Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bihar did what Sonia 'n PM couldn't

Bihar did what Sonia 'n PM couldn't

Ashok Kumar

New Delhi, Januray 19: Bihar under the new regime of Nitish Kumar has done what even the pro-development and apparently women friendly government at the Center under Manmohan Singh could not do so far.

Nitish Kumar has been successful in getting the approval of his cabinet for the proposed fifty per cent reservations for women in the panchayats.

This may not be something revolutionary for a government, which has come to power riding on the heavenly horse of promises for changes, but going by the standards of Bihar the step taken is something which will help in consolidating the position of women at the grassroots level.

Let’s not forget that the state falls in the notorious line of BIMARU states and is ranked one of the last in terms of female education.

Though it is too early to judge the government and that too based on a single decision, this decision will help in empowering women to the early positions of the state politics by electing them to the positions of Gram Panchayats, Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samiti levels.

After the change of guard in the state, changes were expected in all quarters. Today the societal system in Bihar is in shambles, with all the spheres thoroughly plagued by the maladies such as sectarianism, casteism and petty vested interests. And whatever change takes place, should come from within rather than outside.

Limitations of forces in the form of police or paramilitary have been evident across time. One reason for this was that half of the populations - in the form of women - were kept aloof from the very keys of establishment.

The reservation for women in panchayats holds significance in this state more than any one of its peers. This is because in the absence of manufacturing sector and a near absence of industries and enterprise in the state, the bulk of the population is still supported by agriculture. Hence this step strikes at the very root of the decaying system.

With the incorporation of woman in the polity of Bihar in proportion to their population, Nitish Kumar has hopefully tried to ensure equity participation at the basic levels of democracy. This is something, which could not be achieved by the combined armed forces of the state as well as hundreds of gun trotting troops from the Center.

By declaring fifty per cent reservation of women, Nitish has made his intentions clear. But he should ensure that his great designs see the light of day in their true spirits and are not victimised by the preset notions of the society.

Like it has happened in other BIMARU states such as Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where the women elected to any political position of power surrender their authority to their male counterparts be their husband, brother or father.

The �elite’ sections of women should not be allowed to corner the cream of power but steps should be taken to let the flow of power percolate to all the weak crevices and holes of the deprived sections.

With more and more women entering into the political fray there is an opportunity in the hands of the otherwise deprived state, to practice democracy in its true terms. It should also be a wake up call for the Center, which on some pretext or the other is allaying the fifty per cent reservation of women for the national panchayat.

With the message coming from one of the most backward and laidback states it seems the change of seat in the state was not limited to the symbolic or statistical limits. The decision of the government with regard to women’s role in panchayats is one glaring illustration.
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