Maharashtra: Tough battle ahead for state’s women

first_imgThe proposed women’s reservation bill provides for 33 per cent reservation in the legislature.The Centre may be struggling to implement the 33 per cent reservation for women in assemblies and in Parliament, yet the Maharashtra government has gone one step ahead and announced 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies. This would mean municipalities, zilla parishads, gram panchayats and gram sabhas would all have 50 per cent women representatives.While both the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress have been fighting with each other to claim credit as they declare that it would be a huge step towards ‘women’s empowerment’ the majority of women in the state are neither excited nor enthused by it.One has to visit the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to know why there are so many sceptics. Take for instance Suhasini Chate (name changed), the chairman of one of the numerous committees in the BMC. She is known as a ‘rubber stamp’ because her husband, a former corporator, does all the work that she is supposed to do.He tells her which deals to sign and which proposals to oppose and as Suhasini is not much of a talker, her husband also attends official meetings along with her and ‘speaks’ to everyone from the ‘Municipal Commissioner’ to other civic officials on her ‘behalf’. On days when Suhasini is at home, probably cooking or sending the kids to school, her husband is actually seen sitting in her official chair.Interestingly, Suhasini is not an exception. Many of the 90-odd female corporators have husbands who do the same thing.advertisementSome of the men are even openly aggressive and will publicly rebuke their wives in front of other civic officials. Ironically, Suhasini and many of the current crop of female corporators have been elected through the 33 per cent reservation process, where a small number of seats in all local bodies have been set aside for women.The problem is that the reservation has been hijacked by male corporators who are loathe to let go of power, and have hence got their wives to contest knowing fully well who will call the shots once the seat has been won. The solution for this does not lie with the state government making more laws, but with political parties themselves, if they really claim to be agents of change and want to empower women then they should stop giving tickets to daughters and wives of corporators and instead give it to other deserving candidates, but would they actually do it is anybody’s guess.So, it is natural to question the government’s claim that this 50 per cent reservation bill would actually help women. If Prithviraj Chavan and company really wanted to do something for the women of the state then they should look at measures to stop the indiscriminate prenatal sexdetermination tests that make parents abort a girl child in favour of a boy.The ratio of girls in comparison to boys has been steadily declining.Till March 2009, there were 877 girls for every 1,000 boys being born, it came down to 866 in March last year. The state has still not been able to eradicate the menace of dowry and crimes against women are an entirely different story.The 50 per cent reservation bill, if passed by the Maharashtra assembly, could be challenged in a court of law. In 2009, when the Rajasthan government passed the Municipalities bill which provided a similar reservation for women in local bodies, it was challenged in the Rajasthan High Court. In a ruling given on March 2010, the court held that the ‘reservation to any category must be rational and not excessive’. The court held that the state had not provided for any survey to show that the population of women in the state was higher than men to justify the higher reservation. The court struck down the government’s order citing that it violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India which provides the right to equality to the citizens.===New top cop literally adds muscle to police Newly-appointed Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik has found a really strange way of instilling the fear of the law in the minds of criminals. He has hired two six-foot plus, wellbuilt men called Bhausaheb Bhonsle and Vijay Kakade to stand in his office and break coconuts with their bare hands, flex their biceps and give the by now quaking criminals a ‘hug’. The aim is to put the ‘ fear’ of cops on those who visit his office.Old timers who have served in the Mumbai police are not amused.advertisement”You don’t need to frighten a criminal with brute force. When we were in the force, criminals were scared even if they saw a cop in civvies sporting a crew cut. If you really want to make an impact, then you need not have muscles,” they claim. No one wants to say this to Patnaik’s face as they probably feel it is not a good idea to cross swords with Patnaik with Bhonsle and Kakade around. Govt ties itself in knots On Tuesday, the Home Department announced that it had recommended the suspension of DCP (railway police) Ashok Deshbrathar.Home Minister RR Patil said he would be suspended because in 2008 he had allegedly conducted a ‘sting’ operation on Hassan Ali who was arrested for having multiple passports. In the sting, allegedly conducted by the DCP himself, Ali is heard talking of his contacts with top politicians from the Congress and NCP. He even claims he was instrumental in the appointment of the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor. The state government which then ordered a CID inquiry found that the ‘sting’ was doctored to embarrass the people concerned.If Deshbrathar is really guilty, then shouldn’t he be sacked instead of just being suspended, specially as Patil himself has said that the CID found that Deshbrathar had also sought a bribe of Rs 1 crore from Hasan Ali? Also why has the government moved so late in the day?  ===Mess with Pawar at your peril   Arup Patnaik should take a leaf out of Ajit Pawar’s book.Sharad Pawar’s nephew is neither six feet tall nor does he sport rippling muscles, yet he still manages to instill fear.On Thursday, nine opposition MLAs belonging to both the NCP and Shiv Sena were suspended till the end of the year. Their crime: They were creating a ruckus when Ajit Pawar was reading out his maiden budget speech on Wednesday.There was no action against the MLAs on the same day, but the next day, MLA’s belonging to the Congress and NCP ruling party moved a resolution for the suspension claiming that the opposition had tarnished the image of the house with their unruly behaviour as the images were being telecast live. The jury is out on whether the MLAs would have been suspended if someone else had been reading the speech. ===’Marathon’ sweepers selection The BMC is the richest civic body in the country.However, when it comes to common sense, the civic body seems strangely bereft of it. A case in point: On a hot summer morning last Monday when temperatures in the city were close to 40 degrees Celsius, hundreds of men were being made to run around by the BMC. At stake were 3,916 posts for sweepers, and if you wanted to get the job then you had to prove that you could run 4 km within 15 minutes.How this would help in the job was unclear. Even the finest cadets at the National Cadet Corps (NCC) manage a timing of 16 minutes for six kilometres.advertisementSo, it was not surprising that not one of those who ran on Monday qualified and neither did 3 lakh other applicants who ran on other days. Chastened, the BMC has now decided to increase the timings for qualification.From the earlier 15 minutes, applicants for the sweepers’ post can now take 25 minutes to cover 4 km.While it remains to be seen how many of the men manage to qualify in the revised timings, what civic officials are unable to explain is the connection between running fast and sweeping.Surely, they don’t expect their staff to sweep as they run.last_img

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