Shramshakti (1988): Report of the National Commission on self employed women and women in the informal sector||
1.1. In the preceding chapters we have made an in-depth study in certain critical areas. detailed recommendations have also been made in respect of those subjects The Commission had undertaken extensive field visits and interacted with the workers themselves to collect the required information It also had discussions with experts in many areas and Government representatives of developmental ministries and departments at the Centre and the State On the basis of the studies and discussions, the main thrust of the recommendations have been put together in This chapter
1.2. The coverage of the Commission has been extensive, in taking into account the entire gamut of poor labouring women Though not a homogeneous group by way of caste, class or economic activity, deprivation and discrimination is common to all of them They suffer from lack of opportunity to work, low and discriminatory wages and exploitative conditions resulting in casualisation They lack social security, face occupational health hazards, they do not have access to new technologies, skills and knowledge While making recommendations, the National Commission has made suggestions which should break the vicious circle of poverty, illiteracy, low productivity, discriminatory wages, exploitation subsistence level of existence, large families, poor health and increasing unemployment all leading to greater poverty
1.3. The preceding chapters of the report clearly establish that all women are workers because they are producers and reproducers Even when they are not employed, they are involved in socially productive and reproductive labour all of which is absolutely necessary for the survival of society Women's work as home-makers must be recognized as social/ economic production. For, when women fetch water, gather fuel and fodder or tutor their children, they are performing services in the absence of which market services would have to
be purchased. Only if this is recognized, can other consequences flow from it such as a broader definition of women's work.
The National Commission recommends that all subsequent data collection efforts should enlarge the definition of women workers to include all such activities paid and unpaid performed within the home or outside as an employee or on own account.
1.4. Enumeration must take into consideration the multidimensional functions of women workers which often vary within the day, from week to week and from season to season.
1.5. Therefore, there can be no straight-jacketed approach to any solution of the problems of women workers. A multi-dimensional flexible, integrated, coordinated and area specific approach must be adopted by the planners and implementers upto the last rung of the delivery system.
1.6. In all planning and decision making/implementing bodies, women's participation should not be in terms of token representation but in proportion to their numbers.
1.7. At the same time, it is essential to attack the underlying factors of exploitation and lopsided control of resources which result in the cycle of poverty, underemployment and unemployment pushing large numbers of the rural and urban poor in the informal sector which, perforce, only permit marginal levels of living. To overcome this, a mechanism must be evolved to give them access to knowledge, skills, resources and materials, without which there is a sense of powerlessness. Although the existing development/fiscal policies in theory do not discriminate against women, however, in reality they have not led to strengthening women. The reasons for this powerlessness are (a) the general image of women as subordinates which is reflected in the implementation of these policies that leads to men becoming the major beneficiaries, (b) the need of vested interests to keep women subordinate in order to exploit their cheap and docile labour. The Commission's Studies has revealed that women when given facilities and resources, have demonstrated high productivity, a better record of repayment of loans, the assets are also safeguarded and not disposed of. The Commission, therefore, recommends that a package of new policies and directives needs to be undertaken. The package should be developed with strategies which counter the existing system favouring the vested interests against the poor and powerless, specially women.
1.8. In discussing various strategies to enhance the economic status of poor women workers, particularly those who are self-employed and in the informal sectors of economy, several strategies have been tried, in both small experimental programmes and large scale national programmes. All these experiences have contributed to the understanding of two inter-related aspects:
i. Women working in the informal sector of economy, be it in the rural or in the urban areas, operate in a vicious circle of subsistence, deprivation and survival. They are largely assetless and do not own any productive assets in relation to their work. Even when some of these assets are held by the family, women's own access to and control over these assets have been largely marginal.
ii. Provision of productive assets in the hands of women, working in the informal sector of the economy, have led to qualitative improvement in their life over a period of time, given other inputs such as knowledge, skill, organization and confidence. This has been shown to be so in the case of women working in rural areas with assets of land, trees, cattle, and related equipment and machinery. This has been shown to be so also for women working in urban areas with assets like tools, equipment, plants, sheds and land.
1.9. It is important to recognise why the provision of such assets in the hands of women. that they have an ownership and control over, helps to substantially improve their economic
situation over a period of time, and vice-versa. Lack of access to. and ownership and control over assets leads to only marginal and transient changes in their economic situation. Several reasons can be seen in this context. First, provision of assets related to the production and work of women helps build long term viability of that economic activity. If women continue to be dependent on others for access to and use of the productive assets, then they continue to be dependent on others for their economic well-being, and interventions focusing on other aspects do not necessarily provide long term viability of their economic activities. Second reason is that provision of productive assets in the hands of women provides for a greater potential for regeneration and recycling. On the basis of some assets women can reproduce and recycle their economic activity in such a way so as to enhance the economic potential. A third aspect is that ownership of and control over productive assets provides a different level of confidence and hope to poor women which is not possible through other interventions. By adding the dimension of longevity and stability in their economic activity, ownership of assets helps to substantially enhance their sense of self-confidence.
1.10. Thus, the Commission strongly recommends that if we are serious about substantially improving the economic status of poor women working in the informal sectors of economy, we have to devise concrete strategies which can help to enhance the ownership of the control over productive assets by these women. Perhaps, it will be the single most important intervention towards both their empowerment and economic well-being. Some of the assets that women can be given are a plot of land, housing, tree pattas, joint ownership of all assets transferred by the State to the family, animals, licence, bank accounts, membership of organizations and Identity Cards.
1.11. It is imperative to recognize women's role as major earners of the family and not as marginal and supplementary contributors. At least one-third of the households are solely supported and another one-third receive at least 50 per cent contribution from women. Therefore, while fixing financial and physical targets and allocating of resources this reality should be kept in view. Such households should be specifically identified at the village level and covered by all programmes.
Planning and Monitoring
2.1. As mentioned earlier women are not only major earners of the family but they also perform necessary functions in the family, like rearing and bearing of children, fetching water. gathering fuel and fodder. These services are not quantified in economic terms, but they do substantially result in economic benefits to the family and the society. The Commission is not in favour of making reservations for women. However, recognising the actual contribution which a woman makes as an economic unit and the fact that for centuries she has been exploited and denied the right to productive resources, women must have all the attention that they deserve on account of their productive and reproductive functions and their numerical strength which is half of the population.
2.2. The National Commission is of the view that the planning processes carried out at all levels, including the Planning Commission and the State Planning Boards do not sharply focus their attention on the realistic situation of labouring women, who are unprotected workers, largely invisible, easy subjects of exploitation, unorganised, illiterate, struggling to survive in adverse conditions and are facing a biased and insensitive administrative machinery. at the field level. The macro policies and programmes of the Government have resulted in eroding the employment opportunities of these women while ignoring their urgent needs. Neither the development process of the past decades nor the anti-poverty programmes for women, have
changed this basic situation significantly. Of late, certain adhoc attempts have been made in fixing targets by individual ministries but adhocism is hardly the right approach to deal with such a large section of our population. There are 27 women specific schemes which have been identified by the Government of India. The total outlays on these schemes in the 7th Plan is 2.4 per cent of the total allocation. The gender break-up is not, however, available for the mixed schemes like RLEGP & NREP.
2.3. The Commission, therefore, recommends that allocation of resources have to be enhanced in basic areas like the education, health, rural and small industry, drinking water and housing. In the beginning of the First Plan, it was considered necessary in the interest of the country that certain heavy capital investments be made to provide the necessary infrastructure requirement for development. However, on the basis of experience, if investments are not made in developmental human resources such capita! investments become counterproductive. The lessons of the past are evident. The Commission strongly recommends that 50 per cent of the to begin with Plans should be flow to women, but in no case less that 30 per cent.
2.4. The Report fully documents the fact that women perform multifarious activities in the home and outside. Also, their working conditions are closely linked to their living conditions, for example, their homes are at times also their work place and the place to keep the fodder, fuel and animals. The Commission, therefore, recommends that in planning a basic strategy should be evolved the underlying objective of which should be to have an integrated and holistic approach towards tackling women's basic issues. This strategy should aim at-
(a) ensuring them fuel, fodder and water for meeting their basic requirements.
(b) strengthening their existing employment by providing appropriate support in the areas of skill, training, credit and marketing.
(c) protecting their employment in the sectors where it is declining due to technological advancements
(d) creating new employment opportunities for them locally based on local markets for mass consumption goods
(e) protecting women workers from casualisation and contractualisation which lead to their exploitation.
(f) provide supportive services to women like housing, toilets and child care facilities.
(g) proper and effective implementation of industrial and protective legislations.
To meet these objectives, the first step will be to formulate a set of macro policies in various areas which are well-integrated with each other like
(a) this will call for formulation of an integrated strategy for the use of natural resources like land, water and forests keeping in mind the fuel, fodder and water requirements of the poor. For example, irrigation schemes should not destroy land and forests: forest policies should not hurt the interests of the poor and land use policies should aim to meet the fodder requirements of the poor also.
(b) an integrated strategy for industrial development for the healthy growth the three sectors of industries, namely the large scale sector, the small scale sector and the traditional sector need to be promoted. Expansion of large scale industries, for example, should not result into erosion of employment opportunities of women workers.
(c) the industrial policy will also have to be linked meaningfully with the policy pertaining to natural resources so that the resource use is directed towards creating employment opportunities for the poor, and specially for women and also not deprive them of raw materials at a reasonable price.
(d) anti-poverty programmes will have to be reformulated in the light of the above policies so that they supplement and complement the development process
2.5. In view of the above, individual macro policies will have to be modified and strengthened to keep in line with the basic developmental strategy. This will also involve taking care of women's needs. The technology policy, the licensing policy the credit policy, the policy pertaining to training, marketing and raw materials will all have to be reformulated to meet the new needs For example, the technology policy will aim at reducing the drudgery of women, improving the skills of women, supporting R and D for designing appropriate tools for women and at improving the access of women to upgraded skills. The credit policy will aim at improving the access of women credit and at supporting women's economic activities.
2.6. The Commission is also of the view that there is a need for administrative initiative to evolve the concept and approach to human resource development if it is to develop the potential of the people which the departments of the Ministry of Human Resource Development serve The schemes in these Departments need to be reviewed in this context so that there is a coordinated approach in the Ministry resulting in effective flow of benefits to women
2.7 The Commission is of the view that in no Ministry/Department of the Government, or semi-government agency, women should be marginalised. If the responsibility of looking after the interests of women is given to one agency the tendency is that the other agencies do not look upon women as their main responsibility and in the process, women get marginalised. Being aware of this trap and the fact that women should be in the main stream the Commission strongly recommends that every agency of the Government should be responsible to ensure that their planned resources and programmes benefit men and women equally. Besides fixing this responsibility, there be a Monitoring Cell in each agency which should be able to monitor and evaluate the utilisation of the resources and the implementation of the programmes vis-a-vis women. Every agency should have this Cell. However, there should be nodal agencies in the Central and State Governments which could oversee, liaise and push through programmes of other Ministries/Departments relating to women To begin with, Monitoring Cells in the Planning Commission and the Department of Women and Child Development in the Government of India, should be strengthened. The Deptt of women and Child Development has taken on this task but it has not yet become very effective. A strategy should be evolved to see how the results of the monitoring and evaluation can be effectively conveyed to the concerned agencies and the necessary changes imlemented by them The Commission recommends that the Department of Women and Child Development should have periodical meetings, not only with the related Central Ministries, but also with the State Governments Meetings with State Governments could be held at a zonal level (policies and programmes of a number of States in a region could be taken up together)
2.8 More important than the Central Government for the purposes of monitoring are the State Governments In the State Governments, the Commission recommends that a Development Commissioner for Women in the rank of the Financial Commissioner should be appointed. He /she should have enough seniority vis-a-vis the other Secretaries looking after development programmes so that he/she can coordinate the activities of other Departments. This is necessary as women perform multi faceted activities and they do not always come under one department agency Besides imaginative program mes and projects have to be formulated for them which may (over the purview of more than
one Department. Apart from coordination, review meetings would be held under the Development Commissioner for Women, periodically, besides taking up the responsibility for monitoring. It is understood that after the National Plan of Action (1976) was formulated, the State Governments were asked to set up such Review Committees under the Chairmanship of Chief Secretaries. It is now more than 12 years, but nothing has come of it. The Chief Secretaries are pressed for time, and this matter is of so much importance that it should not be given as additional charge to an officer. If serious attempts have to be made in this direction, then this work should be entrusted full time to a senior officer of the rank of Financial Commissioner only then the other State Secretaries and the Heads of the Departments are likely to respond. Suitable structures have also to be set up at the divisional district levels.
2.9 Similarty, at the district level there should be district-co-ordination officer somewhat equivalent to the status of the District Collector who could be put incharge of planning, monitoring, coordination and evaluation of all programmes affecting women. We may take the experience of ICDS which has become acceptable to the people at large and the State Governments, irrespective of their political ideology of the States, because, to begin with, the Central Governments financially aided the State Governments in setting up some posts under the ICDS. The Commission is conscious of the constraint in resources, but would recommend that the Central Government should assist the States in creating such posts at the departmental and district level, otherwise, the tendency is to make one officer additionally in charge of work which does not yield the necessary results. The functionaries entrusted with monitoring work may also be involved in the planning process as needs of women, related to their economic activities, differ from region to region. Like the ICDS, the experiment may be started in a few districts preferably the backward tribal areas.
2.10 In carrying out monitoring and evaluation, the Government functionaries should liaise with voluntary agencies working for women, Mahila 'Mandals and representatives of the rural women, to get a proper feed-back of the policies and the programmes affecting them. The communication gap between the delivery system and the affected women needs to be bridged, this will be possible by involving women in planning and monitoring processes at appropriate levels.
Employment Policies & Programmes
3.1 Labouring women in poverty toil not only at home doing multifarious activities, beginning with collection of fuel, fodder, water, household chores, bearing and rearing of children but also work to contribute to the family income. Women in the labour force contribute to family economy and the national economy although this contribution is not recognised. Ninety four per cent of them work in the unorganised sector, 83 per cent participate in agriculture, and other allied activities like dairying, animal husbandry, fisheries sericulture, handlooms. handicrafts, forests. A sizeable portion of women are involved in construction activities. Regrettably, women of this sector do not have the necessary visibility and do not get the focus of attention of the planners and implementers.
3.2 As regards women, the strategy should aim at ensuring them fuel, fodder and water for meeting their basic requirements; strengthening their existing employment by providing appropriate support in the areas of skill, training, credit and marketing, protecting their' employment in the sectors where it is declining due to technological advancements, creating new employment opportunities for them locally based for the production of mass consumption goods and protecting women workers from casualisation and contractualisation which lead to their exploitation. To meet these objectives, the first step will be to formulate a set of macro policies in various areas which are well integrated with each other.
3.3 The introduction of the new technologies in the primary sectors has led to reducing the areas of women's involvement in the processes of production, forcing them to leave land and their home-based family occupations and to go into other areas like construction, piece-rate workers and akin manual labour, thereby resulting in further deterioration in the status of women. Their living conditions are also worsening, they are joining the ranks of migratory labour having no permanent shelter. The development strategies have practically ignored the contribution of women in the unorganised primary sectors and they have had no positive impact on the conditions of the labouring women who are exposed to a great deal of exploitation because of casualisation, contractualisation and piece-rate work. The Labour Commissioners of the States, do not have the inclination or the time to devote their attention to either the rural or urban unorganised sector, and more than 90 per cent of their time is devoted to barely 10 per cent constituting the organized sector. The labouring women work in pitiable condition with long hours of arduous work and receive discriminatory wages, with practically no social benefits and security. The Commission recommends the appointment of a separate Labour Commissioner, with supporting field staff, in every State, for the unorganised workers and with due orientation towards the unorganised sector particularly women.
