THE AIDWA central executive committee (CEC) meeting held on March 31- April 2, in New Delhi took several important decisions to mobilise women in large numbers against the severe attacks on the livelihood of women and against increasing violence and communal mobocracy. 64 out of 99 CEC members and 6 out of 12 special invitees from 20 states attended this meeting. The central secretariat meeting was held prior to the CEC. President Malini Bhattacharya, along with vice-presidents Susan Kody and Rampari chaired different sessions of the meeting.
The CEC was greeted by AIDWA Patron Brinda Karat. She elaborated on the violent situation in Tripura after the Assembly elections and how our activists are bravely resisting the assaults and mobilising the people to face these attacks. It is noteworthy that more number of women have voted for the Left Front. She pointed out that the BJP faced big defeats in the Lok Sabha by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This is a welcome development. Militant struggles of the peasants are taking place all over the country. The long march of the Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra was remarkable. The peasants in Rajasthan too are on war path. She expressed concern at the rise in communal mobilisation of women and children as seen during Ram Navami. Riots have broken out in Bihar and West Bengal. How to counter the use of religion in politics is a big challenge for AIDWA. We will have to work at the grass roots level and strengthen our contacts with the mass of women. She explained the importance of sectoral work among women and forming of broader platforms to counter the communal threat.
The report on current developments was placed by the general secretary Mariam Dhawale and was adopted after a lively and fruitful discussion. More than 20 members took part in the two hour discussion on this report.
Some of the issues raised during the discussions were: The law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has deteriorated. There is deep resentment against the BJP Yogi government. Inspite of the terror tactics and threats, people voted against the BJP in both the constituencies earlier held by the chief minister and deputy chief minister, namely, Gorakhpur and Phulpur. Illegal encounters targeting Muslims, Dalits and OBCs are being rampantly encouraged by the Yogi government. Churches have been attacked in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Many expressed serious concern at the riots that broke out during the Ram Navami celebrations in West Bengal and Bihar. West Bengal had a glorious record of communal harmony during the regime of the Left Front government. This has now been disrupted after the formation of the TMC government which has been succumbing to the pressures of the communal and fundamentalist forces.
The saffron flag was hoisted on the Masjids in Bihar in the presence of the police. A BJP Rajya Sabha member has openly defended the khap panchayats in parliament. CEC members also narrated examples of people who have resisted the BJP communal onslaught. Fundamentalists from the minority community are also mobilising women in the name of saving their religion. Ten incidents of girls being killed have occurred in Tamil Nadu for rejecting proposals. Witch-hunting is on the rise in Jharkhand. Violence against women has risen as never before.
Infiltration by the Sangh Parivar in educational institutions is a cause of worry. Communalising the syllabi and changes in the text books will have a disastrous impact on the minds of the young. The values of secularism, equality, scientific outlook are being systematically destroyed. Incidents of sexual harassment in educational institutions, including JNU, are on the rise. The issue of graded autonomy and changes in the educational sphere which will impact adversely on the entry of young women in higher education was also placed. Young women are in the forefront in strongly fighting against these attacks.
The Aadhaar and biometric linkage has denied a large number of beneficiaries their right to cheap food grains. New ration cards are not being made, thus depriving many families of ration grains. The subsidies for cooking gas cylinders are now not being deposited in the banks. The Ujjwal gas scheme is a big fraud as the poor women do not get subsidised refill gas cylinders and have to buy it at market rates. Pressure on the government hospitals has increased as private health care is exorbitant. But poor people do not get proper health care in government hospitals and dispensaries.
The BJP is flouting all democratic norms to stifle any criticism. The FIR against the courageous woman journalist of Tribune who exposed the weaknesses and dangers of the Aadhaar and the resignation of the editor-in-chief is one such example.
However, resistance to the BJP regime is also growing. A successful 12-day strike of 20,000 Asha workers was organised in Haryana. 52,000 Anganwadi women too had a strike action after which they were granted the status of a worker. Thousands of peasant women walked all the way in the kisan long march in Maharashtra. Peasant women in large numbers also participated in the kisan struggles in Rajasthan and elsewhere. Hundreds of girl students and women teachers are playing a leading role in the ongoing struggles in the JNU.
Tripura Solidarity Day
AIDWA has decided tohold protests condemning the regime of terror and brutal assaults inflicted by the RSS-BJP hoodlums on the activists of the Left and the people in Tripura. All states will organise these protests on any one day between April 8-10. These protests will be held jointly wherever possible.
Protest Actions on May 23
The Jan Ekta Jan Adhikar Andolan (JEJAA) is a united movement of the Left and democratic mass, class organisations and social movements. State-level platforms of this Andolan will be formed in the coming days. All the AIDWA state leaders will actively participate in the formation of this platform in their respective states.
The RSS-BJP central government will complete four years in power on May 26. The JEJAA has given a call for protest actions on May 23 all over the country. AIDWA units will mobilise women in large numbers.
