India yet to honour commitments to women
By Anita Katyal
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: It is now five years since India, along with other countries,
participated in the Women's World Conference in Beijing. It was here that
India pledged to improve the status of women through a series of policy
decisions and actions.
These commitments included an increase in the educational budget to six per
cent of the GDP, appointment of a National Commissioner for Women to look
into cases of atrocities on women, formulation of a national policy on
women, constitution of a National Resource Centre and improvement in the
development support and health care schemes for women and children.
An exhaustive India country report on the implementation of the Beijing
agenda, prepared by a task force of women's organisations and NGOs,
indicates that ``not enough has changed for the better''.
There are considerable positive changes over the past 25 years but if ``we
look back only five years, we can see much that is terrible and
disappointing,'' says the report, which seeks to reflect the opinions and
assessments of women across the country.
``There is more violence, more discord, more disparity, more poverty, more
indifference to the demands of economic justice,'' the report points out as
it goes down the list of India's ``hits and misses'' on this front.
Here's a brief checklist on India's performance on its promises:
* The move to appoint a national commissioner has not succeeded. The
proposal has been turned down by the home ministry.
* The promise to raise the education budget has not been fulfilled to date.
* A national policy for the empowerment of women was drafted in 1996 but is
yet to be approved and adopted.
* The plan to establish a national resource centre, envisaged as a nodal
body to mainstream gender issues in polices and programmes, has not moved.
* The emphasis in health investment is slanted towards reproductive health
concerns while the government anounces plans to ``privatise'' many public
health services. The cost of health care has gone up in the last five years.
Drug policies have changed leading to a sharp increase in the prices of
medicines while the quality of primary health care is bad.
India's poor performance in implementing Beijing's Platform Action (PFA),
according to the report, is attributed to the lack of political will in
addressing women's issues. ``The degree of genuine political will is
disappointing. The failure to adopt the National Policy for women's
Empowerment, to get the women's reservation Bill passed and to implement the
the major commitments made at Beijing are evidence of this,'' the report
adds. Another indicator is the failure to control the rise of crime and
violence targetting women while overall investment in social development has
fallen with predictable negative fall-out on women.
Women's organisations have bemoaned the fact that no one in government seems
to feel accountable. While India's 1995 accceptance of the Beijing agenda
was ``without reservations'' and the 1996 draft policy provides for a
national monitoring mechanism, there is no movement on this front.
While the women and child department in the human resource development (HRD)
ministry is the nodal agency for monitoring these issues, two other wings of
this ministry - the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Central
Social Welfare Board (CSWB) - are also promoting greater attention to
women's rights and development.
However, the NCW has not not been able to get government action on the 213
measures it has recommended while the CSWB is yet to move into an
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