3.4 The National Commission recommends that to enlarge the areas of employment for women, to improve their working conditions, to reduce their drudgery and to provide social security, a holistic and integrated approach be adopted. This is specially necessary since women do not perform one action and, therefore, a straight jacket approach cannot be adopted. The development strategies will have to take note of the existing constraints and biases and discriminations under which women work. The Commission makes the following sectoral recommendations:
3.5 Agriculture and allied fields provide the largest sector for women's employment. Fifty one per cent of working women's population is farm labour, engaged in operations such as sowing, weeding, transplantation and harvesting. However, their contribution in these areas is not recognised. Women's access to land ownership is extremely limited. Land reforms have adversely affected the ownership of land by women even in those areas where traditionally women own some land. Women's membership in agro-based co-operatives is negligible. They do not have a say in decision making and in the use of credit technology and marketing. There is wage discrimination. The Commission observed that in certain areas, for the same kind of work, the women would get 3 to 4 rupees per day, while men would get about Rs. 10 as wages. In many areas, minimum wages were not being paid to agricultural labour.
3.6 The Commission recommends that women's contribution to agriculture should be recognised by the policy makers and this should be reflected in the country's Agricultural Policy and Programmes. There should be adequate resource allocation and orientation of programmes for women producers.
3.7 Since women labour involved in agriculture have seasonal work to do, there should be diversification of their activities in areas like horticulture, fruit processing, vegetable growing, animal husbandry and dairying.
3.8 The Commission has also observed that the number of women cultivators is declining. The distribution of surplus land has not gone to the poor women. Such distribution should be followed with concrete steps of providing assistance in improving the land and bringing it into cultivation.
3.9 The extension services provided in this field should be strengthened. The
number of women extension workers should be increased. They should help women not only in imparting information on Government schemes under which benefits can be availed of, but should actively assist women in taking advantange of these schemes and training programmes, assisting them to form co-operatives and societies like Mahila Mandals. The number of women extension workers should be increased at all levels and they should be provided information and training on all aspects of women producers' work and data on intra-house distribution of resources They should also be provided with infrastructural support by improving the living and working conditions of the female extension staff with better housing, hostel and transport facilities.
3.10 The Mahila Mandals should be energised to promote more economic activities and assist women producers to get such inputs as subsidies and fertilisers.
3.11 Women's co-operatives should be encouraged to involve women in management and decision making Women's membership should be encouraged in the existing co-opertives
3.12 Women should be mentioned as specific target groups for all agricultural development programmes and efforts should be made to involve them in decision making at all the levels
3.13 Continuous monitoring should be done of women's programmes so as to improve the programme designing and implementation
3.14 In the allied sectors of sericulture and animal husbandry, dairying, fisheries, forests, handloom and handicrafts, the Commission recommends greater inputs of training and credit and, as in the case of agriculture, women's co-operatives should be encouraged, and they should have greater access to extension workers
Fuel, Fodder and Water
3.15 Large sections of women in the unorganized sector, living in rural areas, are involved in collection of fuel and fodder. With the process of deforestation, this task has become more strenuous as women have to walk long distances to collect fuel Non-availability of grazing land has increased their problems Social forestry was visualised both for satisfying the basic needs of rural households and for reducing pressures on the forests by generating resources for community needs outside the forest land However, the programme, as implemented, has developed a slant in favour of the larger farmers, urban markets and industries, while the fuel fooder cirsis continues to grow Government policies, in the last few decades, have hastened degradation and privatisation of the common property resources through land allotment policy Illegal encroachments by large farmers and operation of market forces have led to further deterioration of the state of the common land, affecting women adversely, specially with large tracks of agricultural land being diverted from food crops to cash crops and tree farming for commercial gain. The social forestry programme has not resulted in increased employment opportunities for women
3.16 The National Commission agrees with the recommendations of the Workshop on Women, Social Forestry and Wasteland Development, held by Centre for Women's Development Studies as reported in their document
1. If Social Forestry or Wasteland Development, to provide economic independence for women, it is essential to build in adequate wage and other technical/ managerial support through the period of rearing, maintenance and protection of the plants.
2. The basic aim of social forestry should be to create village woodlots on a sustained yield basis which will yield resources according to village needs
3. Any social forestry programme which allows for clear felling of village woodlots must be avoided and only rotational harvesting should be permitted and need-based cutting cycle should be Worked out
4. All social forestry programmes should be simultaneously agro-forestry programmes of which multi-layering and multi-cropping should be essential features, as per the local situation, to provide for both short and long term returns since the poor cannot wait for long. Species should be selected which compliment each other rather than compete for nutrients.
5. The planning for social forestry programme should be based on a long-term perspective rather than short term perspective
6. Women's access to productive resources under social forestry programmes should be backed by State marketing supports. The market structure for their products, under social forestry programmes, are controlled by distant monopolistic agencies and intermediaries which deprive them of their just returns To ensure their participation, as equal partners in this nationally vital activity, it is essential to guarantee strong and effective. State support in the marketing of their products
7. Direct benefits to women are in the form of wages. In consideration of the short term nature of the employment, and in view of the high financial output of the projects, the wages must be upwardly revised
8. In all kinds of social forestry/wasteland development programmes, budget lines must include provisions for the development of women's organisations
9. Review of forest regulations is needed to make possible the achievement of social forestry goals
10. Creation of tanks for water grown plants, and multi-layered useful plants below and above the soil, should be the basic strategy in community controlled and community managed social forestry systems for involvement of women
11. Equitable distribution of all products of social forestry like water, grass, fuel, fodder, fruits, tubercrops and timber will ensure community participation particularly by womenfolk who are hard hit from environmental changes
12. An effective. and powerful supporting infrastructure for developing effective. models of investment, management, protection, just distribution should be created at grassroots level for minimising drought, flood, unemployment, poverty and ensuring rural prosperity
13. A number of such experimental models be developed with total participation of village Mahila Mandals and Governmental functionaries, local people and various non-governmental agencies working at grassroots level for which support system should be ensured.
14. This can generate a cyclical process for creating employment and resources which will have a demonstration effect The funds generated could be ploughed back to make such projects self-sustaining, thus strengthening women's participation on a continuous basis.
3.17 Though there are close links between forestry, agriculture, food production and water resources management systems, the macro policies of our Government which govern the use of these resources, are based on compartmentalised approaches to agriculture, forestry and water For example, irrigation dams collect water for irrigation but also result in waterlogging and salination of land on the one hand, and cutting down of forests and displacement of thousands of people from submerged lands on the other The policies
pertaining to the use of natural resources have not remained complementary and supplementary to each other The result is that policy in one sector has adversely affected the other sectors which has deprived the poor of their life support systems and their resource base
3.18 In the area of water resource development, major irrigation projects have not yielded expected results The extent of utilization of irrigation potential has been low The cost of irrigation projects rises to prohibitive levels due to delay in implementation The construction of large irrigation projects have led to the displacement of the poor without land compensation when has affected the women adversely
3.19 The National Commission recommends that more resources should be put into watershed management areas and projects, with involvement of women, which will increase their opportunities of employment. Similarly caution should be exercised in construction of irrigation dams and there should always be land compensation for the poor instead of cash compensation as with cash compensation they get permanently deprived of their livelihood.
3.20 The problem of safe drinking water is very acute Poor women have to spend a number of hours everyday and have to walk long distances to fetch water This responsibility is exclusively theirs The Commission, therefore, recommends accelerated thrust on providing water to villages At present, 40 per cent of the villages are 'problem' villages with none or remotely located water sources There should be increased plan allocation for providing drinking water to villages, and stepping up of implementation of the programmes, as water is a basic right, of women Non-availability of it adds to their drudgery, and ill-health besides denying them a few hours daily which could be profitably used in income generating activities
3.21 Women should be effectively involved in water storage, keeping in view the local conditions The traditional methods of rainwater storage/conservation for drinking should be revived, improved and implemented
3.22 The emphasis must be on recharging groundwater sources for sustainable use Storage facilities (tanks, reservoirs) at the household level must be expanded, viable schemes for providing piped water in homes should be explored
3.23 Effective water management in conjuction with management of our other natural resources is essential if we are to avert complete disaster Local level Mahila Mandals should be effectively involved in the water management at the level of implementation, monitoring and evaluation
3.24 A sizeable proportion of women in the unorganised sector is engaged in construction work The condition of women construction workers is pitiable They face instability and insecurity of employment, low wages, non-observance of labour laws, bondage to the middleman who employs them without providing the facilities enjoined by legislation Their way of life is perpetually in a state of flux as they have to keep migrating from site to site The average wages for women construction workers are generally lower than their male counterparts Further, women construction workers are almost always totally unskilled There is no rational explanation why this should be so, since masonry or carpentry are not skills that are likely to require more physical process than the type of 'unskilled' work women normally carry out
3.25 The National Commission recommends the following measures to elevate the working and living conditions of women construction workers-
1 There is need for much more stringent observance of existing labour laws with
deterrent penalty clauses. There is unquestionable evidence from virtually all available studies on construction workers that there is flagrant violation of statutory provision regarding payment of wages, safety regulations, provision of housing, medical and other facilities, payment of travel expenses for migrant workers compensation for accidents, sickness insurance and so on Such violations need to be made punishable by law with strict penalties attached to them In this context, it is necessary to provide legal literacy to construction workers, especially to women who also have special needs such as creches, maternity benefits and toilets
2 The judicial procedures relating to non-observance of such laws have to be considerably simplified to ensure that the organised workers can obtain legal redress without undue harassment. The cooperation of voluntary organizations and people's action groups may be useful in this regard.
3 Much of the problem of non-implementation of legal provision can be traced to the institution of the labour contractor and middleman The government should gradually take over the function of recruitment and registration of workers on the lines suggested in the Construction workers (Regulation of Employment, Security and Welfare) Scheme, 1986.
4 Efforts should be directed at the national level on devising tools, equipments and technology that make the jobs performed by unskilled women workers in construction less hazardous and more energy saving
5 Special care should be taken to impart skills like masonry and carpentry to women workers under government initiatives. This is necessary to break the seemingly existing taboos against women acquiring special skills in this industry Initially, priority in employment may be given to such trained women in government construction sites, the idea being that in a situation of emerging excess demand for such skills, especially in urban markets, there will be no dearth of demand in the market for their skills in due course
6 There should be a statutory provision for contribution by the contractors to the extent of 10% of net earnings towards a Construction Workers Welfare fund. The proceeds of this fund should be utilized in building up camping grounds with basic community medical and health facilities in all cities and townships These can be used to house the workers Given such an infrastructure, many of the existing statutes regarding the provision of various facilities to the workers, which are being flagrantly violated now, will be automatically taken care of Voluntary institutions like the Mobile Creches may be adequately supported in terms of infrastructure and finance to enable them to extend their operations over a number of cities and townships, so that a large number of these women and children can be reached and a measure of stability is imparted to their home situation
7 Although there are legislative provisions, women construction workers are by and large not provided facilities like creches, maternity benefits, ration cards, toilets and clean drinking water The implementation machinery should be strengthened to ensure that the facilities due to them are provided
8 Finally, the value of community awareness and organisation for the poor cannot be over emphasised To start with, the government can help in the process by providing assistance on worksites, for nonformal education, legal literacy, health care and child care and encouragement for the formation of various community groups and workers' organisations and supporting NGOs to extend their operations among construction workers in general and women workers in particular
3.26 As far as industrial policy and programmes is concerned the encouragement given to the small sector has led to splitting of large units in small ones, contracting and subcontracting by large units, and the growth of home based industries. These forms of production are used as tools of avoiding labour laws and as means of exploiting workers. In this situation of exploitation, women have suffered more. The employment of women in the traditional household sector has been affected by severe competition from mass produced consumer goods. Household industries face a serious problem of markets, raw materials and credit. Women are dominant in contract system as piece-rate workers. They work for long hours without the benefits of leave, holidays and permanency of work and get very low wages. Women labour in factories are also subject to casualization, contractualization and temporary employment. Although, women have been guaranteed legally certain maternity benefits, equal remuneration and child care facilities, in reality, they are deprived of them. Industrialization has not resulted in any significant occupational diversification of female labour force in the economy. Women dominate in the low-skill work area and their role in management and decision making is very limited. The commission recommends.
1. The formation of an integrated industrial policy for all sectors and regulation of the use of high teachnology in various industries, because it has been seen to adversely affect women's employment.
2. Attempts should be made to identify industries in the small scale sector which can help women to become self-employed. Industries based on labour intensive technology should be encouraged.
3. Serious attempts should be made to upgrade the traditional sector and to expand women's employment in the sector (which include rural artisan work, cottage industries and other household industries), by providing adequate support in the areas of technology upgradation, training, credit, raw materials, and marketing. A decentralised approach in providing these facilities will help considerably in the expansion of women's employment in these sectors. It must also be mentioned that the focus here should be on producing goods of mass consumption.
3.27 The State Handicrafts Boards do assist artisans to a certain extent by buying their products. But beyond that the Boards have no relationship with the life of the artisans and craftsmen, particularly women. The national Commission finds it important to have a national policy on craftsmen to be framed, ensuring a fair return for their work and self-respecting conditions of work and living.
3.28 Realising the urgent need of social security for craftswomen the Commission recommends that:
1. As their homes are their workplaces, proper housing and workshed should be provided, specially to women as craftsmen are all home-based. Housing also adds to the security of women's lives.
2. General Insurance Companies should be roped in to devise suitable insurance against critical days of maternity, incapability, illness and old age.
3. For award winners, introduction of monthly income scheme under the Unit Trust may be explored
4. A central fund may be created for medical care of the ailing artisans and craftsmen/women.
The following specific steps may be taken
(i) Micro-level data collection regarding various aspects of "handicrafts"
(ii) Government's support to help units in the initial stages
(iii) Treatment of handicrafts and rural artisan work as industry
(iv) Creating mass scale marketing for handicrafts, and
(v) State level policies for state specific crafts.
3.29 The country earns annual foreign exchange close to rupees one thousand crore for handicrafts, handloom and readymade garments where women contribute to a very large extent. The Commission is of the \/iew that there is ample scope and justification for investment in providing social security and welfare scheme for women artisans and craftsmen/women of our country.
5 The handloom sector is a very important sector from the point of view of the present as well as the potential employment of female labour The handloom weavers who have worked as household labour for a master weaver under the traditional jajmani system find it difficult to organise themselves into a cooperative structure
3.30 To take the benefit of the various promotional schemes of the Government, they face like major problems inadequate, untimely and irregular supply of working funds from the Cooperative Banks which are more attuned to the needs of agricultural sector, the subsidies for loans and rebate are not released in time and in sequence, resulting in unsmooth running of the cooperative; nonrecognition of women's pre-weaving and post-weaving work as 'work', hence they are ignored by the present cooperatives, and government development and welfare programmes.
The Commission, threrfore, recommends:
1 The District Industries Centres and District Cooperative Banks jointly prepare a business plan' for each handloom cooperative, in consultation with the members, women included.
2 The District Industries Centres should accordingly put demand for the necessary funds, well in time, from the Government banks, and Nabard.
3 To adopt region specific measures viz. establishing of spinning capacity in the region, technological upgradation of looms, transport subsidy and linkages with outside markets.
3.31. The industry, at present, is facing a number of problems in the areas of technology, raw materials, and marketing organization. In addition to removing these constraints, there is a need to take the following specific steps to help women workers
1 Sensitisation of the concerned staff to take care of women's needs,
2 Promotional projects and schemes to indicate increase in income and employment of women,
3 Training of women in weaving,
4 Improved technologies for the tasks handled by women,
5 Facilities like creches and maternity benefits to support their employment,
6 All the women who do pre-weaving in the households should be immediately enrolled as members of the cooperatives to cover them under economic and welfare schemes; and
7 Formation of women weavers cooperatives.
3.32 Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is an important instrument to reduce rural poverty and promote women's development. However certain drastic changes are required to the approach structuring and management of the KVIC
1 At present, the women are involved in activities like making aggarbattis and papad rolling which are comparatively less paid than activities in which men are involved
KVIC should correct this distortion and promote women taking up trades bringing in higher income like hand made papers and weaving.