For Strengthening PDS
Madhu Garg placed this agenda. The BJP central government has totally disrupted the functioning of the public distribution system (PDS). Compulsion of the Aadhaar card and use of the bio-metric machines has excluded a large number of beneficiaries under the PDS. The distribution of sugar has been stopped in ration shops. Now they are trying to introduce the ‘direct cash subsidy’ in the PDS. It was decided to intensify struggles on PDS issues much more vigorously.
AIDWA will conduct surveys to expose the sinister plot of the government to close down the PDS. This survey has already been conducted in Tamil Nadu in 26 districts covering 624 shops. AIDWA will conduct one week protest actions across the country. All AIDWA units will storm the tehsil/block offices from May 2-10, demanding regular supply of good quality food grains to all the beneficiaries.
For Right to Work
Durga Swami placed this agenda.There has been a serious decline in the work participation rate of women. The last three and a half years of the Modi government have caused devastation in the lives of the common people, especially women. It was decided to build a strong movement on the demands of MNREGA workers, majority of who are women. Lack of work, low wages, non-payment of wages, corruption, etc are some of the issues that are raised while campaigning among MNREGA workers. We also demand an Urban Employment Guarantee Act. The CEC decided that all states will submit memorandas to the district collectors and tehsildars on the problems of MNREGA, home-based and domestic workers during the Parliament session in July. A memorandum will also be submitted to the central government. An all India dharna of MNREGA, home-based and domestic workers will be held on September 6, 2018 in Delhi.
Survey of Single, Deserted and Divorced Women
U Vasuki explained the background and importance of the nationwide survey of single, deserted and divorced women. It will be conducted by July end. This survey aims to bring out the economic dimension, social stigma and sexual harassment faced by these women.
Campaigns on Violence
Sexual assaults on women and girl children have assumed alarming proportions. AIDWA has been intervening in innumerable incidents of violence against women and girl children in all states. The need of the hour is to involve society in general in this campaign. It was decided to involve younger women and students and hold various programmes like poster exhibitions, street plays, discussions, etc in schools and colleges as well as in local areas.
Tapasi Praharaj placed the issues on the situation of health care and it was decided that we should pay attention to the aspects of availability of health services at the local level.
Sonya Gill reported on the decisions taken by the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA). A national convention will be held by JSA on ‘Right to Health and Right to Care’ in Raipur. AIDWA will participate in this convention.
Changes in Laws related to Women
Adv Kirti Singh lucidly explained the different aspects of the impleadment petition on 498A that AIDWA has filed in the Supreme Court against weakening of this section. AIDWA has collected nearly two lakh signatures for strict implementation of section 498A which will be submitted to the chief justice of India. She also explained AIDWA’s stand on the Anti-trafficking bill that has been passed by the Union cabinet. She also said that the arguments on the petition on marital rape are complete and the judgement is awaited.
Susheela Gopalan Memorial Trust
Sudha Sundararaman explained the formation of the Susheela Gopalan Memorial Trust which started functioning in 2008. The CEC has decided to expand this trust to improve its functioning. The members elected to this board are Subhashini Ali, Bonani Biswas, PK Sreemathi, Kirti Singh, Sudha Sudararaman, Mariam Dhawale and Archana Prasad.
Indian School of Women’s Studies and Development (ISWSD)
Malini Bhattacharya reported on the functioning of the school and suggestions for its improvement. Discussions, seminars and short term courses can also be organised by the school. It has been decided to hold one annual lecture in the memory of Susheela Gopalan jointly with Susheela Gopalan Memorial Trust. Booklets will be published jointly with AIDWA.
Resolutions condemning the violence in tripura, on the Supreme Court order diluting the SC/ST Atrocity Act and supporting the struggle of the JNU students and teachers were adopted. The sub-committee meetings were held during the CEC meeting. The reports of the discussions in the sub-committees are sent to the states. It was decided that the implementation of the decisions accepted by the CEC has to be taken up seriously by the state committees.
The state-wise membership figures were placed by Sathi Devi. The total all India membership for 2017 is 1,05,45,898, which is a 2,71,099 increase over 2016. The CEC congratulated Kerala and Tripura for exemplary work in membership enrolment. It also congratulated West Bengal for the hard work put in by our activists in very adverse conditions. The CEC commended the states of Telangana, Maharashtra, Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh for completing their membership targets. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh increased their membership over last year. The targets for 2018 were decided in this meeting.
A booklet on Communist Women Freedom Fighters will be published by AIDWA by August 2018.
The accounts from April to December 2017 were placed by treasurer PK Sreemathi. The CEC has decided to form an internal audit committee with Tapasi Praharaj as convenor and Savitri Majumdar and Santosh Kapoor as members.
It was decided that the next meeting of the CEC will be held in July 2018 in West Bengal.