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What Rae Barelli's women want from Sonia

By Anand Mishra in Rae Barelli
April 18, 2009 14:33 IST
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Women of Rae Barelli who do back-breaking work on farms are asking one of the world's most influential women, Sonia Gandhi, to give them the status of farmers in return for their votes.

Although they toil, the absence of this status means women cannot enjoy the benefits that men do, such as get farmers' credit card.

Slogans like Mahilayon Ko Kisan Ka Darja Jo Dilayega, Vote Hamar Wahi Payega (He/she who will grant women the status of farmer will get our votes) and Jitni Hogi Bhagidari Utni Lenge Hissedari (We will have as much share as is the participation) litter the walls of dozens of villages in Harchandpur and Maharajganj blocks of this constituency.

Women ploughing in the field, spraying fertilisers and insecticides and plucking vegetables are a common sight here.

"We should also have the right to land. We do maximum of the agriculture work but we are not treated as farmers. We cannot get credit cards as the land is registered only in the name of male members. We want this to change," Sarita, a member of Gursen Sahayata Samuh in Datouli village, told PTI.

Maya, a member of the Sangatha Samuh in Anguri village, said, "It pains when family members tell that nothing belongs to me. I work so much but end up remaining just a labourer. Hence we are demanding farmer's status."

All Samuh members functioning under the Rae Barelli Mahila Sabji Utpadan Samiti will also jointly appeal to various political parties in this regard.

Rameshwri, a member of such a group, fought in the Panchyat elections a few years ago and became the head of the Angury Gram Panchyat.

These women became economically self-reliant after taking to vegetable cultivation while working under various self-help groups (SHGs) under the banner of the Samiti with the help of an NGO, Sabla.

"SHG members of the entire cluster had then extensively campaigned for Rameshwari. She is very popular in her Panchayat," says Meenu Tyagi, the Secretary of Sabala.

These women are now demanding some kind of an arrangement in which their names will also be included in the ownership of land so that they can also be treated as farmers, she added.

"When political parties will come for votes, we will ask them to accept our demand if they want to get our votes," said Gita of Angury village.

Interestingly, the quiet revolution for the uplift of women has been in the villages ever since the state government passed the Women Policy in 2006, which is yet to be implemented. Manifestos of political parties are also silent on this issue.

Many of these women claim that the financial condition of their family improved after they took to agriculture and their husbands, who earlier migrated to bigger cities for jobs, are now taking part in their new farming venture.

"My children did not study earlier and I did not have proper clothes for going outside. After I started earning, I am sending my three children to private schools," Asha of Chouhanapur village said.

The Samuh members had also raised the issue of irregularity in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Majhgavan village, which led to a thorough probe and the registration of an FIR against a person.

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Anand Mishra in Rae Barelli
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