1 KVIC should provide support services like child care, elementary education, health and family planning. It should provide employment generation through organization of actual producers or workers, and it should raise awareness among women about their rights and responsibilities to enhance their general participation in all fields of national development Secondly, KVIC and KVIB programmes should be directed to poor women belonging to low castes, including the SC/ST. Further, KVIC should also involve women in supervision and management also, so that women workers do not remain only in the subordinate or secondary position
3.33 As far as small industry sector is concerned, attempts should be made to strengthen it economically and steps should be taken to protect women workers of this sector from various types of exploitation-
1 Labour laws should be enacted to cover contract and sub-contract workers, homebased workers and seasonal workers
2 Appropriate laws should be formulated to protect home-based workers from different types of exploitation
3 Strict observation of labour laws should be insisted in the small factory sector, including seasonal factories
4 The laws regarding permanency should be strictly enforced in this sector To start with, all public sector units should provide permanency of ¦ob to their workers
3.34 Licensing policy, which is intended to regulate the production of goods and services in the economy has remained gender neutral, thereby not paying much attention to the male/female division of labour in the economy and the specific requirements of female workers It has, therefore, created an adverse effect on women's employment
3.35 The licensing policy, like the industrial policy, needs to be examined from the point of view of employment generation for the masses of the poor, including poor women it should also consciously incorporate the gender factor so that large scale erosion of employment opportunities for women is prevented.
3.36 Whenever large industries sub-contract work to women, who do it in their own houses, it is necessary that the employer does not evade his legal obligations to provide the benefits which would have accrued had the women worked in his establishment There is also use of water, space, electricity or other means of lighting, which should be compensated to the home based contract workers In the villages, or where space is available in urban centre common sheds may be built for and by women Women should be encouraged to work in common sheds to improve their work status and build up solidarity.
Credit, Raw Material and Marketing
3.37 A fairly large portion of the female work force in the informal sector is engaged in activities of a self-employed nature There are numerous such activities in which the capital investment is not high and there is no recognised employer employee-relationship Such women usually work with their families on piece-rate work
3.38 There are certain common problems faced by women in this portion of the self-employed and informal sector like lack of access to raw material, credit and marketing facilities and inadequate knowledge of the market demands All too often, the end product does not have the finishing touch and the eye for detail is missing Women are further handicapped by lack of child care facilities, inadequate work place with poor ventilation and
lighting facilities, poor skills, and lack of training They tend to get exploited by the middlemen and have to pay exorbitant rates of interest on the small loans that they manage to get In such a situation, women doing their own account work get gradually weeded out and become casual labour or piece rate workers Similar is the story of women who are working in the primary sector of agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy, sericulture, handlooms and handicrafts Instead of strengthening their activities, and in certain cases supplementing their income by doing own account work, they are forced to swell the ranks of the labour force which, in many cases, is in the nature of casual labour or piece rate workers leading further to deterioration in their economic status
3.39 One of the most critical components of women's advancement in the economic field is the availability of credit. In the present system, the women do not have access to easy credit even if the amount is very small. In spite of the Reserve Bank's instructions that no security is required for loans upto Rs. 5,000/-, collateral is generally asked for in the case of women. An analysis of the existing mainline credit schemes for the poor show that not only are poor women marginalised., but the poor as a class do not have easy access to credit Instead, politicisation of these loans has managed to give the poor a bad name as defaulters
3.40 Women are marginalised. either because of class handicaps such as illiteracy, lack of information and low self-confidence, or gender hadicaps, such as attitudinal discrimination, low mobility and lack of asset ownership The money-lender is a very real part of their lives as a source for both consumption and production credit They have a complex financial arrangement with him Banks are still very much a taboo IRDP, DRI and SEPUP do not even average a 20 per cent coverage of women loanees In effect, the banks have remained totally off-limits The only instances where the banks have been successfully tapped is when voluntary agencies such as Annapurna and Working Womens Forum have acted as intermediaries for women of this class A Credit
3.41 The Commission recommends that the banking policy needs to be implemented in favour of women with greater amount of flexibility. It would assist women further if banks have counters exclusively for women and extension workers to help them. Banks managed by women have proved to be more advantageous and within the reach of women Opening of women's co-operative banks should be promoted.
3.42 The Commission is of the opinion that it will be beneficial to women, if, apart from giving individual loans, these are advanced to or through agencies with which women have dealings like Mahila Mandals, women's groups, Anganwadi workers, State Advisory Boards and Women's Development Corporations. These bodies can also be channelized for getting the paperwork completed The entire loan should be given in the name of the individuals through bank pass books These loans could be advanced from the banks according to the existing procedures
3.43 The quantum of loans given to women should be assessed realistically keeping in view their needs. Giving loans of a lesser amount is self-defeating For example, if a viable dairy project requires a minimum of two buffaloes' and if a loan is given for only one buffalo the project will not be viable, the Commission,therefore, recommends that no blanket ceiling for loans for the poor should be made, and the ceiling should have certain flexibility Loans should be combined with a component of subsidy
3.44 The Commission would like to mention that vendors normally want very small loans per day or per week to buy food, vegetables and other perishable items For such loans, it is not possible for them to go to the banks The Government should, therefore, devise suitable
channels through which such loans to petty vendors can be disbursed. Women's banks, Cooperative banks and voluntary agencies, having experience in this field, may be used as channels for disbursement Other channels should be identified keeping in view the state variations relating to the existing infrastructures
3.45 The Commission has noticed that if the husband has been a defaulter, the woman is disqualified from getting loans. This needs to be reviewed as, in many cases, the default by the husband may be due to factors like non-viability of the project and inadequate amount of loans In some cases, husbands may be genuine defaulters, misusing the amount, thereby pushing the family in greater distress For this very reason, the women may want to take loans The project should be screened, and if it is seen that the women is not being used as a screen for a further loan by the husband, it would not be proper to deprive the wife from taking the loan because the husband is a defaulter.
3.46 The Commission has also observed that when a person takes a loan for the first time, he or she may already be in debt and such loans taken are used for wiping out the existing debts, which may be amounts due to the money lender, rather than starting a new venture The Commission strongly recommends that the economic status of a loanee should be taken into account and the amount sanctioned should be such that a portion of it may be used for wiping out the debt as only then can economic ventures be started A realistic and human approach by the banking, financial and other institutions will help poorest of the poor women
3.47 The National Commission recommends innovations in the credit mechanism to assist poor women who are unfamiliar with the complexities of institutional finance The Commission strongly recommends the need for setting up an exclusive credit body for poor and self-employed women, in recognition of their socio-economic realities. It is also a recognition of the inability of the existing institutionalised credit systems to cater for the needs of women workers.
3.48 Poor women, in the rural and urban economies cater for themselves Their labour are exploited to sustain the national economy and, yet, their productivity is not recorded or reflected anywhere Taking note of the critical socio-economic contribution of this sub-group there is a need for the creation of an institution which can act as a two way catalyst Even as this credit body facilitates growth for its participants, the clear aim should be that they are raised in national visibility as a powerful and productive group Organisations such as SEWA (Ahmedabad), WWF (Madras), Samakhya (Hyderabad), Annapurna Mahila Mandal (Bombay) have designed scientific credit experiments for rural and urban women in this class
3.49 Since the voluntary sector has unequivocally proved its activeness in delivering credit to this target sector the proposed national credit body must aim to support such organisations. Rather than take on a bureaucratic size and a cumbersome operation of operating loaning windows over the country, this body can support the voluntary organisations which can further loan to the target sector.
3.50 The proposed credit body can, through loans and grants, improve the equity base of the voluntary organisations providing loans to them on soft term basis It can also be instrumental in initiating many more voluntary experiments all over the country This would require a research and development cell in the body which can study all existing experiments and build a model for replication Trainers can then help more organisations to adopt these credit schemes for which the seed capital and loan can come from the credit body
3.51 This body can also support government credit bodies such as Women's Development and Finance Corporation It can also act as an important forum for dialogue between the organised credit institutions and the voluntary agencies Since it will be the most
comprehensive credit effort for women of this class, this body can be a major influence on mainstream credit policies for poor women.
3.52 Ownership and management of this institution should represent voluntary sector largely. Poor women can directly be shareholders of this organisation which can be headed by a trust. Management can be entrusted to professionals while a board of directors oversees the legislative and policy aspects of the institution. Once again the directors must represent a cross section of persons who have direct experience in this area.
3.53 In Madhya Pradesh, the State Government has levied a duty of one paise on every unit of electricity consumed, which will help it to raise about rupees nine crores annually. This is being used to support a Welfare and Development Fund for Women. More such experiments need to be taken up in the country. B. Raw Materials
3.54 Raw material is the biggest problem of artisans and crafts-women. The raw material they need is usually in short supply and expensive. They buy the raw material from retailers at high prices and sell the finished goods to common people with low purchasing power. Hence, in spite of having marketable skill, the artisan's own margin of profit remains very low. It is common observation, that artisans earn less than vendors or even labourers.
3.56 Therefore, the Commission recommends a policy that, the actual producers and artisans should have the first claim to the raw materials like yarn, bamboo, scrap, or tendu leaves and a quota should be reserved for them.
3.57 Where raw materials are not easily accessible, alternative channels should be identified through which good quality raw material would be procured at reasonable prices. C. Marketing
3.58 A large section of women doing their own work or family occupation face the problem of marketing their products. The same products which earlier had a home market now seem to be squeezed out as a result of mass production of consumer goods, competition, stagnation in designing and quality. Sometimes, women are forced to make distress sales. Their major marketing channels are in haats and weekly markets which are now being flushed by mass produced goods. Non-availability of a network of marketing facilities is one of the important obstacles to the advancement of these women. To deal with this problem, several alternatives have to be worked out.
3.59 The Commission recommends the following agencies which can be used as marketing outlets and also assist, if necessary, in acquiring credit and raw materials:
1. Consumer societies, and consumer federations.
2. Cooperative Societies, and Cooperative Federations.
3. Super markets.
4. State Emporia.
5. Setting up of Government depots for a cluster of villages which could supply raw materials, if nesessary, and collect finished products from women to be supplied to agencies with whom marketing tie-ups have been made.
3.60 While the above are actual marketing out lets, other agencies should be identified which can assist the women in identifying markets. These agencies may be the State Advisory Boards, the Women's Development Corporations and voluntary agencies of known experience. In addition, regional marketing centres, having jurisdiction over a few districts, may be set up. At the State level, there should be a Marketing Federation which should have various channels supporting it as mentioned above.
3.61 The role of the Divisional Centres and State Federations should be a mix of promotion and active intervention.
(1) Advise women to take up activities in the areas where there is a demand for them, such activities could be existing activities, adaptations of the existing activities, or new activities
(2) Guide women to get credit from banks and also to find a method for credit guarantee
(3) Advise women on designing and on the use of certain modern technologies which would improve the quality of the end product
(4) Advise women for starting their own cooperatives or any other form of marketing organisations
(5) Counsel women how to get loans for making their own houses to be used as production centres or common work places
(6) Link up health insurance for the women with the concerned agencies and also be a watch-dog for implementation of health insurance schemes and other welfare schemes
(7) Advise women regarding the availability of the benefits for upgradation of educational and vocational skills
Areas of Active Intervention
(1) Provide a network of marketing outlets
(2) Provide expertise in finishing a product to be marketed
(3) Give training to peer leaders in managerial skills
(4) Give training to identified groups of women in the application of new technologies
3 62 The infrastructural facilities as suggested above need to be professional with a lot of flexibility The Regional Centres and State Federations should not be tied down to rigid procedures, rules and regulations Preferably, the State Federation should be an autonomous body with persons having managerial skills and expertise in marketing, designing and training Wherever there are voluntary agencies of repute, which are willing to take up this activity, they could be assisted to set up such centres Alternatively, where there are professional business houses or departmental centres like the weavers centre, they could be identified It will have to depend upon the work ethos of each State which will ultimately decide the type of body which should be set up The guiding principles should be professionalism and flexibility. The persons who will man the centres, to begin with, will have to be hand picked and well trained
3.63 In the beginning, such an infrastructural facility may be provided on an experimental basis in a few States and in a few districts with about 5 to 6 identified trades If the experiment is successful, it may be replicated A system will have to be evolved where they will become financially self-sustaining For effective. intervention in each area, extension service at women's doorstep is the most essential component. Therefore, we recommend a well designed effective-extension service on the line of T & V service in agriculture. If services are provided free, they may not be taken seriously A certain charge, should be levied on women who get the benefit of it However, it will have to be ensured that, with the help of the services provided, the emoluments of the women should become higher and from which they may contribute a small portion of this to the centre This could be supplemented by either Government grants or supported by financial institutions to make the institutions financially self-sustaining
3.64 At the State level, an Advisory Committee, having representatives of finance,
professional management experts and consultants, representatives of the Government from the administrative department and finance department and representatives from voluntary agencies may be constituted The Committee should be a standing committee with a fixed term, to be renewed or changed by rotation This body may lay down broad policy guidelines and also assist the Divisional Centres in getting cooperation from various agencies such as the Government, training institutes, professional institutes, and private marketing agencies This body will also review the work of the Centres and advise if new trades are to be added or certain trades to be dropped, in short, it will decide on the functional role of the Divisional Centres, leaving the Centres with a great deal of flexibility of autonomy.
3.65 At the Central level, a similar Advisory Committee as at the State level, should be set up to assist the Department of Women and Child Development This body will review the work of the Divisional Centres, undertake periodic evaluations, decide on the future growth of such Centres and replicate the models of successful Centres
3.66 The Government itself can provide marketing facilities to women as it makes extensive purchase of goods and services during the course of the year which could be supplied by women. Goods may be supplied by Mahila Mandals, women's cooperatives or District Divisional Centre like uniforms, envelopes, file covers brooms, baskets, chalks, exercise books, bandages, bed sheets and other simple equipment for hospitals, educational kits even vegetables, fruits, eggs and fish and also render services like cleaning, washing, cooking, catering, printing, stitching, binding and the like These purchases could be done from women groups directly by the State Governments as is being done in Gujarat or through the Women's Development Corporations as is being done in Punjab. In Gujarat. the State Government has also set up a pricing committee to fix prices for goods and services purchased from women This committee meets periodically to review the prices Such a support will strengthen the women's co-operatives and other groups
Space and Transport
3.67 In addition to credit, raw-materials and marketing, two additional inputs need to be provided to improve the status of such workers, namely, space and transport facilities The small producers both in the urban and rural areas normally lack space to serve as work places as well Ventilation and lighting facilities are almost lacking In the market places, vendors do not normally get licences for want of space and they are pushed and harassed by the police and municipal authorities, who, at times, demand bribes in cash or kind The National Commission recommends that the critical needs of women producers and vendors should be taken into account by the authorities. Common workplaces should be provided, both in the rural and urban areas, having space, ventilation, water and toilet facilities This should be assisted under the NREP Programme In addition, a new allocation should also be made
3.68 Similarly, for marketing their products, places should be earmarked (e.g. school compounds in the evening) and licences given In Manipur, they have the women's traditional market, an experiment which is very successful and needs to be widely emulated In cities, certain areas, certain timings, and days should be earmarked where vehicles should not be allowed, this may give relief to the small vendors by providing market area, thus promoting them instead of treating them as objects of nuisance
3.69 The producers usually carry their products on their heads to the weekly haats or from the village to the city The strain of this work quickly tells on their health The small amount of goods they produce makes it uneconomical for them to hire transport, so they have to use the public transport system Usually, they are deprived of access to public buses or
trains or have to pay a bribe to use them. In Kerala, women engaged in fisheries have to pay exorbitant hire charges for the taxis as any delay in transporting fish to their homes or market places would lead to the fish getting spoiled. Since they have no access to transportation, they buy fish from the middlemen at a higher price. Similarly, there are other easily perishable commodities like flowers which cannot be retained for some time before they are marketed. The National Commission recommends that attention may be paid for providing adequate and specially designed transport facilities for these workers.
