The biggest festival of the world’s largest democracy has entered in its concluding phases. Elections for the 16th Lok Sabha is being definitively distinct in its own signature ways. Political pundits have hailed this election as the most inclusive ever with the stakeholders having direct access to their favorite candidates, primarily owing to the massive surge in the use of social media. Empowered with technology and tools, candidates are claiming to form a more empathetic government. Amidst the hullabaloo about the prevalent issues, the moot point is whether any party was able to touch those perennially unattended issues of the poorest of the poors. Well, it’s time for a reality check.
I would like to bring forth one such incident from one of the many such experiences of Bharti Mishra, chief facilitator of the Meena Manch, an initiative to ensure women from the countryside in UP to participate in the elections.
With the word “Women Empowerment” dancing on the lips of many, including the politicians and intelligentsia, it’s definitely one of the most critical issues of modern India. There are schemes for their education, employment, security, health and sanitation, and what not. But the grotesque part is only a small proportion has been able to bear the fruits of these empowering schemes. A large section, predominantly in villages, is still waiting for the benefits to trickle down. Here’s that immensely jolting experience in the words of Bharti Mishra where you’d see how even a garbage dump can affect women’s life so emphatically:
While campaigning in Nagla Samaai, a small village in the Western UP, Meena Manch started their proceedings in the same routine manner. It went well with most of the villagers took an active participation in the forum. We got a shock when we were about to finish our campaign there. A girl, barely aged 13 or 14 years, came to me and said “दीदी क्या आप अधिकारियो से मिलती हो?तो आप उनसे कहना कि हमारे नगले में बारात घूरे पर टिकायी जाती है।कभी कभी बाराती इस बात से नाराज होकर बिना बिदाये कराए ही लौट जाते हैं।“ (Didi do you know Government Officials? If yes, then tell them that in our villages the wedding guests from the boy’s side are made to stay on a dried up garbage dump. This sometimes infuriate them so badly that they go back without marrying the girl)
“Ghoora” is a local term used for a pile of dried up garbage used for making compost or bio-fertilizer.
She spoke about the condition of a couple of girls who faced such situations and couldn’t get married. In fact, a few of those are still mocked by their in-laws for such an ill hospitality even after years of marriage. She said “It’s the fear of all the girls who had exposed to the fact that they would get married some day, and this garbage dump has the potential to ruin their entire life.” On behalf of all the girls, she requested us to ask the officials to build a “Baraat-Ghar” to avoid such mishaps in future.
This moved us like anything and presented an unfortunate picture of the so called “Women Empowerment” happening pan-India. It’s high-time when political parties should shun that holier-than-thou attitude and start reaching out to these all important stakeholders who’re still fighting it hard for the survival.