This Article is From Feb 02, 2018

No Indian Leader Able To Save The Girl, Beyond The Slogan

The pink populism of the Economic Survey 2017-18 is ostensibly an attempt to tap into the emancipatory thinking and narratives of women empowerment of the Indian voter. In the backdrop of growing discontent, as revealed by the CSDS Mood of the Nation Survey, 2018, the government understandably wants to reverse this trend before the 2019 elections. At the center of this exercise, however, is a misunderstanding: women cannot be represented by any colour in India. In a country where they have no choice but to live amid crime, discrimination, exploitation and harassment, colour is the last thing on their mind. The state can impose any colour on them, pink for instance, because women do not have a choice and do not have a voice in India.

The colour pink of the government does not represent empowerment of women. On the contrary, it is a cruel joke on the way women survive in this country for several reasons:

First, pink represents each one of the 2 million 'missing women' of India, who are lost every year due to abortions, disease, neglect or nutrition. According to the Survey, there are nearly 63 million women missing as of 2014. 

Second, pink represents each one of the 21 million 'unwanted girls' of India, 'girls whose parents wanted a boy, but instead had a girl,' as mentioned in the Survey. 

Third, pink signifies the 16,863 underage girls raped every year, according to National Crime Records Bureau, 2016.

Fourth, pink signifies every one of the 2,000 girls who are killed every day in India in the womb or just before they are born, as stated by a union minister in 2015.

Fifth, pink signifies every daughter who is never enough for her parents who will continue having children until they have a son. As the Survey notes, this behavior could be 'detrimental to female children because it may lead to fewer resources devoted to them.'

Sixth, pink represents the missing children of 0 to 6 years, declining at 2.8 percent, a fall that is sharper for female children than male, according to Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MSPI). The worst state for girl children is Haryana with a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, followed by Punjab with a Congress-led government. No political party has been able to check the fall of the sex ratio from 945 in Census 1991 to 918 in Census 2011; no political leader has been able to save the girl, beyond the slogan.

Seventh, pink represents the each one left out of 59.3 percent literacy rate among girls over the age of 15, according to MSPI. Most of these girls are pulled out of school to be married, at an age when they have neither any agency nor any choice. Pink represents each one of the 8.5 crore underage child brides, calculated by the Census 2011. 

Eighth, pink signifies each one of those left out of the 25 percent rural women and 15 percent urban woman in the labour force participation rate, according to National Sample Survey Organisation 2011-12, in a country where a woman still must cross several social barriers before she can earn a livelihood.

The government should pay a little more attention to women instead of summarily representing them by a colour. Women vote in larger numbers with every Lok Sabha election. According to the Election Commission of India, 65.63 percent of total women electors cast their vote in the 2014 election. This was an increase from 55.82 percent in 2009. The government should be wary about relying too much on packaging instead of meaningful action; the pink populism is no guarantee against getting a pink slip by the women voters.

(Kota Neelima is an author and research scholar.)

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