Women in Processing/Industrial Occupations
3.70. In the mining industry, the employment of women has reduced with the banning of underground work and night work by them. However, with the nationalisation of coal mines, there has been a somewhat upward trend in their employment. These workers also face the problems of very low percentage of permanent workers; predominance of women/workers as contract workers in unskilled areas; low wages; serious health hazards; bonded labour and flagrant violation of labour laws. The Voluntary Retirement Scheme has been devised solely to reduce the presence of women in mining. It is not devised to reduce the number of manual workers, as it is offered to women only. This practice is in total violation of the right of equality guaranteed under the Constitution.
The Commission therefore, strongly recommends that—
(1) The practice of Voluntary Retirement should be stopped forth with.
(2) In order to prevent the number of women declining in the mining industry, the Commission recommends that Women relatives should have claim on the women's job on her retirement, and not a male member of the family.
(3) Regarding mechanisation in the mining, the Commission observes that mechanisation, even if brought in, should be done with proper understanding of financial vis a vis human cost. It is observed that certain process where mechanisation is brought in, has proved financially more costly, e.g. shale picking, in coals mines which is mainly done by women only. Therefore, the Commission recommends that such processes should be left to be done manually by women, this will increase their employment opportunities and also cut out the financial costs.
(4) The number of women workers as permanent workers should be increased.
(5) The interests of women workers in mines should be safeguarded and there should be strict enforcement of labour laws.
(6) Skilled training should be imparted to women workers so that they could get higher wages.
(7) Simple precautionary health saving devices like gloves, helmets, special shoes should be provided by the employers compulsarily to protect the head, eyes, hand and feet of women.
(8) The Welfare programmes for women workers will get a fillip if increasing number of women are appointed as welfare officers.
3.71 The National Commission, on its tours, met a large number of fisher women whose conditions are pitiable. Women are traditionally indispensable members of the fishing community, involved in all fishing operations like processing, drying and curing, loading/ unloading and net making. The basic problem arises from the perishable nature of fish. poor and costly transport facility which does not allow them to buy fish directly from the fish
centres, and competition from modem fishing units. The Commission, therefore, recommends:
(1) Protection and regeneration of fish resources.
(2) Recognition of their status as workers, and provision of licenses.
(3) Protective legislation for better wages and working conditions, and social security, benefits (the importance of this may be associated from the fact that while infant mortality for Kerala State is 32 per, 1,000, in the coastal belt it is 180 per 1,000).
(4). Reversal of high-technology, export oriented trends, that erode their livelihood, without providing alternatives other than marginalisation as highly exploited wage labour.
(5) Access to credit facilities.
3.72. Similar recommendations will apply to women workers in the garment industry, tobacco processing, food processing, rag pickers, sericulture, silk industry and factory workers. All these workers need to be made visible by the planners. Apart, from strict enforcement of legislation, new legislation is also called for. They need to be organised and taken into fold of trade unions.
3.73. As some processing workers may be self-employed such as garment workers, and rag pickers, credit, raw materials and marketing facilities are required. Recommendations on such facilities have been given in the section under Credit, Raw Materials and Marketing.
3.74. Women have traditionally been involved in food processing for family consumption. These skills are, therefore, easily tapped when the need for generation of additional family income is felt. Most often, however, due to the lack of capital and organizational skills, the scale of their business is too small to ensure adequate profits and most women in this industry are not own-account workers, but victims of sub-contracting and putting out systems. Women labour is clearly preferred as they can be paid very little and are less prone to making demands than men, 40 to 50 per cent of the women do not get regular work, which results in economic hardship and insecurity further eroding women ability to demand and fight for improvements. There are some women's organizations in this industry, but it is a pity that most of them are not commercially viable and therefore the benefit to the women workers is minimal.
3.75. The National Commission makes the following recommendations for improve ments in the lives of women workers in food industry.
1. Proliferation of sub-contracting must be checked and application of labour laws assured.
2. Women should be encouraged to avail of credit facilities to set up production units on their own that are of a size and scale to allow for profits and, therefore, steady income for all.
3.76. For this, they should be reached by women extension workers from relevant departments and given training, especially in organizational and managerial skills, like marketing and accounting, as well as in leadership and awareness building.
3.77. The Forestry sector provides employment to 0.2 per cent of the rural population, about 80 per cent of them are estimated to be women, and children. They get employment in collection and process of minor forest produce, and afforestation. Besides employment, the minor forest produce also provides food and income during the lean season to the forest dwellers, mainly tribals. Though officially 'minor', as it earns less revenue, but for the forest dwellers, the minor forest produce is a major source of income in the months of starvation.
About 60 per cent production of minor forest produce is utilised as food. In Orissa, 13 per cent of the forest population depends exclusively on collection of minor produce. 17 per cent as wage labour in forestry. In Panchmahals, 35 per cent of the total earnings of tribals are from minor forest produce collection. Collection of tendu leaves provides 90 days employment to 75 lacks women every year.
3.78. To ensure them better price, produce like tendu leaves, mahua seeds, flowers are nationalized in a number of States. The States have created Forest Development Corporations to remove middlemen, to take the task of procurement and sale of the produce. But, the Commission observed that none of the States are engaging themselves in collection, in the real sense of the term. The Forest Development Corporations only fixes the collection rates and asks the purchaser agents to pay that rate to the collectors. There is rampant exploitation by the middlemen by paying low rates, delayed payments, rejection of collection, cheating, intimidation. The women remain totally at the mercy of the middlemen. The Forest officials are hardly in support of the collectors. The Commission, therefore, recommends that
(1) The forest produce collectors should be paid the rates in such a way that they do earn at least not less than the NREP rate, at the end of the day.
(2) Serious efforts should be made by the Forest authorities to help these women form their own cooperatives to collect and sell the produce to the Forest Development Corporations.
(3) The women of the cooperative should be trained in processing of the various minor forest produce.
(4) A scheme should be developed to supply additional foodgrains in the months of unemployment during the year.
3.79. The readymade garment industry is a highly profitable one for the manufacturer and trader or contractor, given that demand is high and labour available is docile and cheap. The trader buys tents, rags and substandard materials from mills and whole-sellers, this is cut by cutters, who may work on the traders' premises, then distributed to tailors, mostly women do the stitching generally in their own homes. Where production is modernized and fashions set up with the latest technology, men workers have a monopoly. Moreover, it is difficult to find a single women cutter.
3.80. Tailor women collect the cloth from the traders, stitch the material and then return the finished garments and collect the next batch of material. This a regular process. It is the women who have to bear the entire cost of space, transportation, maintenance of their sewing machines, and thread. Wages may be paid weekly or monthly and flimsy, temporary records are kept. Piece-rate wages are arbitrarily fixed. Since these workers are scattered and unorganised, they are paid very little, with no fear of protest. In fact. considering that they work at home and establishment cost is borne by them, their wages should be higher and not lower than the wages of those who work in large garment factories. As such the existing labour laws do not apply to them as they are not workers and even if applied, the laws are violated. The workers have no protection, no rights, no recognition and no powers.
3.81. In the light of this situation, the National Commission makes the following recommendations:
1. In areas where this industry is concentrated Training Centres should be set up in order to help women upgrade their skills, as well as to give them information about their rights and the schemes that they can benefit from in order to go into business on their own or as a group, such as a co-operative.
2. In order to reach the maximum number of women and help them in the most meaningful way, a large number of extension workers is necessary, who should be trained to impart the information that is relevant to these workers, to help them avail of schemes and services, and to press for legal redress
3. These workers are especially vulnerable to health problems related to eyesight, poor ventilation, and postural problems. These need to be taken into account while planning any ameliorative measures for them
3.82. Vendors and hawkers perform a vital function in the commodity distribution system of towns and cities, yet they are regarded as anti-developmental and anti-social City planners are biased in favour of the formal sector, and prefer to provide for expensive super-markets and shops rather than help vendors who only require a small space for squatting with there wares, and transportation facilities from the wholesale market to their vending sites.
3.83 It appears that the unorganised sector is expanding and urban poverty is to stay for many years to come. Vendors, with their small capital needs therefore, should be encouraged and supported, and informal and formal sectors allowed to complement each other While it is a fact that there are associated problems of congestion and hygiene, the solution cannot be to ban them, dislocate them or fine and harass them, especially because most hawkers belong to the low income population, and 40 per cent of them are women, of whom 30 to 40 per cent are estimated by some micro studies to be the sole supporters of their families Thus measures to help hawkers should be part of the broader structural policies designed to improve the standards of living and welfare of the low income population in the city.
3.84. Therefore, the National Commission makes the following recommendations
1. The service performed by vendors should be recognized and the authorities should liberally issue licences to women vendors especially, considering their greater need and major contribution. The licence Should carry a photograph of the vendor and therefore serve as an identity card as well.
2. There is a need for an integrated authority to be set up whose primary responsibilities would be to co-ordinate and increase the effectiveness of commodity distribution systems in towns and cities This body should have provision for adequate consultation between the representatives of the distribution trade and the officials so that policy can be developed and all decisions are based on a two-way dialogue Thus even when measures like relocation are unavoidable, the process will be saved from the usual arrogance and insensitivity to the vendors' economic needs.
3. Urban planners should recognise the space requirements of vendors and hawkers A space for a women's market, such as the traditional women's market in Manipur, should be integral part of the plans for all newly developing areas
4. Every market complex must have provision for squatting vendors and all related facilities like drinking water, washing, toilet, storage and creche be provided Market Committees should be formed to manage these facilities on which women vendors should be given due representation; furthermore, the vendors should organise to form their own Association. Where street foods are sold, supply of water taps and garbage disposal should be taken care of by this Association,
5. A mechanism should be evolved for creating a fund which would assist vendors in their cash requirements for expanding their business to viable proportions With comparatively less investment there are some gains and consequent improvements in the lives of the
workers. The fine collected should be utilised for their welfare. Supportive services and social security schemes may be planned and set up.
6. Regular training courses should be organised for vendors at the market-place itself, on sanitation and health, fair business practice and schemes of assistance and how to avail of them.
7. All existing legislation and municipal rules should be amended according to the above points and new legislation enacted wherever necessary.
3.85. Domestic workers are in the lowest rung of the ladder in the urban economy. The sexual division of labour, and its pattern of task allocation, has rendered domestic service to become a predominantly female occupation. The tasks performed by domestic workers are practically the same ones performed as unpaid work within the family such as cleaning. washing, ironing, taking care of children. There are 1.06 million domestic workers according to the 1971 Census, out of whom more. than 4 lakh are women. This is one of the most vulnerable groups of workers since there is neither government regulation to cover this section of the labour force, nor is there any written contract for the work, so they are hired and fired at the will of the employer. In the absence of any formal contract, their working condition is often oppressive and the employer can always evade his responsibility. The traditional trade unions have also not taken any interest in organizing them till recently. The problems faced by them include deplorable wages, insecure service, no holidays or leave, no maternity or medical benefits and health problems.
3.86. The Commission recommends the following steps to improve the condition of domestic workers:
1) A system of registration for domestic workers should be introduced. Besides giving them visibility and taking account of the workers and their contribution, this registration body could also perform a rote of looking into the problems and grievances of these workers. It could also, from time to time, assess the local situation and fix wages/rates for the domestic workers. This body may be composed of the representatives of the State, the domestic workers and employers as a tripartite body.
2) Fixing a minimum wage is extremely important in view of the prevalent exploitative trends. Wage fixation would need to take into account the hours of work. the spread over of work, the number of jobs to be performed, and the number of persons in the family, since that would determine the workload of the domestic workers. The rate fixed. however, should in no case, be less than the prescribed minimum wage.
3) Legislation: There is a need for a legislation to regulate the conditions of employment, social security and security of employment. This lack of security in the job restricts the domestic workers bargaining power and demand for basic facilities like paid leave. A number of women's groups working with domestic workers have proposed "The Domestic Workers (conditions of service) Bill" to regulate working hours, holidays and leave, letter of appointment, application of certain existing laws like the minimum wages to domestic workers which the Commission endorses.
4) For the enforcement of the policy and legislation mentioned, it is essential that this vulnerable group domestic workers be organized which can put them in a better position. They may be organized for economic benefits support services like education and child care, training, better tools and equipments.
5) There is also need for all these organizing efforts to culminate into a stronger movement, For. this, there should be a federation of domestic works where all the small
groups working with domestic works come together and build collective strength. Govern ment can also take a very positive and supportive role in this by organizing workshops of these groups and providing them support and knowhow.
6) The problems of domestic workers are, linked to the problems of lack of alternatives and distress immigration from rural areas. Hence the depending of these migrant women on their employers (including shelter) is very high which makes them weak when it comes to bargaining for their rights. In such a situation, the provision of low cost hostels for such girls/women would help reduce their dependence and vulnerability.
7) There have been successful attempts of agencies in training girls to be domestic help who also look after their employment, settle their wages. Girls collect once a week at the agencies where they are provided training, literacy and entertainment. These agencies promote shelter and find alternate placement for girls thrown out by the employer. The Government should help and promote such agencies by assisting them financially
3.87. Anti-poverty programmes were designed to directly benefit those below the poverty line as development benefits, were not accruing to the poor. The experiences with antipoverty programmes have shown that there is a need to improve the policy, programme design and implementation in this area.
3.88. At the policy level, there is a need to accept that women's needs are not only for self-employment. In fact, poor women can be divided into three categories on the basis of their needs,
The programmes should be designed on the basis of the needs of women at the micro level.
3.89. The Commission recommends that the self-employment programmes should be strengthened on the following lines:
(1) Planning for self employment for women needs a multi-pronged strategy. Apart from the measures to support self-employment as such, the planning should also incorporate measures like child care and child development, technology to reduce drudgery of women, organisation of women and overall development of women.
(2) In order to improve the access of women to self employment, it is necessary to be judicious by combining the household approach in planning with individual approach. Women should be treated as independent entities in the labour market and attempts should be made to provide equal access to self-employment to both men and women.
(3) It is also necessary to give joint titles to women to improve their access to the credit market. The present approach of giving them joint ownership of land only in the event of transfer of land is not enough. The joint ownership should be extended to all the types of productive assets and to the present status of ownership also,
(4) Appropriate, extension strategy should be adopted to attack the specific
socio-psychological constraint of women and to reach them ultimately. If necessary, female extension officers/staff should .be appointed.
(5) The designing of self-employment programmes (specially of DWCRA) for women should have an explicit planning component in the sense that each aspect of planning—training, marketing, management, should get enough attention. Group approach will be useful in this context.
(6) Special attention will have to be paid to the needs of female-headed families. This could be done by giving them preferential treatment in self or wage employment programmes. Destitutes of these families should also be provided social assistance on a preferential basis through social security measures.
(7) It is necessary to pay adequate attention to the support programmes like maternity benefits, creche, and technology for removing drudgery of women. It is important that these programmes are undertaken at a level that creates an impact and meet the needs of women. In this context, it is important to mention the urgency of the programmes pertaining to drinking water, energy and environment. as all the three are likely to reduce women's drudgery considerably.
(8) Organisation of women for creating awareness, for production activities as well as for creating solidarity among women, will contribute considerably to eradication of women's poverty. Reformulation of the Mahila Mandal Scheme, and encouragement to women's cooperatives, will be useful in this context.
(9) DWCRA could be improved by detailing of guidelines for the programmes;. strengthening the training component of skill, entrepreneurship and management; supporting It in the areas of raw materials and marketing; and introducing continuous sympathetic evaluation of the programme.
