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Disinterested in politics, Punjab's 93% women farm workers "ignorant" who is India's PM

By Rajiv Shah
Even as political parties are fighting a pitched battle during the Lok Sabha elections, a recent study, 'Socio-Economic Conditions and Political Participation of Rural Women Labourers in Punjab', has made the stark revelation that “a very large majority of the rural woman labourers, i.e., 95.28 per cent have no interest in politics”, even as pointing out, “They do not read, listen and watch news.”
The study says, not only do rural woman labourers “have no time to watch or listen to news because they remain pre-occupied with the domestic chores”, and being illiterate, they “are not able to read newspapers”, significantly, 89.28 per cent of the respondents “do not know even the name of the Chief Minister of Punjab.”
Carried out by a team led by agricultural economist Dr Gian Singh and his team comprising Dharampal, Gurinder Kaur, Veerpal Kaur and Jyoti, the study says, “Similarly, a very large majority of the respondents, i.e., 92.72 per cent failed to tell the name of the Prime Minister of the country.” Further: “Almost all the respondents, i.e., 99.21 per cent have no idea about the name of the President of the country.”
The study, which has been carried out in three geographical regions of Punjab, Majha, Doaba and Malwa, and is based on a survey of 1,017 respondents, with more than half (51.33 per cent) whom having begun to work as labourers when they were less than 20 years of age, says, “A large majority of the respondents, i.e., 83.28 per cent do not know the names of any two female political leaders of the state and 78.56 per cent could not tell the names of the various political parties in India.”
According to the study, while it is a “good sign” that a very large majority of the respondents, i.e., 95.97 per cent cast their votes in the last Punjab Legislative Assembly elections, during the field survey, it was observed that “a majority of the woman labourers in all the three regions cast their vote by the choice of their senior male family members”.
Even these male family members, the study claims, were found to be “further pressurized” by the money-lenders, shopkeepers, traders, employers, landlords and religious leaders, adding, a very large majority of the women respondents, i.e., 97.25 per cent, have “never participated in any political campaign/public assembly.” This is because these woman labourers “have to perform dual duty at the workplace and on the domestic front.”
The study also shows that “a very large majority of the respondent labourers, i.e., 96.67 per cent are not willing to be elected as representatives in elections, if they get an opportunity”, with the respondents feeling “very disappointed regarding this aspect.” In fact, they gave responses like "asi ane joge kithe?", "hun tan agle janam vich dekhange?", "gareeban nu kon moaka dinda?", which bring “out the extent of exclusion of the rural woman labourers in the Indian political system.”
It comments, “This approach makes the rural women insignificant for voting results and so the development policies ignore their interests.”

Women workers' profile

The profile of the women agricultural labourers in the study shows that more than two-thirds of the rural woman labourers (67.35 per cent) are illiterate, and even among the literate, majority of them are educated up to the primary level, with poor economic conditions compelling them “to start work as labourers at an early age.
Further, the survey shows, a large majority of the rural woman labourers, i.e., 92.43 per cent belong to the Scheduled Caste category, 7.08 per cent to the Backward Class category and only 0.49 per cent to the General Caste category. Majority of them live in semi-pucca houses, and most of their houses are in dilapidated conditions. They find it hard to even get their houses repaired.
Pointing out that an average rural woman labour household earned Rs 77,198, with only 24.91 per cent of their total income coming from hiring out (contractual as well as casual) labour in agriculture, “too low to meet the basic needs”, the study says, “This is the reason that the earning members of the rural woman labour households are also struggling to earn their income from other sources.”
Other sources of income include working at MGNREGA sites, as domestic servants, white-washing, brick-kiln workers, livestock, vending vegetables/fruits, dairying, labour in grain markets and tailoring, the study says, noting, however, “Not even a single respondent woman labourer is aware about the Minimum Wages Act which provides for fixing the minimum rates of wages for them.”
Ignorant towards their basic rights, the study also reveals that majority of the rural woman labourers, i.e., 62.83 per cent, are suffering from one or the other serious diseases such as body aches, sugar and blood pressure, bronchia problems, heat exhaustion and so on, apart from unhygienic living conditions and lack of balanced diet. Even then, medical facilities such as hospitals and laboratories are not available to them and consult local medical practitioners only.
The study says, “More than one-fourth of the respondents, 25.27 per cent, complain that they face caste discrimination at the workplace. They reported that the 'socalled' higher caste employers often use abusive language such as 'chuhri', 'chamari' and so on for them.” It notes, during the survey, “5.01 per cent of the respondents said they faced sexual exploitation at the workplace, whereas a large majority of them (70.60) did not given any response on this issue.”

Comments

Uma said…
This is not surprising. After all, when do we get a chance to even hear the president, forget listening to his speeches, except for an occasional condolence or congratulatory message which he is coached to utter. As for the majority of ministers--national or state--unless they stir up controversies, they are over-shadowed by the vocal few.

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