Doubling up hubbies in soup

BJ Mirror Correspondent

The Bihar government has told the Patis (husbands) of all 130,500 women adorning the chair in urban and rural local bodies to let their wives work on their own. The rule by proxy at the grassroots level of democracy cannot be tolerated any more, it said and warned all mukhia-sarpanch-pramukhpatis that any husband making it to official meetings on their wife’s behalf or with them would be arrested and sent to jail.

This step is a sequel to the Union government’s missives to the states. The Union Panchayati Raj ministry had told the state governments to ensure that men, especially husbands, should not interfere in daily activities and financial matters of panchayats and allow the wives to work independently. Ever since the Bihar government reserved 50 per cent seats for women, men had ‘usurped’ their role They doubled up for their wives or mothers, rendering women mere puppets. In many cases husbands or sons even attended official meetings and took all decisions.The Patna Municipal Corporation had also to put with men ‘dictating’ their wives in official meetings
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The ‘arrest order’ has, however, not been taken kindly by the husbands. Groundswell of resentment at the grassroots level has been reported. Angry men have raised a question and asked: “Why is it that the state government not following this rule in Assembly and Parliament”?Social activists working with panchayats, however, said the government should first plan intensive training and innovative methods of developing skills and leadership qualities for the women, before banning hubbies.

It may be noted here that men usurping the power was considered a big blow to steps for women empowerment. This problem has been faced in all states allowing 50 per cent reservations to the fair sex in the grassroots democracy. In the states, other than Bihar, the governments had asked women not to delegate their job to family members under any circumstances. If they do so, they will be liable to face action under the Panchayati Raj Act. (Visit: bjmirror.com, April, 2010 issue).

Earlier, Rupa Mangliani, a college lecturer associated with research on women mukhias and sarpanches, has been quoted saying: “The ground reality is entirely different. There is bound to be a gap between the order and actual implementation. Mere government order or rule is not enough to root out the malaise of males, especially husbands, putting forward the women mukhias as show pieces and actually carrying out their activities”.

“Winning a mukhia election has become a family legacy. Men do not want the power to go out of their families, so wherever seats were reserved for women, men put up their wives or daughters, so that the power structure remains within the family”, she had said and added: “After NREGA (national rural employment guarantee scheme), which is a big money-spinner, at least Rs 8 lakh is given to each panchayat,nobody wants to let go of that kind of money”. Mangliani said that several women who become mukhias-sarpanches are forced to depend on others also because of lack of education. The female literacy in Bihar is not more than 33.25 per cent.

A mukhia has to maintain at least 21 registers, look after 35 schemes and prepare the below poverty line list. This task is not easy for those with little formal education. To overcome this problem the Bihar government has now decided to give competent and computer-savvy assistant to all mukhias. Moreover, all elected women in the state do not play a second fiddle to their husbands or sons. Many of them think and work freely. And those who have taken up the responsibilities on themselves are showing commendable results. One vital factor that makes all the difference is the fact that women, by and large, are less corrupt than their male counterparts.

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