Vol. XLIII No. 14 April 07, 2019
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One Year of Modi:A Regressive Ideology Pushes Down Women

Ishita Mukherjee

HOW are Indian women living under Modi rule? This is a government of promises and advertisements, owing allegiance to corporate capital. Indian women have no place in the new face of the country created by the government. Gender discrimination is one of the pillars on which the government stands. Indian democracy has been fighting patriarchy throughout, but the one year experience of Modi government saw the bitterest form of discrimination against women with a dangerous combination of neoliberalism and patriarchy. When the government came to power, lots of promises were showered, but the experience of a state ruled by Modi before he became prime minister spoke otherwise. Under his rule Gujarat had a falling sex ratio, stagnant female literacy and falling female employment rate, clearly showing that women’s development was not an issue of importance in Modi government in Gujarat. When the same person became prime minister, India’s experience has been worse.
What has happened to Women’s Reservation Bill in parliament? Indian politics has been struggling with the Bill for 18 years. When BJP was in opposition they spoke for the bill, but after coming to power the Bill was not placed in Lok Sabha. This shows the true commitment of the government towards women’s issues. All that the Modi Sarkar had to say was that the Bill will be tabled after careful consideration, which means non-commitment to the agenda of women’s political leadership.
There was a cut in the allocation for the department of women and child development, part of the general withdrawal of the State from the social sector. The concerned minister herself wrote two letters to finance minister regarding slashing of the budget of the department to half in nominal terms. When the left parties had criticised the cuts, the same minister had supported the budget. She is now begging for money as she realizes that her ministry has been reduced to a non-entity. This is one of the causes behind deplorable women’s condition in the country.
At the same time when prime minister is boasting on the announcement of “malnutrition free India”, there has been a reported shortfall of Rs.109 billion in the ICDS programme. Such is the hypocrisy of the government. In the budget allocations under ICDS and Midday Meal Scheme were severely cut. 7067 operational projects of ICDS and 13.42 lakh anganwadi centres are facing closure now. It was mentioned in the budget that if revenue receipts increased then there would be more allocation to these programmes. This is the discriminatory attitude of the government towards the scheme. Midday Meal scheme is also facing threat. Anganwadi workers, Midday Meal cooks and Mahila Samakhya workers, mostly women, are facing the threat of getting thrown out.
Another flagship programme of the government: “beti bachao, beti padhao” is also under threat. The government relies on advertisement and marketing to create illusions in people’s minds. A slogan was coined but there is no actual work. Allocation for girl’s education was actually reduced by 8.3 per cent. Only Rs.100 crore was allocated, which is a sheer mockery. The programme was aimed at reducing sex-selective abortion, girl child education and more state care of adolescent girls. But the financial burden was shifted to the states, which are under financial stress already. No doubt the programmes will suffer.
The sinister political game in all this is clear. While the prime minister gains popularity by spreading pro-women slogans through media, discrimination is strengthened through budgetary cuts. The states can be blamed for non-performance.
The anti-women thrust of Modi government does not stop with only cuts in budgetary allocation. The gender politics of this government is pronounced discrimination across caste, class and community. BJP ideologically uses the discriminatory gender perception to pursue the communal goal. The propaganda of “love jihad” is such a tool. This has affected the freedom to choose partner by the women of the country. A communal campaign was carried on in the name of disallowing inter-community marriages. Women’s right to live with dignity is not recognised. Women were commoditised only to be protected by the family. Family is the space for women. In state sponsored advertisements where public toilets are to be built, the reason for these toilets are not right to health and sanitation for women of the country, but toilets are to be built only to keep women indoors. The right to education, right to health, right to live a respectful life is yet to be recognised.
Female employment is falling. Wage discrimination between men and women workers in several sectors is increasing. Gender discrimination has been reported in worsening conditions of work, lack of access to credit and social security. But the government is not bothered about these issues affecting working women. There is no policy, no slogan from the PM on right to work, right to social security of working women.
Nirbhaya Fund was to take care of women who faced violence but the government has not allocated sufficient funds for this. The political party ruling the government works on the regressive ideology of protection of women by the family only and not by the state and society. Sex-selective abortion, infanticide, denial of adequate nutrition, lack of access to health care and education of girl child, child marriage, sexual harassment in public places and workplace, sexual abuse, acid attacks, rape, domestic violence, dowry murders, trafficking, violence due to sexual orientation, widowhood, old age, disability, honour killings are all on the rise in the country. This environment is facilitated by the state. Despite the enactment of laws for which this government is not at all responsible, the implementation of the laws is hardly getting state help.