Women from villages all over Uttarakhand have been making their voices heard through Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, an all-woman organisation.
After being denied a say in the decision-making process, the rural women are putting pressure on local political parties to abide by their promises in their own way: They are building a road at Daang village near Gangotri with their own sweat and toil.
Image for representation only. Source: Pixabay
According to a report by The Times of India, these women have taken it upon themselves to build their own road by cutting a hill. The government has finalised another route without consulting the villagers, which is longer and needs felling of hundreds of trees along the way. As a way to express their distress and to compel the political parties to deliver, these women have decided that they won’t vote unless one of the parties helps them build their road.
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Dilma Devi, 83, participated in the Chipko agitation of the 1970s with veteran eco-warrior Sunderlal Bahuguna. “We’ll fight to save our forests and the Ganga. Our lives depend on these,” she says.
The 2012 Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) notification declared the 100 km Gaumukh Uttarkashi stretch required a consultation by the local women. The ESZ restricts the construction of hydropower projects and commercial river bed mining of roads in prohibited areas. The government claims to have held public hearings for the same, while the women deny having known of any such procedure.
The Uttarakhand Mahila Manch is trying to fight for the women’s rights to the farmland. They have demanded farmer status for every woman. Protesting against the constructions of large dams, they want 50% representation for women in van panchayat.
“Not just the ESZ policy , had women been consulted before large dams such as the Loharinag Pala on the Bhagirathi were built, we could’ve stopped this destruction. Not a single woman along the 100-km stretch was heard on the ESZ,” says Pushpa Chauhan, gram Pradhan, Ganeshpur village, and manch member.