(10) Agencies like Mahila Mandals, voluntary agencies and cooperatives should be utilised for assisting women in completing formalities for getting credit.
3.90. In the areas of wage employment programmes, the following steps are recommended:
(1) It is necessary to increase the size of this programme considerably. EGS of Maharashtra has shown that poor women do participate in these programmes in large numbers,
(2) There is a need to strengthen the planning component of these programmes so as to ensure continuous work to women workers on productive assets which are selected carefully keeping in mind the needs of the region.
(3) Planning and designing of these programmes should be done keeping in mind the specific needs and preferences of poor women,
(4) Arrangement such as drinking water and creches, and worksheds should be provided on work sites,
(5) Regular payment of wages at the stipulated rates should be insisted upon. Better supervision by authorities can contribute substantially in this area.
3.91. The Commission is of the view that in order to diversify women's activities; it is necessary to impart them training to improve their skills. In the existing farmers training programmes, participation of women is very low. In TRYSEM, although the participation of women is reported to have achieved a target of 30 per cent, training has not been imparted in the areas in which women work, or in the allied areas. The emphasis of training has been knitting, sewing embroidery and possibly animal husbandry. This has not led to increase in the employment of women or enhanced their remuneration. All training programmes must be linked to employment with the objective of increasing the remuneration and improving
their living conditions. The objective should also be to prevent the growth of unskilled workers and channelise them to take up skilled activities.
3.92. There is a need to train the government functionaries at the District and Block levels on the needs of women, especially the incidence of women headed households and those where women's income constitute the major household expenditure. The Commission observed on its tours, that most government functionaries are quite unaware of the substantial proportion of such women among the women workers, because of a mistaken belief, based on middle class, cultural norms, that all women were attached to households and cared for by some male member. There is also a need to train them on the type of projects the women can initiate and that a collateral for taking a loan is not required when the project is less than Rs. 5,000/-.
3.93. It is also true that for those below poverty line, poverty means half starvation. Among the hungry, women are hungrier. It has been very often observed that the credit facility given to them is consumed in buying foodgrains, for the family. The half starved and malnourished women can hardly be expected to have the psychological strength and mental will to participate in the development schemes meant for them.
3.94. Therefore, the Commission recommends that ways should be explored whereby additional foodgrains can be provided as subsidy for those who have a loan burden to discharge under the IRDP, and use on their way to relative progress. In such case, there would be more likelihood of the credit being used entirely for productive purpose.
3.95. The Commission also recommends that the foodgrains supplied at subsidised rate to the private sector should be stopped and diverted to the rural poor.
3.96. The Commission recommends that a programme should be built up linking wage employment, development activities and the public distribution system, for women especially the vulnerable groups like tribals, forest workers, IRDP loan beneficiaries. A wage programme through public distribution system can be designed for poor women. Supply of foodgrains serves as an insulation against price rise in the open market outside, particularly during the lean period of the year.
For women, food means better productivity and better motherhood.
Drought Relief Work
3.97. Unfortunately, drought has become a regular feature in our country causing severe distress to poor women workers who are pushed further into the areas of under employment and unemployment. Famine work should not be seen as a charity to the poor but as a basic human right for those who need work. The Commission, therefore, recommends:
(1). As per the Minimum Wages Act and judgement of the Supreme Court and the guidelines laid down by various High Courts, all relief works must pay minimum wages. Any notification of any State Government to exclude famine relief work from the jurisdiction of Minimum Wages Act should be treated as illegal and unconstitutional.
(2) Effective maintenance of muster rolls and wage slip should be ensured. Where women are working, their own name should be extended in the muster roll and not their men's name, the cash payment also should go actually in the women's hands.
As it is observed that more than 50 per cent labour is female labour on Relief worksites, the rule of law to provide creches, shed and drinking water should be strictly observed. The creche can be managed by the combined efforts of the local villate Mahila Mandal and the women on the worksite.
(3) Famine relief work should include a variety of activities which help build future capital assets, and human capital in and around the villages where people live. The
assets created should be those having priority for women like work-sheds, creches and toilets there should be decentralization in formulation of projects and diversification in the nature of activities which may include activities like improving the quality of land, water resources, digging or deepening of wells, bunding For this local level planning will have to be ensured National or State level blue prints cannot be implemented at local levels In this context, involvement of local women and men, women's representatives, Mahila Mandals, Voluntary Organizations, Unions must be considered
Famine relief work should not be seen merely as a responsibility of one department or of one unit, but as a combined effort all the concerned Departments of the Central and State Governments
Urbanization and the Informal Sector
3.98 Cities have developed in India as commercial or trade centres, or as administrative headquarters They have been dominated by an urban elite class for whom they are designed and developed Many of these elite belong to the formal sector On the other hand, the conditions of poverty in rural India has led to the migration of poor to urban centres for employment However, they have no access to space and land use either for shelter or for pursuing their occupation, neither do they have access to the formal sector for employment As a result, the dominance of the elite and the formal sector has marginalised a whole group of people in the city. These disadvantaged people solve their problem by hawking on the streets, squatting in public places, by making "unauthorised colonies" and "unplanned" settlements
3.99 There is a strong case in our reconsidering the priorities and recognising the needs of the informal sector who contribute substantially to the income and services to the formal sector. Understanding of space itself, leads to many planning problems Concepts of land values, returns from the land, and economic viability of functions of land lead to a situation where the formal sector dominates the land use planning process In order to provide equal access and right to use of urban space for all citizens, special measures have to be taken in favour of the informal sector The following points may provide a direction as to how to incorporate urban informal sector in urban planning
1. Recognize the urban informal sector as an integral part of urban planning All the Master Plans or Development Plans must have a special component in the plans and policies formulated to include the urban informal sector in planning.
2. Make landuse plan in such a way that it achieves maximum integration and complementality of informal and formal sector. New and liberal location policies must be adopted To give an example while allocating a plot of land for a shopping complex, enough space should be provided to accommodate and encourage the vendors and the retailers.
3. Change or modification of the existing land-use and land tenure policies so that variation in the use of urban space during the different days of the week and during the day and the night becomes possible. The central business districts of the towns, when closed on Sunday, can be used for weekly markets Huge parking lots in the middle of the city. can be put to productive use during the nights
4. Recognize and support the services of the urban informal sector, such that their conflict with the formal sector can be resolved. Dumping yards for the waste-picker, segregated traffic lanes for pedal rickshaws, working yards for the home based producers are some examples
5. Work places for women producers and workers, doing their own account work. with facilities for lighting and ventilation, drinking water, toilets and creches need to be
provided. ln shopping and office complexes, factories and institutions like schools, hospitals, universities, creches should be provided. In addition, space for small depots need to be provided near places of work such as commercial centres, and strategic points of communication, where milk, vegetables, fruits and provisions are available to reduce the work-load of women whose responsibility normally is to make such purchases after working hours.
6. Housing facilities for working women, especially for single women or women headed households, need to be planned. Similarly, the housing facilities for homebased workers should include adequate space provision for carrying out their work.
7. It is recommended that wherever possible separate transport facilities for women may be provided to women worker to and from their place of work so that they do not face any harassment at the hand of male passengers. Provision for transport of their goods should be made in such vehicles.
8. Encourage studies in the field of education and research of urban planning, that help evolve planning processes and techniques which can ensure that the urban informal sector is not by-passed in planning. Special attention in the studies should be given to women workers in the informal sector. Studies on the space requirements, housing ana movement characteristics, even planning and layout and of hawking grounds, can be carried out in relation to the poor, specially women.
3.99.1 Technology has treated women workers unfairly. A number of studies have documented that improvements in technology, in an industry, has displaced women. There are, therefore, some short-run measures which are recommended to protect women from this displacement:
(1) Directives should be issued to all industrial units, specially in the public sector, that no further reduction in the level of employment of women will be permitted;
(2) A small planning group should be set up by the Technology Policy Cell to design a format, listing the criteria for evaluation of all proposals of technology transfer and automation in industries so that a view can be taken with reference, to women's opportunities for employment.
(3) Schemes should be formulated for retraining women released from sick industries or closed industrial units.
3.99.2. There is also a need to develop a long term perspective in technology for women. This could be done on the following lines:
(1) The Ministry of Labour should prepare a list of those sectors/industries which are presently labour-intensive and provide employment to sizeable number of women who are likely to be affected by technology transfer jeopardising their employment opportunities. In such cases, the pace and degree of mechanisation should be so regulated and phased out that women are trained on the job and be given inputs like credit and tools.
(2) Projects which result in the displacement of women should not be issued business licenses and/or funded or given concessions of subsidies by the Government, Banks, and Corporations, unless the displaced women can be firmly rehabilitated in alternative employment/The displaced women should have the first priority in training for new jobs created by the new technology.
(3) The Project Appraisal Division of the Planning Commission in collaboration with the Technology Policy Implementation Committee, should formulate clear guidelines
for the approval of import of technology or automation in any given industry, by listing out issues critical in technology assessment and valuation.
(4) The Inter-Departmental Working Group set up by the Technology Policy Implementation Committee, to draw up guidelines for technology assessment and evaluation, and absorption of imported technology, has made a large number of recommendations (1985) which need to be implemented.
(5) It should be incumbent on the employers to prepare a good feasibility report submitting their proposal for a loan to the government for the purpose of technology transfer to indicate existing capital-labour ratio and changes expected after introduction of technology, present pattern of employment (sexwise) within the industry at the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled levels, and the demand for different categories of labour after technology transfer.
(6) All technologies which are likely to directly and indirectly increase women's workloads must be accompanied by other technologies or measures to ease or eliminate these side effects. In other words, a systems approach should be used to develop packages, rather than the current uni-dimensional approach. These multi-faceted packages must be gender-sensitive and women biased.
(7) The development of new technologies for traditional or even modern occupations, must be prioritised, beginning with women's occupations. In other words/technology development must be selective, designed to impact positively on women's work, whether wage-work or non-wage work.
(8) Development of simple or appropriate technology in the form of tools, implements, and protective devices, to remove or reduce the work-related hazards faced by women, must be given top priority and taken up on a war-footing. Mechanisms must be created for involving the women themselves in research and development process, so that the results are appropriate and useful to women.
(9) An advisory committee, with some power of veto, must be set up at Central Government level to monitor the impact of technology on women. The Committee should also actively identify and promote the areas for research and development of pro-women technologies.
(10) Existing technologies, which are not appropriate to women, though they are almost exclusively utilised by women (e.g. sewing machines, handcart pulling, table heights, cashew-nut sifters should be redesigned on a priority basis. The redesigning should be based on anthropometric measurements of Indian women.
(11) Thirty-five per cent of all the research and development funds of national research and design institutes should be reserved for women's work, including occupational health studies, and working out changes in these for the convenience of women workers.
(12) An important requirement in this context is to introduce an in-built system of evaluation. The government agencies processing such proposals usually do not have adequate data on non-technical issues to give adequate weightage to them. Instead of doing a post-mortem analysis of the impact of production technologies on employment of women there should be an inbuilt system of such evaluation. A multi-disciplinary group for technology evaluation may be set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Labour drawing expertise of several organisations within the government (including Planning Commission, economic ministries, financial institu-
tions entrusted with the responsibility for analysing technology choices. Women's Cell of the Department of Science and Technology, representative of TPIC, training institutions and research and development systems and from non-governmental organisations. Pooling together data and information, the report prepared by the Group should be given due weightage while considering proposals of technology transfer and should be disseminated widely.
4.1. Most of the health problems that women face, are related to their general life situation. These aggravate the problems women face in their work situation as workers. These problems include nutrition, accessibility to health services, water, housing, sanitation, maternity benefits, and child-care, control over their own bodies, opportunities for education and training, their status within the family, as well as situations that affect their mental and emotional health, that is, economic and job insecurity ana helplessness due to harassment and discrimination. It is/necessary to tackle these together with the health problems women face directly related to their work.
4.2. Health is no longer seen as a service without an integrated approach. A package of health services for women in the informal sector, will not be adequate without, at the same time, affecting their levels of living, including a living wage, improved conditions, of work, a safe and hazard-free work-place as well as protective equipment, controlled hours, benefits such as for health, maternity, creches and old-age pensions, housing and potable water near to their home in quantities necessary for family health. Health must be understood in the context of this total scenario to affect the conditions of women in the informal sector.
4.3. The National Commission makes the following suggestions with regard to women, health and work.
1. Nutritious and sufficient food is a crying need of the women workers in the informal sector. Specific nutritional programmes which include calcium, proteins, iron and Vitamin D. could be initiated through the government health care system. A nation-wide programme for the distribution of nutritious, subsidised food supplements which includes calcium for women should be organised, on the lines of a similar programme of milk and egg powder in the 1950's. Coarse grains like ragi as well as milk must be made widely available at subsidised rates.
2. Mental health is an important element in the general well-being of women workers in the informal sector. Physical insecurity and the anxiety due to it, often lead to physical ill-health. Besides, a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability paralyses women workers still further. Hence, it is necessary that:
a. There should be stringent punishments for rape, sexual harassment, eve-teasing and other actions threatening women. The Government should legislate a Prevention of Violence Against Women Act to cover harassment at work-sites, homes, streets, police stations, and prisons.
Work-site harassment also be included in labour laws and be included in the Industrial Disputes Act, where the burden of proof be on the man.
b. There is also the need for a Prevention of Domestic Violence Act to cover specifically wife-beating, child battering, molestation, marital and domestic rape and mental cruelty.
c. The Law of Evidence must be changed, in view of the fact that many of the most serious crimes against women, are committed in situation without witnesses e.g. rape, dowry
harassment, marital violence and sexual assault
d. There is a need for facilities for psychotherapy and the rehabilitation of victims of harassment, rapes & exploitation Sending them to a shelter is not adequate to overcome their shock anger and shame They need a trained staff, who understand their needs and the reactions, and facilities for medical care and psychotherapy
3. Availability of and accessibility to health care facilities
a. Increasing the availability of the accessibility to health care facilities, are important in order that the recent positive advances against diseases reach the mass of poor women Statistics on health facilities and their use indicate that women go to hospital and contact medical functionaries less often than men Studies also indicate that, the amount of money spent by households for medical treatment is greater for men and boys than for women and girls The result is higher morbidity and mortality among women, including a very high maternal mortality rate The rates of maternal death, lack of accessibility for the care of pregnant mothers, deliveries conducted by trained attendants, coverage of women with immunisation against teranus, are all well known, and do not need to be reported The need for trained dais, accessible primary health centres and sub-centres, and their linkages to referal and district hospitals is also known and has bearing of the health needs of the general population as much as women working, (b) it is also important to state because a large proportion of the users of the service mentioned at (a) are women in poverty, all of whom are workers There should be Refresher/Orientation courses for the doctors on subject of women's work and health. It is necessary that the medical education should recognise occupational health hazards especially in the informal sector. These should be a part of the regular courses in the curriculum It was especially evident that the Preventive and social Medicine Departments had not even considered the possible problems of health of this sector In spite of letters to all the PSM Departments, hardly any response was received
A few visits to PSM Departments by the Task Force and by the National Commission also brought to the fore this neglected area which repuired to be studied by both medical personnel, social scientists and professional social workers
b. While ensuring better choices for women, including women's access to safe deliveries and safe and free abortion, it is necessary to stress the immediate abolition of the oppression that comes directly from the Government pressure on women both as promoters (ANMS, 'teachers, nurses) and as receptors of family planning methods like injectable contraceptive and amniocentesis. In fact, the entire emphasis of 'Family Planning', to the detriment of access to other health care facilities, needs to be strongly opposed, not only because it is oppressive, in itself, and has caused misery to millions of poor women in the country, but also because it discredits the public health system and makes poor women workers dependent upon private, exploitative medical facilities, even when they desperately need these for abortions, deliveries and serious illnesses. Since all poor women work, they are gravely affected
4. Certain concrete steps need to be immediately taken to facilitate the reaching of health-care to the poor, labouring women
a. The timings of the dispensaries and hospitals should be fixed in a way which would be convenient to working women who cannot forego their income for medical care
b. Necessary medicines should be adequately stocked and the hospitals and PHCs should be operated in such a way as to keep the number of visits of the women to the minimum necessary, if they are to avail of the treatment, otherwise, they get discouraged and do not continue, because of the competing demands on their time as they carry multiple responsibilities
c. There should be a 24 hours creche facility for women patients with children in every hospital and PHC.
d. Women should be allowed two free bus-rides to the nearest PHC every month.
e. Because they are already poorly nourished, illness complicates this condition further. As food is a significant component for effective recovery, hospital should provide free food to poor women most of whom are daily wage, casual and piece rate earners whose income ceases on hospitalisation.
f. Dais who are the only source of help for the majority of women, should be taken seriously, as a vital source of rural health care. Their skills should be enhanced via on-going training and their regular involvement in public health work should be encouraged.
g. The Commission recommends that the community may be motivated to construct and maintain one clean and sterilized room in the village to be used for conducting deliveries by trained dais.
h. Women should be involved at the village level as community Health Guides if women's access to health care is to be improved. Teams comprising of one literate and one experienced older women, though not necessarily literate, may be the most desirable, both in term of outreach and accessibility to women. Their training should include both preventive health education and curative care Mahila Mandals should support these women health workers and assist in the maintenance of linkages between the official health care system and village women.
