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Call for farmer status to Uttaranchal women

NEW DELHI, MARCH. 2. Firmly believing that land should belong to those who till it, the first chairperson of the Uttaranchal Commission for Women, Santosh Chauhan, has taken up the task of securing the status of `krishak'(farmer) to the hill women as her first priority.

Uttaranchal women play a very important part in its agriculture and horticulture, as men in most of the families are in the army because of lack of any industry or other avenues of employment in the state.

``Women of this beautiful hill state are very hard working. They toil through the day, starting with going out for water and then fodder for their cattle, traversing the rugged mountainous terrains with their babies on their back. After being through with household chores, they work on their fields and are back home with no complaints but smile on their faces,'' Dr Chauhan.

If these women are given the status of farmer, they will get right over their land, which will go a long way in empowering them and improving their status, she said.

One more tragedy with these women was that in quite a number of families, the money earned by them after bone-breaking toil is snatched by men in their families who are unemployed and have taken to drinking or become drug addicts.

The habit of drinking is the main cause of domestic violence in the state. The liquor is easily available in the families as most of them have some connection with the Army. Those in the Army get cheap liquor from the canteens and are sold in their state. Besides, drugs are also available in the state because of the cultivation of poppy.

Drinking and drug addiction is the cause of not only physical violence to these women but also of constant mental tension.

``In the midst of all these worries, a hill woman remains firmly devoted to her work, keeps her composure and is honest. They are definitely different from women of plains,'' says Dr Chauhan.

Enhancing social security for these women and setting up processing industry for horticultural produce to enhance employment opportunities both for men and women is one of the main thrust areas the commission will be working on, she said.

Dr Chauhan said the commission strongly felt that one more way of empowering women was to equip them to play an effective role in Panchayats.

At present, women functionaries in panchayats are not able to act independently, their job being mostly usurped by their men relatives. The main cause of this was ignornace about their rights and duties in panchayats.

``In view of this, we are soon starting a training programe for these women so that they could learn about their powers and the ways to exercise them, ending their dependence on their men relatives,'' she said.

The Commission will also be pressurising the government to open institutions providing technical education to women so that they could compete more effectively in the job market, she said.

Dr Chauhan, appointed to head the first Women's Commission in the state in 2003, is in the process of putting up the infrastructure for the body. She said the commission would soon come out with its recommendations for the state policy on women. She said that it has held seminars in all the districts to secure maximum input from a cross section of the society, especially women.

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