In a bid to lure voters in the five states which are going polls, all the top political parties have promised various schemes in their manifestos. Unfortunately however, in most of their proposed pledges, women’s issues have been dwarfed in their importance and have barely received attention. When it came to addressing what the parties would do for women, most of them displayed lack of originality. They all echoed one prominent feature: providing a 33 percent reservation for women in government jobs. Besides this, freebies from cooking stoves to bicycles have been offered to women and girls respectively.
Here’s a snapshot of the key things each party promised women in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Uttar Pradesh, currently run by Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party, has been notorious for its abysmal law and order situation. Violence against women is at its peak, and a CAG report showed a 61 percent spike from 2011-2015 in UP, where according to the state and union-territory data, the state had reported a high women’s rights violation in 2015, with 6,110 reported incidents (http://bit.ly/2lfvsNM). Safety for women therefore, is a crucial concern in Uttar Pradesh.
Samajwadi Party – Congress
In the aftermath of the father-son battle within the Samajwadi Party, an uncanny alliance between SP and Congress emerged. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav released the SP’s manifesto in January. In its manifesto, Akhilesh has promised that self-defence training institutions for women will be set up and that all districts will have women police stations. Along with this it has promised free bicycles to girl students between classes 9 and 12. For working women in particular, hostels would be built in many cities.
The party has also promised that Rs 2 lakh (along with a house), would be given to those who’d marry “orphans, disabled and widows”. Rather than giving men what practically seems like a bribe, this money should be invested in setting up skill development centers for women who are socially or physically unaccepted by society.
Bharatiya Janata Party
In its manifesto called the Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra, BJP has promised a referendum of sorts over triple talaq. BJP’s President Amit Shah voiced that if the party comes to power, it would conduct a survey, asking all the Muslim women in UP about their stance on triple talaq. “The issue is pending in court,” he said. “However, once the BJP comes to power, the state government would take opinion of Muslim women on the issue and, if need be, would become a party in the ongoing case, presenting the opinion of the Muslim women from the state.” In addition, in its manifesto, the party also mentioned that as state government, education will be provided for free to girls till graduation. For protection of women, a special women police force will be put together and it would also establish 100 fast-track courts to address women’s concerns.
*Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party has decided not to release a manifesto yet, claiming that its fulfillment of the previous promises it made validated the party’s expertise in running for governance and winning.
The 2011 Census showed that Punjab has an alarming sex ratio – 895. With regard to crimes against women, the situation in Punjab is worrisome (http://bit.ly/2kmzItr). Back in 2015, till August 31, there were 1,054 dowry cases reported in Punjab, along with 826 molestation incidents and 597 rape incidents.
In its 120-page manifesto, apart from suggesting that it will provide 33 percent quota to women for government jobs as well as educational institutes, the party stated that “reservation for women in PRIs and ULBs (PLEASE EXPAND) would be raised to 50 per cent” as well. Focusing on education, it mentions that education would be provided for free to girls from class I to PhD level. Farmer suicide is a grave issue in Punjab. Tying that with women’s concerns, Congress states that if voted to power, the widows of suicide victims will be taught and equipped with skills for employment, while their children will be provided with free education (including hostel lodging).
While it has mentioned that it will “ensure safe cities for all women”, it hasn’t outlined precisely how it will go about doing so. Domestic violence victims however, will be given free psychological counseling, legal and medical services by establishing Crisis Centers in all districts.
Shiomani Akali Dal – BJP (alliance)
On January 24, 2017, the Shiomani Akali Dal unveiled its pledges to voters. In its 52 page manifesto (http://bit.ly/2kgVpZJ), women’s issues do not have a separate, dedicated section – while there are separate chapters dedicated to reiterating and restating the importance of “Preserving Our Rich Sacred Heritage” and “Promotion of Punjabi Language and Culture”.
While, through its manifesto, the Akali Dal assures an increase in its women empowerment’s Shagun scheme from Rs 15,000 to Rs 51,000, it also promises to provide a 33 per cent reservation to women in government jobs. If voted, the party would also raise the funds for girl child assistance from Rs. 61,000 to Rs. 1,25,000.
Aam Aadmi Party
Branching out of Delhi and contesting for state elections in Punjab and Goa for the first time, AAP has promised that it would provide 33 per cent reservation for women in government jobs. For women’s safety, it proposed opening training centers which would equip women with skills to join the state and central police forces.
Looking at the competitive industry for women entrepreneurs, it also stated that a five-year tax holiday would be given to them. Acutely aware of facing a stiff competition from both the Akali Dal-BJP alliance and Congress, AAP’s women wing chief, Baljinder Kaur told The Indian Express that women safety and other concerns would play a significant part in AAP’s agenda. “From safety and dignity of women to making her financially independent, we will include everything in our women’s manifesto. Unlike Congress, our manifesto hasn’t been made sitting in AC rooms but by talking to women at grassroots. It will be launched after Dalits’ manifesto and we are still in process of holding dialogues with women. Like Delhi, installing CCTV cameras in buses and other places will be top priority,” she said.