Occupation Related Recommendation
4.4 In the formal sector, workers are entitled to a break after four hours of work as well as leave provisions and two paid weekly off. These are provisions the workers have won after decades of struggle, because it is physically absolutely necessary, if one's health is not to be break down completely. These provisions need to be extended to the workers in the informal sector too.
4.5. Regulation of working hours is particularly necessary in the informal service and production centres, where there is considerable exploitation of the poor with long hours and no over-time. Piece-rates should be converted into daily wages, based on the normal quantum of work completed at a healthy pace. Only then, will women not have to work long hours to make a meagre living.
4.6. Health Insurance, including compensation for accidents, should be available to women workers. Health cards should be distributed to them, as is supposed to be done in the beedi-industry, but is not effectively implemented. Through this, they would be entitled to receive health care of their choice at any public health facility (Primary Health Centre, sub-centre, ESIS Hospitals, Municipal dispensaries. T.B. hospitals, general Government hospitals, etc.) and/or recognised private facility up to a certain stipulated limit. The latter is necessary because workers are often located far from any Government facility, have no transport, or money for any transport that is available, and often find the timings of the Government facilities, unsuitable. In addition, in medical emergencies (complications during child-birth, accidents, etc.), the nearest facility may be a private one.
Accident insurance for both temporary and permanent disabilities, monetary and health benefits, should be available through both public health and private facilities as mentioned above.
4.7. Provision of a safe work-place and safety equipment (including personal protective equipment) is necessary for women. Ideally, it should be insisted that every workplace should assure safety to the workers. This may imply mechanisation of processes which are
hazardous. This, in turn, means loss of jobs/work for the women, which cannot be permitted until there is alternate safe work for women, and new training facilities for them. This is an important element in improving the health of women. Till then however, it is necessary to provide safety equipment including powerful exhausts to remove harmful dust from the work environment and personal protective equipment like masks, feet protectors, eye glasses, ear muffs and gloves and strong contraptions for the safety of women workers.
4.8. Preventive health education both with respect to occupational and other health problems (anaemia, leucorrhea etc.,), should be initiated through the Workers' Education Board.
4.9. Electricity should be made available on a priority basis to workers, particularly those whose trade adversely affects their eye-sight (this includes chikan and ready-made garment workers, zari workers, weavers and others). Electricity should be supplied to home based women workers at non-industrial/non-commercial rates.
4.10. A comprehensive Health and Safety Act should be evolved and enacted. This Act should give the workers:
1. right to information about chemicals and work processes at the work-site.
2. right to inspect work-sites.
3. right to demand guard for machinery, monitoring and controlling levels of dust, fumes and fibres in the work atmosphere.
4. right to demand personal protective equipment.
5. right to stop work if the conditions are found unsafe.
6. right to redress compensation etc. for damages.
This Act should be evolved in consultation with workers, trade unions and concerned voluntary agencies.
7. Maternity benefits, creches, old age benefits and pensions are mentioned elsewhere in the recommendations.
8. There is a need for a humane Drug Policy and check on the Pharmaceutical industry that at present operates on the profit principle like any other industry, even up to hoarding life-saving drugs to like prices. The National Commission recommends the promotion of low cost medicines on the lines of the policy on minimum essential drugs of Bangladesh.
4.11. Subsidized tools of trade which reduce occupational health problems should be made available to women workers.
Priorities in research
4.12. Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Occupational Health, National Institute of Design, as such other organisations, should undertake occupational health studies of women's work. These should be done which a view to developing simple preventive and protective mechanisms and machines acceptable to workers which would reduce health problems.
4.13. Special emphasis must be placed on the egronomic aspect of women's work, including postural problems. Innovation in the production processes which could reduce health problems should be examined, with workers guiding and advising throughout, and such innovations be recognise and rewarded. To provide legislative protection and removal of restrictive legislation, need to be provided for voluntary agencies to play a effective role.
4.14. With respect to technology, the commission recommends as follows:-
1. The development of new technologies for traditional, or even modem occupations, must be prioritsed, beginning with women's occupations. In other words technology
development must be selective, designed to impact positively on women's work, whether wage work or non-wage work.
2. Development of simple or appropriate technology in the form of tools, implements, and protective devices, to remove or reduce the work-related hazards faced by women, must be given top priority and taken up on a war-footing. Mechanisms must be created for involving the women themselves in the research and development process, so that the results are appropriate and useful to women.
3. In the specific area of health technology—particularly contraceptives and sex-determination techniques—strong and immediate steps must be taken to withdraw or ban such technologies where they are actually damaging the health of already vulnerable poor women. Measures for women's education and health promotion must be strengthened.
4. Multi-centered studies of health problems of women workers in specific occupational groups should be undertaken by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on a priority basis. These studies should cover:
i. the occupation related problems—direct and indirect.
ii. the general health problems of women workers.
iii. special stress should be on the effects of the triple burden on women.
5. National Institutes like the ICMR, ICSSR and other bodies should give a priority to research on health problems of the unorganised labouring women. It is a pity that a leading institute like the ICMR does not even have a women's cell to look into the health problems of half the country's population. However, the present tendency of thrusting research related to women to a small cell is also questionable. That has implied in practice that the small cell conduct studies specifically on women, while the major portion of the personnel, research projects and finances of the institutes focus on men. In fact, what should happen is that while the entire institute, say, the ICMR or the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) should focus on workers, both, women and men, the women's cell should try to take up issues related more specifically to women.
6. The ICMR, NIOH, National Institute of Design (NID) and such other organisations should undertake occupational health studies of women's work. These should be done with a view to developing simple preventive and protective mechanisms and machines acceptable to workers, which would reduce their health problems.
5.1. Education is both an important instrument for increasing and bettering the chances of women's employability and for empowering women as they learn to think for themselves, become confident and also develop the capability of recognising more acutely the areas of exploitation. This fact has also been recognised and accepted in the National Policy on Education, 1986, by the Government, wherein, it has been mentioned that:
Education will be used as an agent of basic change in the status of women. In order to neutralise the accumulated distortions of the past, there will be a well-conceived edge in favour of women. The National Education System will play a positive, interventionist role in the empowerment of women, it will foster the development of new values through redesigned curricula, textbook, the training and orientation of teachers, decision-makers and administrators, and the active involvement of education institutions.
5.2. However, although in principle the fact of empowering women through education
has been recognised in the National Policy on Education and the Programme of Action, the Commission suggest the following steps be taken by which the working women themselves and their children, specially the girl child, may benefit.
1. Since one of the reasons for poor enrolment of a girl child and even poorer retention of their enrolment is their contribution in helping the working mothers in domestic work and looking after younger children, and also contributing to the family economy as child labour, it is necessary that there should be shifts for girls at suitable times so that they can assist their mothers in work and go to school. It should be possible for all the school going children in a family to attend the same shift, or else, the girl will be required to remain home to mind the younger children.
2. To encourage parents to send their girls to afternoon shifts, it should be desirable that a women helper is provided on an honorarium basis for accompanying the children from the house and back to ensure their enrolment and safety.
3. The same helper as mentioned at (b) above or another helper's services could be utilised for looking after the siblings below school age of the girls going to the school in the premises of the school itself. It may be a room, a verandah or a temporary shed constructed for the purpose.
4. it would be preferable to have a regular creche attached to the primary school where the younger children could be taken care of so that the older child can attend the school.
5. Incentives for sending the girls to school will have to be given to promote their education. In many states like Haryana, cash per month and free uniform is given to scheduled caste girls. Similar facilities including midday meals, free textbooks and exercise book, could be extended to all girls students at least up to the primary school level. If the girls are attracted to education, they are likely to move away eventually from the back breaking traditional occupation of their mothers to better employment.
6. The syllabi need to be made more relevant for the children of rural areas. Practical subjects like animal husbandry, cattle care, soil conservation, agriculture, social forestry may be added and such options offered along with subjects like history, geography, modern science and physics.
7. Under the Government Scheme of Condensed Courses being implemented by the Central Social Welfare Board, the adolescent girls and above, who acquire education in a non-formal manner, have to appear in the same examination for which children from public schools from metropolitan cities also appear. This needs to be changed. In certain situations, a good grounding in languages, mathematics, general knowledge and some subjects relevant to their life situation, should suffice to get them a school certificate for the purpose of getting jobs at certain levels.
8. It has been mentioned in the Programme of Action, issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, that women teachers should be preferably recruited at the school level to give greater confidence to the parents to send their girl children to the school. The Commission would like to add that it is possible to have more women teachers only if they are posted in their home villages, or nearby villages, to which they belong or into which they marry. Certain States have a policy not to post anyone within 20 km of their home town. Such a policy should be totally discouraged. Women employees, like teachers or extension workers, need the security of the home and they cannot stay away from their families because of the basic responsibility of looking after the children. And if married, the husband and wife should be posted in the same area or as close geographically possible.
9. The Commission recognises the fact that in the rural areas there are not enough
trained women who can be appointed as teachers Urban based teachers posted in rural areas do not tend to stay in the village to which they are posted, resulting in loss of school hours for the children The Commission, therefore, recommends an innovation in the basic requirements of school teachers For primary schools/girls who have completed secondary school or have achieved even middle school level, may be given an intensive training for a period of one year or nine months in certain training colleges of the State Government. Their training, boarding and lodging should be free. After the training, they should be posted in their home villages, or in the vicinity of their villages. Only in this manner, will it be possible for the schools to have women teachers who will stay there and not absent themselves from schools We wish to reiterate again, that increasing women teachers would have a direct bearing on the recruitment of girls which would, eventually, improve their chances of employment or self-employment in the non-traditional sector
10. The primers under the adult education programme do not have sufficient material related to women workers which will be of interest to the labouring workers There are certain exceptions For example, the Commission's studies reveal that the primers in Tamil Nadu were of a high quality in this respect
11. The textbooks both in the formal and informal educational systems perpetuate labouring women's invisibility and stereotyped sex biased concept of women The revision of the textbooks and primers need to be carried out keeping the objective of bringing of women into greater focus.
12. Greater emphasis has to be given on the vocational aspect of education More experiments need to be undertaken to combine general and vocational education, specially for the rural areas For a country as large as ours and to cater to the needs of the vast majority of labouring women in poverty, there cannot be a single model of education Various alternatives of education need to be developed. These alternatives may be developed in a decentralised manner, preferably with an area specific approach
13. The vocational training, which is being imparted at present is also stereotyped and sex biased. Trades which are more remunerative, and involving modern technology, are by and large beyond the reach of girls thereby restricting their options for employment This needs serious attention
14. For the vocational training of girls, there should be a revolving fund from which they may be given scholarships to bear the cost of training and hostel facilities and they should reimburse the amount after they get suitable jobs. This amount can be recycled again to help their equally deprived sisters Experience of a private trust in this regard has been successful After the girls get vocational training They must be helped in job placement
15. It is necessary to convince the parents of poor girls regarding the relevance of education to the lives of their daughters. This is possible if education and vocational training have a direct relation to their chances of employability and leading to enhancement in their remuneration Further if the parents can be convinced that by providing education, the girls would also have the option of alternative methods of employment, they may send their daughters for education more readily. One of the important reasons for women's submitting to exploitation is that that they do not have a viable economic alternative.
16. The Commission does realise that literacy in itself is not a solution to the basic problems of poor women, viz exploitation and hunger, and therefore, literacy has to be understood in the wider context of the social structure Therefore, the Commission recommends that any attempt to eradicate poverty should lead the women to deal with the question of equality, social justice and development Therefore, it is crucial to have teaching
materials and teachers who deliver the service with these objectives Ultimately the poor women should gain self-confidence to deal with her environment
Communication Network Systems
6.1 The channels of Communications do not generally portray the reality about labouring women in poverty The fact that work for these women, who are at times the sole breadwinners, is a permanent necessity and not a transient phenomenon, is not brought out Neither are the hard realities of their expectations, long hours of work, low and discriminatory wage and total lack of social support services is given much attention If and when poverty is depicted specially in the cinema, it is shown as a stepping stone to a better and more glamarous lifestyle. The distortion of realities by the media has increased the gap of understanding between the different sections of society Yet communication is one of the most important channels for the growth and development of women in the informal sector, as without information regarding services and benefits available through legislation. Government schemes, banks, and voluntary organisations women can hardly take advantage of them The Commission therefore recommends the following
1. The Media must project the working woman in the unorganized sector as worker and not merely as performing the duties of wife/daughter. They being major earners they must be projected as producers and not merely consumers. Unless they are perceived as workers, their rights will not be recognized.
2. It is necessary to formulate a national policy on communication clearly stating what it aims to do, how it plans to achieve its objectives, what is going to be the time period and institutional structures through which the objectives are to be realized
3. All the groups which are concerned with the production of media, and/or connected with planning and dissemination, should structurally integrate the participation of socially aware persons. This will enable the planning group to perceive the gender perspective, and neither become blind to women's issues or err too much in the opposite direction of joining the band-wagon Media monitoring unit should try to help the media to orient themselves to the interest, concerns and development of women in the unorganized sector.
4. Frequent workshops of media persons may be organised to focus generally on problems of women, and specifically on problems of women in the unorganized sector. Further, such workshops should also publicise the successful experiments carried out in the media, so as to help others in developing using such strategies Such women workers should also be participants in the media workshops This would further help in looking at the labouring women, not as mere objects to be acted upon, but as equal partners in creatively disseminating information
5. Innovative efforts to communicate should be encouraged. If possible, some percentage of the financial allocation of the concerned Ministries may be reserved for such experiments so that more talents may emerge
6. Considering the context of poverty and unemployment for large masses of the people and, therefore, a lack of access to electronic media its overuse should be discouraged Instead, other forms of interactions such as fairs, shibirs, health camps, jathas should be promoted.
7. All the media channels, both in the public sector and the private sector, should take serious note of the seventh plan directive that themes which have pernicious consequences of conspicuous consumerism should not be projected In this context, advertisements displaying women as sex symbols and using them for sales promotion should be seriously dealt with. It is not enough to control pornography through legislative enactment It
is equally necessary not to convey sex linked division of labour or women's predilection with feminine pursuit through conservation and traditional stereotypes. More vigorous action of policy implementation is called for.
