In what is probably the first such effort in the country, a group of 30 associations working on women and transgender issues, along with several academicians and activists, formed a Joint Action Committee, held consultations and arrived at a Manifesto of Women and Transgender Groups for the upcoming Telangana Legislative Assembly elections to be held in December 2018.
At a press conference held on Friday at the Somajiguda Press Club in Hyderabad to release the manifesto, Sajaya Kakarla, one of the coordinators of the manifesto drafting group, said that the Joint Action Committee took inputs from all the participant groups to arrive at 14 major issues that include health, education, agriculture, violence, prohibition, discrimination against transgender people, and labour from unorganised sector.
Sajaya, while highlighting the need for preventive health policies, food security and safe drinking water, stressed that at least 10% of SGDP must be allocated to health, to spend at least 60% of it on strengthening the primary health care system to bring health within the reach of the people. Health concerns of transgender people and the differently-abled must be addressed to provide access to health care with dignity. She outlined the policy short-comings that plague the health services in areas where Adivasi, Dalit and minority communities live, and said that there should be a Nodal Monitoring Committee to link preventive community health initiatives with quality health care provision.
After the 2014 state elections, the Telangana government did not have a single woman cabinet minister. The TRS government also did not have any women in decision-making bodies.
Speaking at the press conference, cultural activist PA Devi said, â€śSuccessive governments have failed to address womenâ€™s concerns. All political parties want women to be seen in rallies and political mobilisations but are unwilling to give them space in decision-making bodies. Women are not looking for dole from the governments nor patriarchal promises to wipe their tears, but political participation by way of 33% seats from all parties. The manifesto demands that whichever party comes to power must also allocate 33% of cabinet positions to women.â€ť
The introduction to the manifesto invokes the promise held out by the Constitution of India for a sovereign, secular, socialist democracy, and non-discrimination based on caste, religion or gender, and sets out to identify the policies that would address the needs of Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim women and the transgender community. The Joint Action Committee urged that the demands must be incorporated into the manifestoes of political parties to fulfil the aspirations and hopes of women from all sections of society.
In addition to the demand for â€śCommon Schoolâ€ť system demanded in the manifesto, social activist Kondaveeti Satyavati stressed the need for adequate facilities in schools for girl children, such as water supply, nutritional food, playgrounds and sanitary napkins. She flagged the demand for a womenâ€™s university in Telangana.
Raising the issue of unorganised sector workers among women, Sr Lizy demanded a comprehensive national legislation on domestic workers, implementation of minimum wage for women, security of and in unorganised work, and ESI facilities. Manjula demanded that migrant labourers who end up as domestic workers in urban areas must be protected by implementing the protocol of Convention 189 of the International Labour Organisation which India also endorsed. She highlighted the need to prevent enforced labour and child labour, and the need to implement minimum wage laws.
P Sandhya of the Progressive Women Organisation, speaking about violence against women, said that the Telangana state has failed to ensure that a woman heads the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare. She highlighted the manifestoâ€™s demand for gradual implementation of the prohibition policy instead of the state depending excessively on the excise revenue. She put forth the demand for providing rehabilitation for addicts, launching campaigns for awareness about alcohol addiction, implementing rules for licensing retail liquor outlets and prevention of their location near schools and places of worship. She proposed the restriction of the sales hours of liquor outlets from 10 am to 5 pm. She described the sorry state of implementation of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, and the deliberate weakening of the implementation of Section 498A in the state.
Transgender rights activist Rachana Mudraboyina spoke of the lack of implementation of the 2014 and 2018 judgments which clearly prohibit institutional discrimination against and criminalisation of transgender people when they seek state or other services. Rachana stressed the need to take policy initiatives to address the problems faced by transgender people in education, employment, housing, health care, safety, and life of dignity.
Agriculture is in severe crisis all over the country. The manifesto demands that women must be recognised as farmers and land titles must be settled in their name. Such information must be duly recorded in relevant state records. Womenâ€™s right to land must be protected and must not be taken away by the state under any circumstances claiming eminent domain. As per the Unorganised Workersâ€™ Social Security Act 2008, enumeration of women farm labourers and those in self-help enterprises should be taken up. Every district must have welfare boards and special efforts should be made to strengthen womenâ€™s cooperatives.
The manifesto specifically addresses violence by security forces of the state against Dalit, Adivasi and other women from marginalised sections, and demands the repeal of draconian public security laws like the UAPA, and the Preventive Detention Act, which provide impunity to the state agencies.
Among other demands, the Joint Action Committee referred to the need for a law protecting inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, and single women; insurance schemes for female migrants to foreign countries; conditions of women in the handloom sector; the need to preserve and record for posterity the history of great women of the region; establishment of academies to study and to research lives of great women, including those from Dalit Bahujan communities.
The Joint Action Committee proposes to meet all the political parties to urge them to incorporate the demands set out in the Manifesto of Women and Transgender Groups with a commitment to implement the policies if they come to power.
Main image: Joint Action Committee for drafting the manifesto at the press conference in Hyderabad. In the front row from left to right: Kondaveeti Satyvati, Devi, Gogu Shyamala, Sandhya, Sajaya Kakarla