Sunday, January 15, 2017

Uma Vishnu - Demonetisation - Indian women struggle to start all over again

They had little financial access and autonomy to begin with and now with their secret stash of cash gone after demonetisation, women in India struggle to start all over again

Biro, o… Biro,” calls out Chander, a jute sack slung over her shoulder, her feet plodding through the ground that’s carpeted green with the slush of bathua and dil leaves. “She goes missing every few minutes aur mujhe dhoondna padta hai (I have to search for her),” says the 60-year-old, now walking back through the early morning crush of people and battery-operated e-rickshaws at the Ghazipur vegetable mandi in east Delhi.

“I have been selling vegetables for 25 years but things have never been this bad. Yeh notebandi ke baad toh maal waise hi pada rahta hai (after demonetisation, my vegetables haven’t been selling). Earlier, I would earn at least Rs 1,000 a day; now, if I buy vegetables for Rs 1,000, I only take home Rs 400,” she says, sitting on her haunches on one of the pavements lining the market.

Chanderkanta and Birwati. Neighbours and friends, a sisterhood of shared troubles and companionship. Every afternoon, they walk down from Chilla, an urban village on the fringes of Mayur Vihar Phase I, a residential colony in east Delhi, and join the long line of vegetable vendors on the pavement outside ASN Senior Secondary School. On days that they go to the mandi, they spend hours scouring for vegetables while haggling, squabbling and joking with the vendors, lug their heavy sacks across the market and wait for their sons to take back some of the stuff on their cycles. The rest they carry — about 25 kg each — on their heads.

As she helps her son load the sacks on his cycle, she says, “Achha, aapko pata hain yeh notebandi kab khatam hogi (Do you know when this demonetisation will end)? People say things will get better in a few days.” Her optimism dissipates as swiftly: “Par gareeb ka kuch theek nahin hota hai (For the poor, nothing gets better).”

A little over two months after the government demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the queues outside banks and ATMs have begun to shrink and the narrative has shifted from black money to plastic money. However, both these plots have sidestepped women such as Chander and Biro, women running households with little or no financial support.

According to Census 2011, women head 10.9 per cent of the 246.6 million households in the country, a significant number of these households in rural areas and in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. In a society steeped in patriarchy, it’s only likely that women are thrust into leadership roles by forced circumstances such as widowhood, like in the case of Chander, or because the men choose not to work, as in Biro’s home… read more:

see also
More posts on demonetisation
Nation-wide public tragedy unreported in India's mainstream media - click to see glimpses of ordinary Indians' reactions to note-ban crisis and please circulate - Scroll down the contents of the link above for clips of mass unrest in Indian society from shopkeepers & artisans to workers & peasants. Information about this assault on the lives of millions is being withheld by the mass media