8. The public sector media should make deliberate attempts to not only project the problems of women in poverty, but should monitor in such a way that conflicting role models are not depicted, nor derogatory references to their work are made.
To improve content and coverage, coordinated efforts for increased interaction between NGOs, women's social action groups, research organizations, institutes of mass communication, and the media personnel should be developed. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry should evolve such network to monitor the projection of women, and evolve a code of ethics with regard to the presentation of women in all types of media.
6.2 It is recommended that more coverage to women's life and problems in poverty should be given. Care must be taken to avoid sensationlism in the new coverage and more sensitive, sympathetic reporting should be done with regard to this category of women.
6.3 There is a need for a well-defined and adequately funded programme in regional languages in readable style, to encouarge the publication of data, schemes for women and also make them aware of their rights.
Radio and Doordarshan
6.4 While deploring the fact that television is resorting to sponsored programmes, commercial cinema songs and interviews and viewing of largely mainstream films, which reinforce stereotyped images and role of women as housewife and which has hardly any relevance to most women, it is recommended that more vigilance be applied in selecting programmes. Many a times, seemingly 'women oriented' programmes are in reality dubious interpretations of the women's issues. They create a myth that is women oriented.
6.5 It is recommended that taking cue from the grass-roots organizations, video be used as a consciousness raising tool by telecasting programmes which give information and guidelines in a visual manner. Further, appreciating the power of songs sung in traditional tunes, but having feminist content which is very effective in mobilizing women, Doordarshan should collect such songs in collaboration with activist groups and prepare video cassettes to be played in the programmes of Ghar Bahar and Krishi Darshan.
6.6 Women's programmes should not be treated as purdah hour, both on T.V. and the radio. Awareness with regard to problems of women in unorganized sector is necessary for both men and women. Therefore the timings for the broadcast of such programmes should be flexible.
6.7 The findings of the Commission during its tours indicated that the radio is more popular with women and comparatively, they have more access to it. It is recommended that careful planning in the use of information dissemination be done. Further, it is very necessary to reschedule the timings of the programme. Only those women who are not working can listen to the radio in the afternoon. Most of the women workers prefer to have relevant programmes in the late evening.
6.8 In view of the proposed expansion of television and radio, efforts must be made to include the component of poor women in planning. In order that these women get the benefit or reaching the media, more community sets be made available and more groups viewing be facilitated.
6.9 Given the hierarchy of programmes in the present Doordarshan and radio structures, it is recommended that the depiction of the problems of a vast majority be given higher priority. Furthermore, facilities should be provided to make programmes which are not only studio bound but are also imaginative and meaningful to the context of women.
6.10 Producer normally has assessment of the target audience. Producers largely belonging to the middle and upper classes, have limited notions of the problems of the target audience. Hence, they need to be made aware of these women and their problems, so as to sensitively portray them in their work situation. Cinema
6.11 It is very frustrating to note that the commercial cinema does not project the self-employed women in a realistic manner. On the contrary, it gives a false idea about their life and never considers work as a necessity for women. Depiction of poverty is more used as a springboard to sentimentalize the role of the hero or the mother. Rape scenes are included for titillating the audience rather than depicting the vulnerability of these women. It is recommended that there be more strict control of production of such films. The dehumanizing portrayal must be condemned.
6.12 Regional language films, have on quite a few occasions, depicted the problems of poor women sympathetically and with understanding. Such films must be dubbed in Hindi and other regional languages so that the message may reach a wider audience.
6.13 Innovative film producers, and not very known experimentalists, must be given special encouragement, not merely for producing, but also helping in distribution.
Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP).
6.14 It is very sad to note the poor performance of DAVP. The posters, exhibitions, quickies in DAVP are not generally imaginative, and tend to be very directly didactic. They suggest that poor men and women are foolish and they have to be given advice from a pedestal. It is recommended that more sensitivity be exhibited in conveying the message whether it is of Family Planning, or of the use of mechanised equipment in agriculture, or of the age of marriage,
6.15 Field publicity devices have to be used judiciously in a society where the majority of the population is illiterate. Experience in legal literacy has shown that print materials can be used by para-legal workers or extension workers, but not for the dissemination of information to the rural masses.
6.16 The Development of Information dissemination System, in order to be effective, should take the following steps: A total training/orientation/re-training plan should be formulated for each development programme for women and, wherever possible, for a common cluster of development programmes for women, incorporating therein the hierarchy of functionaries, diverse groups of beneficiaries/participants, and training methodologies with the specific objective of developing knowledge, attitudes and practice of various development programmes for women. A network among governmental and non-governmental organizations and educational institutions should be made part of the training plan with a view to making optimum use of the existing resources. Combined training programmes at the block level can be developed comprising of local officials in the development programmes, representatives of non-governmental organizations, village level functionaries, and people's represenatatives at the village level who would be helpful in creating a climate for better utilization of the communication channels for development programmes. The training programmes should include, among other aspects, an element of desensitization of biases against the poor.
6.17 A well coordinated communication strategy could be evolved by an integrated group comprising of Block level extension officials, bank officials, health officials and District Rural Development Agency officials for use of oral, visual and audio-visual methods of communication for development programmes.
6.18 Use of communication media in aid of a process of raising community participation, or for that matter, participation by self-employed women, in development programmes, could be viewed in terms wider than mere information dissemination exercises. Most development programmes, which visualize the self-employed women as the potential beneficiary, or one of the intended target groups, would need to accord a broader orientation to communication support systems. Communication support systems for the development programmes must reach the intended beneficiaries in terms of their own communication martix and in a manner which provides a comprehensive effect, access to information, skills in using the information, and ability to articulate feedback which may ultimately make the policy formulation proceses much more meaningful.
Education System, as instrument of communication
6.19 In order to implement the spirit of the new Education Policy, the textbooks and curricula will need complete overhauling. The invisibility of the women of the unorganized sector, in the textbooks, is a sad commentary on our education system. It is strongly recommended that textbooks be rewritten so as to eliminate to invisibility of women and sexism in the portrayal of the life of women.
6.20 Adult Education primers, which are meant to be utilized primarily by the women in poverty, need to be rewritten, as they do not in any way project the issues faced by these women nor make them self-confident or generate courage in them.
6.21 The findings of the commission point out that dissemination of information from the Govenment to the people is highly unsatisfactory. Not only the top down approach is counter-productive, but many a times the functionaries are unaware of the work and problems of women in the unorganized sector. It is necessary to increase the effectiveness of the dessemination of information by government to the poeple and to increase the awareness of the functionaries regarding work and problems of women.
6.22 Reaching out to women cannot be an automatic process. It has been found that whenever efforts have been made, the message does reach them. Implementation is always difficult and we recommend, therefore, that considering the social set up in rural areas, efforts must be made to involve gram sevikas and mukhya sevikas to take up the task of reaching out to women.
Recommedations for Grass Roots Organizations
6.23 Considering the effectiveness of the grass-roots organizations in reaching and mobilising the poor women, more support, both financial and in facilities should be given to these organizations.
6.24 Experiments on the lines of jatra, kriti, mahila mela should be encouraged; where women not only get exposure but a chance to express themselves.
6.25 It has been found that the use of multimedia has been functional. Hence, it is recommended that groups be encouraged to use both the folk and highly sophisticated electronic media. The creative use of puppets, story telling, songs with new content, role play and all other devices of participatory functioning should be used and also documented both in print and visual forms, so that other groups may learn from the experience, in a poor country
like ours, it would be wasteful expenditure for every group to start on a clean state. Replication and emulation be encouraged. This is not to deny the role of regional specificities. The detailed write up of the processes involved in participatory training prepared, for instance, by the Institute of Develpment Studies, Rajasthan, are very useful. This should be provided in the regional language so that more women could be reached.
6.26 Though alternative structures have been more effective in their understanding and in reaching out and getting participation of poor women, they are just a few drops in an Ocean of invisibility. Hence, it is recommended that, wherever possible, mainstream media and organizations be used. This would not only be helpful in wider coverage, but hopefully in bridging the gap between the two.
6.27 To get more authentic picture of the exposure and use of the media, more research on audience, readers and viewers should be undertaken.
7.1 The poor labouring women work in a situation of deprivation and exploitation. The Government has passed series of legislations to protect their status as workers, their remuneration and to ensure them certain benefits. Of all the labour legislations that are on the statute book, and which are directed towards the amelioration of the workers. Minimum Wages Act, 1948, claims to be the most important and relevant to the workers in the self-employed and unorganized sectors of employment. A large number of employments, including those in which women account for a significant, if not a substantial, proportion of workers, have not been included in the schedule to the Act by both the Central and State Government. Even where the minimum rates of wages are fixed or revised, they are grossly inadequate. But even more unsatisfactory is that even these low rates of wages are not implemented by and large. The enforcement machinery is both inadequate and indifferent, particularly in women-related employments. That the defaults take place in those sectors where the Government, both Centre and States, is the employer, as for example, in construction, in Relief works, in forestry, in Railways, Demonstration Farms, Free Trade Zones, Ports, Mines, is deplorable. The Government which is the biggest employer, instead of setting an example to others, itself becomes a defaulter, and where the Government is the defaulter, it is no wonder that the enforcement machinery, inefficient and indifferent as it is totally apathetic.
7.2 The other important legislations enacted are Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970. The Interstate Migrant Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1979 the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. Although the Government has progressive legislations in practice the poor working women have been denied the benefits under such legislations for various reasons. Apart from the implemenation machinery being poor and ineffective, some employers have been resorted to retrenching women or not employing women to avoid their statutory responsibility- Being unorganized, individual working women are not in a position to exert pressure on the implementating agencies and being poor without having adequate work around the year they cannot afford to resort to legal remedies which are both cumbersome and expensive.
7.3 Moreover, the basic feature of all the labour legislations is the existence of employer-employee relationship and the consequent need to define an employer and the employee. However, the normal labour laws become in-applicable or unenforceable in the case of majority of women workers who are engaged in agriculture or construction work, home-based work and it becomes necessary to evolve patterns and systems by which. through some kind of self-regulating mechanism in which women have an empowering role,
the denied results could be achieved. Seeing the complexities of the situation in which the poor labouring women work, the National Commission recommends the following:-
1. The major contributory cause for women being compelled to take up unremunerative and arduous occupations, is a total lack of choice. We, therefore, consider that the women as also the men, must have a right to employment. We also recommend that "the right to work", already a Directive Principle should be made a Fundamental Right.
2. Coupled with the right to employment is the women's right to a reasonable wage. The rates of minimum wage now prevailing are very low and will have to be increased keeping in view the requirements of the woman worker and her family. The rates of wages must be such as would enable a woman worker to earn at least Rs. 500/- per month. The production process must be so organized as to enable the woman get adequate employment and to earn Rs. 500/- per month from her labour. The Wages should be paid in full and in time. In a majority of situations women workers' wages are fixed on a piece-rate basis. The present system of fixing piece-rate is neither scientific nor equitable. We recommend that the piece-rate must be so fixed that it will enable women workers to earn for 8 hours work a wage equal to the time rated minimum wage. Where the work is carried out in the homes of the women workers, consequent on which the employer saves on installation, supervisory cost, equipment and sometimes even on raw-materials, an additional amount calculated at 25 per cent of the minimum rate of wages will have to be paid. There should be a system of fall-back wages being paid in situation where an employer is not able to provide a full day's employment. Exemption from payment of minimum wages under any circumstances should be prohibited. There should be, system of a national or regional minimum wage.
3. Despite the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 being on the statute book for over 12 years, discrimination in the matter of wages is widely prevalent. This must be corrected through better enforcement and also wide dissemination of the scope and content of the law. The tendency to classify tasks, generally done by women, to be of a slightly inferior nature, should be corrected. For this purpose, it is necessary to broad-band into one category those activities which are of the same or similar nature of work.
4. To ensure that employment of women does not get reduced, as it has been happening in the past, particularly in industries like cotton textiles, jute, coal-mining, we recommend that the retrenchment of women in any establishment (irrespective of the number of persons employed) must require the prior permission of a designated authority. Consistent with this, the provision of 'last come, first go' in the matter of retrenchment should not be made applicable to women workers.
5. The National Commission also recommends the setting up of an Equal Opportunities Commission to be set up under a Central Law which must have wide powers of Investigations, direction advice and monitoring. It ought to have, like, the Monopolies and Restricted Trade Practices Commission, a separate wing for investigation which can take up investigation either on a complaint or a reference made, or suomato. The Equal Opportunities Commission should, like in Britain undertake promotional and educational work, providing advice to employers and employees, to trade unions and professional bodies and the central and the State Governments. It should also be empowered to make grants to other bodies and individuals for independent research projects or for educational activities or training programmes. It will also have its own research services. Such a Commission would be a watch-dog organisation, with teeth, to oversee the implementation of laws and policies in all areas involving women, including employment, conditions of work, provision of maternity and child care facilities, property rights including right over matrimonial property, educational opportunities and training opportunities. The Equal Opportunity Commission may be required
to present to Parliament each year a report on its activities and findings; this report must be enabled to be discussed in both houses of Parliament as well as in the various State Legislatures in adequate detail This Commission, the existence of which must be widely made known, would be a forum whose doors would always be open to anyone, more particularly women who have not received a fair and equal deal at someones hands.
6. The Commission recommends establishment of Tripartite Boards, for the reason that no law, however, well conceived will be of benefit to women workers unless they have a major hand in the implementation of these laws and this should be achieved only at a Tripartite Board in which workers will have as many representative as the Government and employers to give them knowledge. Women workers will be adequately represented proportionately to their numerical strength. The Tripartite Boards will not only regulate the implementation of legislation, but also contribute in making women workers visible and to bring to focus the contribution they make to the family income and to the economy and above all in empowering them, to understand their rights and to demand them, not merely as beneficiaries under any paternalistic system but as partners and participants in a production process Given the nature of shifting employer-employee relationship and even the denial of such relationship and the consequent difficulty in even getting due wages paid in full and on time, the case for Tripartite Boards needs no argument There is no other method by which employer-employee nexus can be established, the Tripartite Board arrangement providing for a corpus of employers and corpus of employees, instead of individual employer with his employees In this type of arrangement, it will also be possible for the Board to take on planning functions in respect of the activity concerned, to encourage promotion of cooperatives wherever feasible with the Board helping the cooperative in the matter of supply of raw materials and marketing
7. The Commission recommends the setting up of a Central Fund from which welfare and social security measures for women workers should be financed. Apart from a levy on individual employers it would be desirable that levy is imposed on the major industries or substitute industries for the benefit of the small activities that the home based workers carry on. Even now, there is the practice of levying a cess on the organised cotton textile mill sector for helping the handloom sector In the beedi rolling industry, a levy is imposed on the bidies rolled for financing welfare activities for the workers. Similar arrangements could be thought of including a levy on exports for example on the garment export industry or gem cutting industry, likewise the plastic industry could be made to contribute for the welfare of worker in these sectors where the demand for their product are adversely affected by competition from the plastic goods Sources of such additional funding can be explored
8. All dues payable by the employer towards wages or levy must be made the first charge, their recovery where it becomes necessary, must be through a summary procedure To ensure that no defualts occur, it would be necessary to have some hold on the activities of the employer, either through licensing authorities or tax authorities
9. It is recommended that the Labour Department must be the nodal Department for enforcement of all Labour Laws There should be a separate wing in the Labour Department for unorganised workers and there should be adequate number of women employees at various places.
10. The Commission recommends that Women's organisations, trade unions, worker's representatives. Government's women functionaries and individual workers be vested with powers to inspect work sites and to file complaints on behalf of the workers.
11. It is recommended that penalties for infringement of labour laws which effect
women should be made most stringent and any further default to be made a continuing offence.
12. It came to the notice of the Commission that cases in Labour Courts take unduly long to get disposed of. The Commission recommends that Labour Courts and trade authorities be vested with ministerial powers and time limits for filing claims of objections to be fixed and periodical review be made.
