Thursday, May 16, 2013

Women in Gujarat can’t hold ration card in their name unless male family member gives consent

Pankti Jog
By Our Representative
An anti-woman government resolution (GR) remains in currency in Gujarat for two years, yet nobody seems to to care. The Gujarat government issued this surprising GR two years ago, which seeks to undermine the authority of the woman as head of the family. The GR, issued on May 6, 2011, yet remained unnoticed for so long till a right to information (RTI) application was filed on December 25, 2012 by Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), Gujarat’s RTI NGO. Jog says, “The surprising GR comes from the department of food and civil supply. It says that woman can hold ration card in her name only if a male member of the family expresses his willingness.”
Jog underscores, “When I asked under RTI about how many men from Gujarat have expressed their willingness to allow a female member to own ration card, the public information officer (PIO) was unable to answer, and said he did not have the data.” Jog comments, “Gujarat on one side boasts on strategies aimed at empowering women, but on the other has failed to allot ration cards, or houses of Indira Awas and Sardar Awas Yojana in women’s name.”
She adds, “The benefit may be given in a woman’s name (wife’s name), but when the talati (the lowest level revenue official in a village) registers the house in the panchayat, he puts the husband’s name as the owner of the house. Not without reason, despite the big talk about entitlement of housing schemes, poor women are not owners of houses in Gujarat.”
The senior activist said, the RTI helpline, run by the MAGP received 1.4 lakh calls in a year. “Around 13 per cent of the calls were related to land issues. And around 11.6 percent were related to food security issues, including public distribution system. These calls show that for the single woman in Gujarat it is next to impossible task to put her name in the ownership column for the property owned by the husband.”
Jog gives the information of one Bhartiben (name changed), whose husband owned six acres of land. Yet, she was selling water pouches outside the gate of the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. The reason was, after the death of her husband; her name was not entered as the owner. And, she had to wait till her son turned 18.
Another woman, Bhadraben’s husband, owned three houses, had three mining leases and savings in banks. “But Bhadraben’s name did not appear as the co-owner. When her husband died of accident, she was on road with no access to any document, and her relatives grabbed the property. She had to invoke RTI and had to fight a long battle to get one of the houses in her name”, Jog said.
According to Jog, “Many Bhartibens and Bhadrabens are struggling hard to get property registered in their name. There is misconception about the woman’s right as landowner or owner of other properties, including the type of documents required for that. Only if male member ‘does not exist’ it is possible to own the property.”
Jog says, her experience suggest, “the revenue officers or officers in the property registration office would pose a long list of questions and cross questions if the a woman goes to the office as saying she is the rightful owner of a particular property in her name and wants to get it registered.”
She says, “Even if the husband wants to enter his wife’s name as co-owner in the property when he is alive, most often, the village talati refuses to do it, saying there is no provision in the law for it. Pet answer of the talati would be, when the husband dies the wife would automatically become the rightful owner. This came to light when a male professor from Sanand approached a talati to inquire how he should make his wife co-owner of the property.”

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