February 10th, 2017
The women in Daang village in Uttar Kashi have found a way to make the political parties deliver what they promise during elections. The women know that no candidate or political party will talk or do anything about the issues troubling them. So, these ladies have come forward to build a road through a hill, all by themselves. The government has proposed to build another road in a different route. But, this route would be longer and would also result in cutting of hundreds of trees planted by the villagers. And so the women decided to make their own road.
When the 2012 Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification was declared with an aim to protect the 100 km Gaumukh Uttarkashi stretch, it mandated that the women be consulted for execution. The ESZ restricts the construction of hydropower projects, commercial river bed mining of roads in prohibited areas. The government claims that there were at least five public hearings which were held, and the opposition to this notification was unanimous. But, the women of the village call this exercise a sham since no one took their inputs when considering construction in the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone.
The Uttarakhand Mahila Manch has representation from all the districts, and they have demanded to be given “farmer status” and “farmland rights” to every woman. They want to halt the constructions of large dams and also want fifty percent quota in van panchayat.
“Had the women been consulted before large dams such as the Loharinag Pala on the Bhagirathi were built, we could have stopped this destruction. Not even a single woman in this area was heard on the ESZ,” complains Gram Pradhan Pushpa Chauhan of Ganeshpur village. She further added that the key issues for women here are forests and water as the cattle, farming, fodder, firewood depends on these two. The wild animals destroy their crops and attack them every day, she added, as reported by The Times of India.
Pushpa also pointed out several permanent landslide zones and dry streams that add to the women’s difficulties. The women also decided that they won’t cast a vote unless any party helps them build their road. This is how they feel the politicians will listen to their demands.
Bachue Devi (80) and Dilma Devi (83) are amongst the few women in the region who don’t know about the ESZ, but they had participated in the Chipko Movement in 1970 with Sunderlal Bahuguna. Jamuna Devi (60) from Gangori village can barely talk or join any festival. Her friend Sureshi Devi (65) and she were mauled by bears in separate incidents. Jamuna eyes were clawed out.
Vijandyei Rana has around 1800 women working with her in a self-help group. She says that women do 90% of the farming and are responsible for water and forest produce too. She cites an example of a canal closed after flash floods in 2013 leaving around 12 villages without support, irrigation, consequently burdening the women and the families.
While infrastructure projects are necessary, the government should take into account the local people’s opinion. It is the local people who bear the brunt of the problems caused by these projects.
The Logical Indian requests the government and the concerned authorities to provide a solution to the locals to safeguard themselves from wild animals and from people-induced natural disasters.