(MENAFN- IANS) Patna, Sep 23 (IANS) The term, 'Mukhiya Pati' is very common in states like Bihar. These husbands of women in power are not public representatives but they act like elected representatives at the Panchayat level. Apart from the signing authority, their value is almost equal in the state.
This is the bitter truth in Bihar where Chief Minister Nitish Kumar brought reservation for women at the Panchayat level in 2006 with the idea to empower them.
However, in the male-dominated society of rural Bihar, Nitish Kumar's idea did not prove to be completely practical. But that did not prevent him from winning the unflinching support of women in the state who have time and again stood firmly behind him and turned their loyalty into votes at election time.
The astute politician that is Nitish Kumar ensured that he kept his crucial vote bank happy by launching various schemes for women's empowerment in the state.
Apart from reservation for women at the Panchayat level, he also gave them reservation in jobs. He empowered girl students by announcing a cash reward for passing intermediate (10+2) and completing graduation. He provided them with free uniforms, bicycles, books and other infrastructure crucial to ensure their continued education.
All these decisions, taken in his first tenure as the Chief Minister of Bihar, yielded big dividends for him in the 2010 Assembly election when his party won 118 seats in Bihar.
Now, the Narendra Modi government is walking the same path and has passed the Women's Reservation Bill in both Houses of Parliament. He also knows that if his party can get the support of women, there would be no need to depend on caste combinations to win the Lok Sabha election in 2024.
After 2006, seats of the Mukhiya, Sarpanch, ward councilors and others were reserved for women. However, wily male candidates brought their spouses to contest elections from those seats.
“Women candidates contest elections here on the reserved seats but a majority of them are no more than puppets in the hands of their husbands. In Khusrupur block of Patna district, there are 18 Panchayats seats and nine of them are reserved for women.
"In those seats, women were elected as Mukhiya and Sarpanch but apart from filling the nomination, taking certificates after the election and attending one or two meetings in the block, they have no role as an elected leader.
"They nominate representatives. It is either the husband, or father, father-in-law, brother, brother-in-law or son. These men take care of all the work of the elected women representatives. They attend official meetings and Block Development Officers don't dare to stop them,” said Ashok Kumar, a teacher and a social worker in Khusrupur.
“There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar brought some brilliant policies to empower women in Bihar. When he became the Chief Minister the state of schools and hospitals was pathetic. People used to keep their cattle on the premises of schools and hospitals. Nitish Kumar renovated the buildings of educational institutes but still the students were not very interested in attending school. Then, he introduced free uniforms, gave books and brought 'khichri' policies which attract students. He launched a bicycle policy to encourage young girls to attend high school. He also launched the concept of Jivika Didi to get loans at the minimum interest from banks and these moves have turned into a tool for him to empower women,” Ashok Kumar said.
“These moves were adopted by many states and were successful but I still say that reservation for women at the Panchayat level is not successful due to male dominance in Bihar.
"The Women's Reservation Bill brought by the Modi government is inspired by Nitish Kumar and I have no hesitation in saying that the Bill is just eyewash. It is just a tool to fool people. The BJP is eyeing the same success in the 2024 polls that Nitish Kumar achieved in the 2010 Assembly election of Bihar,” he asserted.
Aware of the issue of male dominance at the Panchayat level, the Bihar government had withdrawn the rights of elected representatives of Panchayat bodies and Gram Kachahari (Village Court) to nominate others on behalf of them on January 13, 2022.
Now, leaders of the INDIA Opposition bloc are saying that the Women's Reservation Bill is just a ploy to mislead the people of the country, especially women, just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in 2024.
Tejashwi Yadav, the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar said:“They have passed the Women's Reservation Bill in Parliament but the BJP's edifice at the Centre would be reduced to rubble if the rights of the aware and assertive OBCs are infringed upon through the Bill.
"The OBCs comprise nearly 60 per cent of the total population. I would like to make it clear that if any attempt is made to violate their share, they know how to claim it."
The RJD leader also questioned the intent of the Modi government in bringing the Bill, which states that the quotas would be implemented only after a fresh delimitation which would follow the yet-to-be-held census. He said,“We demand 50 per cent reservation for women instead of 33 per cent. When will they give reservation?”
At present, Samrat Chaudhary, Bihar BJP state president is claiming that leaders like Lalu Prasad, Sharad Yadav and others had torn the Bill in Parliament.
“If Women's Reservation Bill had been passed at that time, imagine where their position would be now. These leaders have nothing to do with the Women's Reservation Bill, they are just concerned about their own family and dynasty politics,” Chaudhary asserted.