States & UTs

    Abysmal gender ratio in K'taka House, govt despite 'nari shakti' in panchayats

    The Hawk
    September23/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    Bengaluru: When the results for over 70,000 gram panchayat seats spread across 5,728 villages in Karnataka were announced in 2020, the numbers revealed the assertiveness of nari shakti. While 50 per cent of the total seats were reserved for women, more than 50 per cent of the elected representatives were women. 

    The 35-year-old US educated home maker Swathi Thippeswamy and Bheemavva, a migrant worker, who made it to the posts of president in Sokke gram panchayat in Davanagere and Tallur gram panchayat in Udupi district respectively have successfully completed their tenures and are continuing as members, inspiring their fraternity. Several other members hold Ph.D, postgraduate, medical, engineering and law degrees, according to the Rural Development of Panchayat Raj Department.

    Vimala K.S., a social activist from Janwadi Mahila Sanghatane, told IANS that when it comes to assertiveness, it is much better in Karnataka when compared to other states. At the panchayat level though patriarchy and feudal values are still practiced, it is better. This is because in 1986 during late Ramkrishna Hegde’s tenure as chief minister, reservation was introduced.

    It has been quite a long time but it has still not reached the desired levels because the whole society is dominated by feudal values, she says.

    There will definitely be an impact on local governance due to the presence of women. This is not only in Karnataka, it is the same in West Bengal where women got reservation during the tenure of former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. There were hundreds of women led panchayats, they got elected in the general category and won against male candidates, Vimala said.

    Secondly, there is a perceptual difference between men and women while making decisions. In my experience as a search committee member if there is discussion on civic amenities, women demanded drinking water, streetlights etc while the men demanded community halls. Basic necessities will be a priority for women, Vimala stated.

    The 33 per cent reservation will definitely make a difference. In this system as well women are winning but it’s not a cakewalk. One has to spend money, muscle power is required for men and woman candidates. When you are contesting against a man and when you contest against a woman there is a lot of difference, she explained.

    Vimala added, again it depends on the party, money and caste. But, women’s reservation is going to create an impact. Since the 90s women’s participation has been there. It has created awareness among women. As patriarchal values are there they won’t allow women to take the real required decisions. Even then, the whole journey from the 90s onwards has created awareness and a section of women have become assertive.

    Jyothi Ananthasubbarao, writer and activist attached to the All India Youth Federation, told IANS that in the beginning the women representatives were clueless and due to male domination there was no opportunity for them. But, now they are able to overcome it.

    They have been able to make decisions on their own and run panchayats well. Many of them are taking good decisions, doing good work in Mandya, Kolar and other places. The implementation of the MNREGA scheme has also had an impact she said.

    Their training is focusing on making women representatives aware of their power. However, it takes time to overcome male chauvinism. There has been a remarkable change, Jyothi Ananthsubbarao stated.

    On the ground the change is already visible. “I have observed that women representatives have implemented MNREGA to the optimum level as 50 per cent of the workers are women. They are taking initiatives. The women presidents are getting the work done diplomatically without creating a hostile situation,” Ananthsubbarao opined.

    Despite the brighter picture in the local bodies, the Karnataka Assembly presents a poor picture. The 224-seat legislative assembly has just 10 women MLAs and the 34-member cabinet has only one woman minister in Laxmi Hebbalkar.