Power to women! Really?
As India celebrates the emergence for the first time of four woman chief ministers, expectations on major improvement in the lot of fairer sex in the country abound. But if one were to go by the track record on this count of the two incumbent political heavyweight chief ministers-Mayawati and Sheila Dikshit-the performance does not really impress.
An analysis of official data shows that on three major counts-sex ratios, female literacy and crime against women-Uttar Pradesh and Delhi have underperformed and stats show at times to be even below the national average. West Bengal and Tamil Nadu present today no better picture.
Mayawati has earned praise for being the architect of social re-engineering but when it comes to role of women in the society it is a poor record. In her state, the sex ratio stands at 899 as against the national average of 914 for the (0 to 6) age group while as on aggregate terms it stands at 908 against the national average of 940, as per the 2011 Census report.
Similarly, in regard to crime against women, the politically sensitive state of UP, has a poor track record. As per 2009 official (National Crime Records Bureau-NCRB) data, Uttar Pradesh recorded about 23, 254 cases against women, contributing singularly about 11.4 per cent of total cases of violence against women in the country.
On female literacy count too, UP lags the national average. As per Census 2011, as against 65.46 per cent national average, UP’s female literacy stood at 59.3 per cent.
Delhi, despite being the capital, and having been under Sheila Dikshit for a considerable length of time without interruption, lags the national average in sex ratio. According to the latest census, it observed 866 to 1000 sex ratio for the (0 to 6) age group as against the national average of 914 to 1000 for the category.
On female literacy, Delhi though does better than the national average with a score of 80.9 per cent. But the male literacy level is much higher at 91 per cent.
The incidence of crime against women in Delhi is about 2.1 per cent of the total case against women, but these statistics fail to capture the overwhelming sense of fear among women in Delhi on their safety.
Mamata Banerjee has triumphed in West Bengal dislodging the longest serving democratically elected Communist government anywhere in the world. Down south, Jayalalithaa has made a comeback.
Both these states present an alarming scenario on women related crucial social indicators. Cases of crime against women in West Bengal accounted for about 11.4 per cent of all cases recorded against women in 2009. The female literacy in the state is 71.2 per cent as against 82.7 per cent male literacy.
On sex ratio, Banerjee need not sweat it out, as the state recorded a relatively better performance with a 950 sex ratio in the critical (0 to 6 age group) bettering the national average of 914.
Tamil Nadu, being a southern state has traditionally, done well in female literacy development. The gap between the male and female literacy though is stark with male literacy at 86.8 per cent and female literacy at 73.9 per cent respectively. In regard to crime against women, Tamil Nadu accounted for about 3 per cent of all crime committed against women in 2009.
It is common knowledge that Mamata, Jayalalithaa, Dikshit, and Mayawati, are no ordinary women and have achieved no ordinary feat, but the sterling aspect of their performance has been their capacity to take the long and arduous road to success alone.
As they have shown unrivalled energy and imagination to decimate the opposition, they have a historic opportunity knocking at their doors to make women empowerment the backbone of their governance mantra.
Do not they say politics is all about the art of making possible the impossible? Long live power to women!
(With inputs from Ankita Chakrabarty)
The author is the Editor, Zee Research Group (ZRG)