March 9, 2021 3:12:23 am
“ALL THESE years, there was barely any special focus on women. At least a mention in the budget, allocations for them in schemes is an indication that governments are in no mood to take this vote bank for granted.”
This was the feedback being given by women at various farmer protest sites in Punjab to the state government’s budget released Monday, which also happened to be International Women’s Day.
Amarjeet Kaur, in her 60s and a state committee member of BKU Dakaunda said, “I see all these announcements like doubling of widow/old age pension, extra allocation in budget for doubling this pension, free bus ride for women in government buses, women hostels, Poshan Abhiyaan etc schemes as poll gimmicks suggested by CM’s principal advisor Prashant Bhushan. However, a mention about women in the budget, even if in a few promises, only shows that the government is no longer taking this vote bank lightly. Since June we have shown them how independent we are in our thoughts, how elderly women are coming out and speaking on stages. Hence, based on women’s participation, these schemes are to focus on this important vote bank…rest everyone knows as how many government buses there are in Punjab and how many are in good condition.”
Jasleen Kaur, 16, a class XII student in Barnala city, said, “I regularly attend dharnas at Barnala railway station and have been to Delhi as well. I am aware of budget announcements for women. Let’s see as how this government implements all the promises because usually most of them just remain on paper or the benefits ultimately don’t reach the public. However, women-centric politics is a big change.”
Jaspal Kaur, a speaker at Bhucho Mandi in Bathinda district said, “No one used to talk about us all these years, we were hardly being considered as active voters. But now, they way we have managed stages have come out in open on our own…it has become an eye opener for the government which has now seen how independent rural women are in their thoughts…so perhaps this was the reason for this focus on us…but how are they going to fulfill this promise, time will tell.”
Karamjit Kaur, another speaker at the same dharna spot organised by BKU Ugrahan said, “I know these promises are poll promises ahead of Vidhan Sabha polls. Free bus ride is a big gimmick and so is doubling of pension. But the point is, our elderly women have been able to gain attention of politicians and so have the college-goers, homemakers and working women. This is the reason that working women hostels have been announced in Ludhiana, Bathinda, Mansa, Patiala and Jalandhar. We need to realise our strengths and sustain our participation in struggles or decision-making.”
In Punjab, farm dharnas are going on at more than 100 sites and on Monday they were all managed by women. Protests have been organised by BKU Ugrahan, 32 farmer unions of Punjab and Kisan Mazdoor Sangrash Committee.
Balbir Kaur, a farmer based in Sangatpura village of district Sangrur, who was at Singhu border Monday morning, said, “Women have participated in this struggle like never before and hence every political party is watching us. It is now the political compulsion of Congress to making announcements focusing on us. I am sure all political parties will include women prominently in their election manifestos. They can no longer take us for granted. Let’s see how they implement these schemes. But at least we made a mark…better late than never.”
Loan waiver for farm labourers
An amount of Rs 523 crore has been allocated for loan waiver of farm labourers in the Punjab budget. Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union(PKMU), a prominent farm labourers’ union, has hailed this decision of the state government. However, Lachman Singh Sewewala, general secretary PKMU, has called it a partial victory of their demands. He said, “The total debt of farm labourers is Rs 5,500 crore and hence this budget allocation is peanuts. As per our survey done in 2017 in 1,618 houses of 13 villages of Punjab, 84 per cent families are under debt and average debt is Rs 91,437 rupees….”
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