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Gandhi’s vision still a dream

Some citizens will turn the clock back on Friday, a day before Women’s Day and convene what they are calling Gandhi’s Parliament, under the aegis of Women's Political Watch, reports Kumkum Chadha.
Hindustan Times | By Kumkum Chadha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2008 03:53 AM IST

The International Women's Day could see Mahatma Gandhi’s “Parliament” come alive in Delhi and the women’s reservation bill get a symbolic “burial”, if some women's organisations have their way.

Some citizens will turn the clock back on Friday, a day before Women’s Day on March 8 and convene what they are calling Gandhi’s Parliament, under the aegis of Women's Political Watch.

Out of bounds of politicians, the Mahatma's Parliament will be a common man's representation of how the Father of the Nation would have wanted to see the Parliament in the world's greatest democracy, beginning with equality and gender parity.

Later, DVDs will be circulated to sitting MPs and ministers to tell show them the gaps between what is and what should be.

"We, in Gandhiji's Parliament, will remind them of the national pledge to serve and struggle," Women's Political Watch chief Veena Nayyar told HT.

The MPs, she said, were being kept out because they would not make it to Gandhiji's Parliament given the criminal antecedents of some.

The Parliament will be convened at Gandhi Smriti. It will present, debate and vote on bills that the Mahatma would have supported. In this context, women will be the focal point seeking a focus shift in agriculture. This they will do by presenting a farmers' amendment bill that would moot the concept of feminisation of agriculture.

Nayyar's brainchild, the bill will seek a gender shift in farming: "The government must recognise that farming is not male dominated any longer. It is the women who till plots and look after the crop," said Nayyar.

"Consequently, when the government talks of welfare schemes in the farming sector, they should conceive them to benefit women. In this context, land title deeds should be in the name of the women, bank loans should be available to her and training in farm techniques should be women friendly. As of now, welfare is for men and the burden the woman's. This must change and Gandhiji's Parliament will draw the government's attention to this", she told Hindustan Times.

The presence of MPs and Ministers at the mock Parliament, Nayyar felt, would be the first step towards giving a "gender touch" to agriculture.

Another women's organisation, the Guild of Service, would call March 8 Betrayal Day. It would be the beginning to protest and demonstrate what the women term as "deep indignation" at being sidelined by all political parties and successive governments.

Women's reservation would not be the only issue. The entire gamut of women's problems which successive governments have sidelined, including the plight of tribal women, gender-violence and social atrocities, would be given voice.

As for the reservation bill, it will figure but not as a demand for 33 per cent seats in state legislatures and Parliament but for what guild chief Mohini Giri is terming as a "ceremonial burial" of the decade old demand.

“This time round, women will not go to politicians with a begging bowl or accept conflicting versions of the fate of the Bill. Instead we will set fire to it," she said. It is time, she said, to accept that women do not count. "They are at best a potential and not necessarily a real vote bank,” Giri said, slamming politicians for what she saw was their “lack of courage”.

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