 913 which decreased to 883 in 2011. In the last 20 years, action has been taken against only three doctors, while 39 doctors were acquitted. Beed district, which has the lowest sex ratio of 801 has been a flourishing centre of sex selective abortions.


Due to 50 per cent reservation for women in local body elections, women have started participating in the electoral process in a big way. But the state population policy with its two-child norm prevents poor and marginalised women from contesting elections. The state government has not appointed the state women’s commission since 2009 in spite of repeated demands, thus exhibiting a total lack of sensitivity towards women’s issues.

In 2011, Maharashtra was sixth in the country in crimes against women. Only 19 per cent of the accused have been convicted in cases of sexual assault on women. Maharashtra has registered the highest number of cases of domestic violence, according to a survey done by the ‘Lawyer’s Collective’ in 16 states. Incidents of ‘honour killings’ too are on the rise.


According to cases registered under the Anti-Atrocity Act, there has been an increase of 9.62 per cent in cases of atrocities against dalits in 2010 as compared to 2009. Communal and chauvinist tensions are fanned under the smallest pretext. In Malegaon, innocent Muslim youth were arrested by the police after the bomb blasts, to languish in jail for years.


The work report states that AIDWA has been consistently organising women on the PDS issue - demanding regular supply of food grains and kerosene, catching black-marketeers, fighting for BPL ration cards and pursuing implementation of the door-step ration scheme. Women have protested against the state government’s decision to permit manufacture of liquor from grains. Campaigns have been conducted for closure of liquor shops. Struggles for starting work and fair wages for women under NREGA have been organised.


Awareness campaigns on the issue of decreasing sex ratio and for strict implementation of the PcPNDT Act have been conducted independently as well as jointly. The organisation has been active in mobilising women in protests against atrocities on girl children and women. It handles many cases of domestic violence and runs weekly case work centres. The problems of deserted women, widows and single women have been taken up. AIDWA has helped CITU in building the anganwadi, Asha and domestic worker unions. Lectures were organised on the birth anniversary of Ahilya Rangnekar and the death anniversary of Kalindi Deshpande.       


The organisational report states that the membership for the last three years has been as follows – 2010: 92,048, 2011: 73,510 and 2012: 75,692. District committees have been formed in 11 districts. There are 232 primary units. A state-level study class was held in Solapur. The conference resolved to increase the membership, consolidate and expand the organisation, improve committee functioning and lay stress on building of women activists.      


Due to the intense heat, Sonya Gill took ill while placing the report. So the remaining part of the political report was placed by Kiran Moghe, the work report by Hemlata Patil and the organisational report by Mariam Dhawale. The delegates then held group discussions. 38 delegates from 15 districts participated in a lively discussion on the report. The state committee accounts were placed by the treasurer Hemlata Patil. The reply to the discussion was given by Kiran Moghe. The conference unanimously adopted the report and accounts.




‘Mee Savitri Bolte’ (I am Savitri speaking) - a one act play on the life of Savitribai Phule and Jotirao Phule was staged by Professor Nanda Patil on the night of May 3. Professor Nanda Patil has written the script of this play, which has so far had 1007 shows in Maharashtra.


On the second day of the conference, May 4, the delegates marched from the conference venue to Laxmi Market, where the public meeting was addressed by Subhashini Ali, Sudha Sundararaman and Mariam Dhawale and it was presided over by Kiran Moghe.




The four topics for the commissions were – On violence against women - summarised by Nalini Kalburgi, On direct cash transfer - Heerabai Ghonge, On superstitions - Rekha Deshpande and On issues of adivasi women – Mariam Dhawale. Resolutions were adopted on drought (moved and seconded by Urmila Deshpande, Rehana Shaikh), on 33 percent reservation for women (moved and seconded by Heena Vanga, Kalpana Hatwar), and on right to education (moved and seconded by Heerabai Ghonge , Afroz Shaikh.)




The conference unanimously elected a 51 member state committee which in turn unanimously elected 19 office- bearers. 25 delegates to the All India conference were also elected. The new state office-bearers are: President – Mariam Dhawale (centre), Secretary – Sonya Gill (centre), Treasurer – Hemlata Patil (centre), Vice Presidents – Kiran Moghe (centre), Hemlata Kom (Thane), Prabha Ghangare (Wardha), Sugandhi Francis (centre), Saraswati Bhandirge (centre), Subhadra Khillare (Pune), Nalini Kalburgi (Solapur), Joint Secretaries – Naseema Shaikh (Solapur), Sangeeta Ozare (Thane), Pramila Manjalkar (Mumbai), Rasila Dhodi (Thane), Sanjabai Khambait (Nashik), Rehana Shaikh (Sangli), Secretariat members – Heerabai Ghonge (Pune), Saroja Swami (Mumbai), one place vacant.




AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundararaman, who attended all three days of the conference, said in her concluding speech, “AIDWA has organised many struggles on the issue of PDS. But much more awareness has to be created about the dangers of the ‘direct cash transfer’ system. We have waged many agitations against the menace of liquor. The issues of water and drought have also been taken up. The AIDWA in Maharashtra has done good work to reach out to adivasi, dalit and Muslim women, but more needs to be done.


“AIDWA has intervened in many incidents of atrocities on women and has handled innumerable cases of domestic violence and disputes. The alarming increase in atrocities on women is a matter of grave concern. Due to lack of employment opportunities, majority of the women work in the unorganised sector. They work in the most insecure conditions with no social security laws to protect them. After a long and protracted struggle of the women’s movement, three new laws on sexual assault, sexual harassment at the workplace and child sexual abuse have been recently enacted. We must explain these Acts to women at large.”


Speaking on the organisation, Sudha stressed the importance of membership and urged the delegates to make special efforts to overcome this weakness. She said, “We want to change this system that is unjust and unequal. But how can we do that with such a small membership? Take up struggles on local issues regularly, activise your members, strengthen committee functioning and hold regular study classes for the training of your activists.”


On behalf of the presidium, Mariam Dhawale in her concluding remarks reminded the delegates that the conference was ending on a historic day. May 5 was the birth anniversary of Karl Marx who gave all exploited sections in the world an ideology to liberate themselves. Captain Laxmi Sehgal tirelessly fought for her ideals till her last breath. Mathi Ozare was martyred because she refused to be cowed down by threats of the communal forces. It is this legacy that we have to take forward. She ended by expressing determination to strengthen the AIDWA in Maharashtra in the coming days.


AIDWA Kolhapur district president Mumtaz Hyder thanked the state committee for giving their district the opportunity to hold this conference. Sunita Jadhav placed the vote of thanks. The leaders and activists of the CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, DYFI and AIDWA in Kolhapur district had made all efforts to make good arrangements for the conference. The conference ended with the singing of ‘We Shall Overcome’, accompanied by resounding slogans.