13. The burden of proof of establishing that Labour Laws and rules have not been implemented to be wholly on the employer.
14. Free legal aid for women workers should be made available in practice.
15. The Commission recommends that wherever necessary the changes in labour laws should be brought about. In view of the Commission's recommendations an omnibus legislation may be undertaken to amend the relevant laws suitably.
16. The Commission strongly recommends a special drive for imparting legal literary to women workers so as to enable then to be aware of the existing legislations and the methodologies through which they can take benefit under the legislation.
17. A comprehensive Minor Forest Produce Workers Act may be enacted on the lines of Beedi and Cigar Workers Act so that the working condition is regulated and social security as well as accident compensation are provided and piece rate is fixed in consultation with labour representatives: This would imply, as it should in all fairness, that these women who collect minor forest produce are actually the workers under either the Contractors or the Forest Department and not under sub-contractors. The cane and bamboo workers should be provided bamboo or cane on priority and at concessional rates while bamboo should not be given to paper industry. The workers must be able to get a licence in a quick and easy way on a mere payment of a fee.
18. Cooperative law exists at each state level except the Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act. Most State laws with each other for being anti-cooperative. The laws have provided unlimited powers to Registrar for registration, bye laws, elections, appointment of staff, and investment of funds and thus interfere in the running of the society and can even superside the elected committee and appoint members, thus controlling the cooperative and killing the cooperative spirit. The corruption in the cooperative department and harassment methods adopted by the deparment are well-known. So, for the illiterate women labour to cooperate and imporve their conditions, it is necessary to ensure; that the Department facilities the formation of cooperatives rather than exploit them. The Registrar could regulate the co-operatives and not manage them.
Keeping in view the delays experienced in getting Coopeartives registered under the relevant State Cooperative Societies Acts, it is for consideration whether a scheme of provisional registration within a month of the application being made can be incorporated in the law. Such a provisional registration, apart from giving encouragement to the promoters that their application is not gethering dust, can also provide for certain minimum benefits such as access to raw materials to the members. This intermediate stage can be like a letter of intent under the industrial licencing procedure, with the full registeration being compared to the grant of industrial licence.
19. Child Labour: With the provision of child care on the lines recommended in Chapter-4 earlier by us we believe that enrolment of children particularly girls in the school will improve. We are strongly of the view that with the provision of guaranteed employment and adequate wages to the mother, there will be no need for child labour and we recommend that child labour must be abolished by 2000 A.D., in a phased manner, starting from 1988. The child should certainly not be prevented from learning any of crafts and trades of the parents but this
should be only as learner and not as a wage learner and should not in any event, be at the cost of her schooling.
8.1 The National Commission has observed that the lack of organisation in the informal sector is the root cause of exploitation of women workers. At present, the process of organisation for women workers is very limited and fragmented. Individually women are not in a position to fight against low and discriminatory wages and exploitative working conditions as they lack bargaining power. Laws will also not be so flagrantly violated if workers are organised. At the same time attempts at organising are thwarted by vested interests resulting in further victimization.
8.2 The Commission recommends evolving of a strategy to promote organising of women on a large scale. The government should play an active and positive role in this context. All government projects, schemes and programmes for the poor should have a component of organising as this can become a direct investment in building the people's base. There should be a proper orientation of government functionaries to support organising while they are engaged in developmental and welfare activities. The National Commission further recommends active state support for formation of associations by simplification of rules, establishing of information centres and introduction of progressive legislation. Further the approach of the State towards demand for a legal right should be a positive one, the state agencies such as the police should not look on such demands as law and order problem but rather protect the workers from oppressive vested interests. Apart from the government, voluntary agencies, Mahila Mandal, Cooperatives and Trade Unions can play an effective role in organisation of women workers in the Self-employed and the informal sector.
8.3 Organising being such a specialized activity, the need for proper training cannot be gainsaid. The National Commission recommends, that the state should provide resources for training in the area through Workers Education Boards and Social Welfare Boards at the Central and State level. Further centres for training should be established for this purpose.
Women's Voluntary Groups
8.4 At present, there are two types of voluntary groups working in the field of women. One is an organisation not necessarily of women, but working for women and secondly, an organisation of women, working for women. Although the number of women's own organisations need to be greatly increased, both types of organisations should be encouraged. The spread of these organisation is not uniform throughout the country, their numbers are small largely concentrated in township, urban areas and district headquarters. The activities of these groups are also of a limited nature. Some of them take up welfare activities like child care, destitute women, short stay centres and crisis centres. Some of them have taken up developmental activities, but these are generally linked with the Government schemes under which grants are available.
8.5 Since the voluntary organisations have the advantage of community involvement, and help to promote voluntary action, the National Commission recommends that they should be actively assisted by providing finances training and managerial inputs.
The organisations, should be encouraged to enlarge their activities to:
a) Create awareness.
b) Mobilise and organise poor women.
c) Carry out training programmes for creating awareness and leadership amongst women.
d) Formulate and implement developmental and economic projects for women. Such
projects should not be restricted to Government schemes only. They should carry out new projects which will meet the realistic needs of the women which have not been taken into account by developmental agencies.
f) The creativity and innovativeness of the voluntary groups should be encouraged by providing flexibility in their programmes.
8.6 The Government should provide legislative support and removal of restrictive legislation, need to be done if voluntary agencies can play such a role:
8.6 In many States, mahila mandals exist historically e.g. in the North East, they are playing a significant role in the community. In other States, village level mahila mandals have come up after Independence. Their role has not been effective, nor have they been able to involve a majority of the poor women in the village.
8.7 With the spread of development and poverty alleviation programmes, reaching the interior parts of the country, women in the villages have become aware, and are eager to do something to improve their situation. Many mahila mandals, so far dormant are today eager for action.
8.8 The Commission also observed that the mahila mandals have tremendous potential in actively involving village women in changing the rural scene. But this potential is still not utilised.
8.9 The Commission perceives the village mahila mandal as a suitable vehicle for change. Therefore, it strongly recommends the following:
1. The village mahila mandal should be vigorously utilised in the implementation of the poverty alleviation programmes of the Government. The village mahila mandal should be entrusted with the responsibility of identifying IRDP beneficiaries. The list submitted by the village mahila mandal should carry enough weightage at the decision making level. The village mahila mandal may also be entrusted to prepare a list of work-site and proposed programmes under NREP, TRYSEM, RLEGP, Social Forestry and the like.
2. The mahila mandal should be encouraged to initiate innovative programmes tike smokeless chullah, sulabh laterines, income generating skill trainings, water management and biogas plants.
3. The Government should provide adequate support for the mahila mandal in the form of resources like funds, a pucca house, a battery transistor and a tape-recorder. electronically recorded songs, dramas, which carry effective messages, information.
4. The mahila mandal should be provided with guidance from the earlier proposed District Women's Development Officer, under the proposed Development officers will be in charge of monitoring and liasing areas.
8.10 The Government must give recognition to the mahila mandals. There will be resistence from the local officials and vested interest groups against the mahila mandal getting active, so a strong sustained support will be absolutely necessary from the Government. The mahila mandals may take mistakes, they will take time to prepare for themselves this role. but once they become active, they will be in a position to energise the mass of women workers. The Commissions recognises that this is the only way to involve village women actively in the development process.
8.11 The experience with cooperatives has been a mixed one. While it has been successful in certain sectors like dairying, and in certain states like Gujarat, and Maharashtra. it has not been successful in other enterprises and States. Yet, the importance of this
cooperative as a whole in organising people, in enhancing productivity and employment, in equitable distribution of profits, is well recognised by the Government and by workers themselves. However, the participation of women in the cooperative movement is very limited. This is because of illiteracy, cumbersome procedures of enrolment and registration of cooperatives, inadequate financial support and marketing facilities, and finally the lack of effective leadership. The Commission is convinced that without women workers being organized, there can be no substantial improvement in their employment status. The cooperative is an important forum which can meet the needs of Self-Employed Women. In setting up the Cooperatives every caution should be exercised that they work in the interest of the poor women. To overcome these problems enumerated, the National Commission recommends that:
1. There should be an expansion of the coverage of the cooperative movement in new and important areas like farm labour, artisans, cereal processing, fodder and fuel development, fruit preservation and agro-based industries.
2. In most general cooperatives, we have seen that women are left out of the membership of the cooperative because they do not own any assets, like land, handloom. cattle for example, in the case of weavers, women do a lot of pre-weaving and post-weaving processes, but, since the loom is in the name of the man, women are not made members. The same is true of many artisans' trades. The Commission, therefore, recommends that when a particular kind of work is done jointly by men and women, in a family, both of them should be made members of the cooperative. Forming of women's cooperatives should be encouraged and even in mixed cooperatives, they should be inducted as office bearers.
3. A practical difficulty in forming a cooperative arises as many of the concerned persons for example in urban slums do not have any permanent address. It is suggested that the concerned authority should recognise that if the organization which is working for these people have a permanent address that can be considered adequate for the personal identity/security of the workers.
4. The common experience all over the country is that, due to the corruption and bureaucratic red tapism, the registration of a cooperative takes anywhere from one to four years and the procedures are too cumbersome. Therefore, a practical solution could be that. like the credit camps which are held at the district level at present, there should be camps organised for registration of cooperatives where the applicant cooperative should be invited with all the relevant papers, and the concerned official would also come with all the necessary documents and during the camp itself all the formalities could be finalised so that the cooperatives can be. registered in a short period, or provisional registration can be given. To catalyse and mobilise women to enter the cooperatives, the Commission recommends:
8.12 A spearhead team of trained women and men should be formed to reach potential, members in the female-prone large employment sectors like agriculture, dairying. fisheries. In this context, it is essential to prescribe a pre-cooperative phase, therefore, the Commission strongly recommends the government:
1. to recognise fully the need of pre-cooperative phase of one to three years:
2. to provide the required training in women in development issues to build up the consciousness of the rural poor women.
3. to provide technical training to women producers to maximise outputs.
4. to build up all the credit/subsidy linkages to ensure poor women's access to finance for the inputs in their names.
5 to provide sufficient time for a strong group of women producers to emerge, which can facilitate their self-management of their cooperatives
6 to develop their capability of dealing with government officials and local vested interests
8.13 The Commission draws attention of the government to the fact that it is a long and painful process for poor women to rise to be partners in the cooperatives and be entrepreneurs, from the existing status of labourers They need a strong and sympathetic constant support from the government at every level, particularly at the local level
8.14 Adequate funds should be flowing in the form of loans from NABARD, other banks and financial institutions to make the cooperative viable The Commission also recommends to the Cooperative Banks that
1. all efforts should be done to reach, at least 10 per cent of its lending to women engaged in homebased and small industries, and for building up assets like land, cattle house, workshed equipments and tools in the ownership of women
2. To earmark soft loans and subsidies from the Bank's own finances, and from the governments for women borrowers, and fix targets accordingly, every year
8.15 The experience of the women's Cooperative Bank is encouraging in helping women having control over her own economy, therefore, the Commission recommends to the government to plan for a woman's Cooperative Bank in every district in the next decade, the rules and regulations should be accordingly modified to reach poor and rural women to the maximum.
8.16. Training in the formation of cooperatives, and running of cooperatives which include training in organization of skills, book-keeping and accounts and organization, should be imparted
8.17. The cooperative should be in a position to supply to its members assistance, not only in the form of loans but assist in acquiring assets and raw materials To the extent to which what has been said earlier under the section on "Credit, Raw Materials and Marketing" is implemented cooperatives will be successful
8.18 The cooperatives should also be in a position to assist the members in procuring orders and developing markets
8.19 The Departments of Women and Child Development/Social Welfare in the States should be entrusted with power to do registration of women's cooperatives and societies.
8.20 To increase representation of women in cooperatives, the Commission recommends that
1. on the Management Committees/Boards of Management of all cooperatives and Federations, there should be at last two women. Necessary changes should be done in the related laws and bye-laws
2. in various cooperatives, the government has its representatives sitting on Management Committees/Boards These seats can be utilised to nominate women on them, by the government This will make a beginning for the women to learn to manage the affairs of the cooperative
3. In the newly formed cooperatives, a precondition should be laid out that 50 per cent of the membership should be of women, and thereby also In the Management Committees.
This rule should be strictly followed In cooperatives In female dominated employment sectors viz agriculture, dairying, fisheries, handloom, handicraft, sericulture and forestry
8.21 Large-scale industrialisation in India, which began roughly at the time of independence, was modelled on the developed nations. The direction of the labour movement, and the role of the State/Government in protecting the interest of the employees, were all based on the models of these highly industrialised countries. However, in spite of the impetus given to industrialisation, our economy is still largely agricultural and has not become industrialised as a whole. This has resulted in a situation where only 11 per cent of the working population (predominantly men) are engaged in regular jobs with the recognised employer-employee relationship. The remaining 89 per cent of the working population (more than half of whom are women) earn their livelihood through own self-employment. These workers lack security of service, and regularity of work and income. Since they rarely own their means of work, they are forced to work as piece-rate workers, contract labourers, farm labourers, and providers of services in their homes and outside. The labour movement has not yet touched the vast majority of workers in the self-employed and informal sectors. Barring a few local level unions in the country, the major labour unions are still engaged in the problems of the workers in the organised sector. In a country like ours, most of the goods and services are provided by the self-employed and informal sectors of the economy. The Commission feels unless the workers in these sectors whose need for unionisation and protection is the greatest, are brought into the mainstream of the labour movement, the latter has very little relevance for them. It is high time the major labour unions took the labour of the unorganised sector in their fold and extend their trade union knowhow in bringing better income and social security to them.
The National Commission recommends that
1. All the major labour unions should be encouraged to establish a separate wing for the unorganised labour.
2. The women's wing of major labour unions should be given more resources and support by the Labour Ministry to unionise the unorganised women and integrate them in the main body of the union.
3. The major labour unions should be requested to take up surveys of the problems of contract labour, home based workers, out-workers in the major industries and trades, bring out in-depth studies and influence the government in suitable changes in policy and law.
4. The major trade unions should be supported on their efforts in building up solidarity between the workers of the formal sector and the informal sector within a particular trade/industry/plant/unit. For example, in the textile industry, right from the cotton pickers in the fields to the spinners in the homes to the screen printers in the textile mills, all labour engaged whether on regular salaried job or as contract labourers may be made members of one union.
5. The major labour unions, apart from resorting to collective bargaining activities, should be encouraged in the government to take up various constructive programmes to augment the economic and social life of the workers in the self-employed and informal sectors.
9.1 Training for the women workers themselves, and for extension workers in the different Departments dealing with these women, is necessary to change the social thinking and attitudes which are detrimental to women. In so far as the women themselves are concerned, even if they are literate they do not have the training which will help them to expand their existing ventures or start new ones for which they need skills in marketing in acquiring credit, maintenance of accounts and procedures in project formulation. Packages of
programmes should be prepared which will give training to women through various channels and encourage the growth of entrepreneurship, organizing, general awareness and knowledge of legal matters The Central/State Social Welfare Boards, Women Development Corporations, Anganwadi Training Centres, schools of social work, may be used In addition to other training centres, for imparting training for all programmes under which training is given to women by various agencies, this component should be added
9.2 The National Commission recommends that voluntary agencies be sanctioned grants for implementation of programmes for women In areas of health, communication and welfare In the sanction letter a condition should be placed maintaining that a certain number of hours per week should be devoted to impart training in areas of building leadership, organising, accounting and general awareness.
9.3 The extension workers are expected to play the roll of catalyst Therefore, it is necessary that they are periodically trained Short orientation courses should be held by which they are sensitised to the problems of women, and implement the programmes In a manner which would assist women They have to be trained to help women or groups of women to take advantage of various types of facilities available under government, semi-government and banking and financial institutions, and to organize themselves in cooperatives, mahila mandals and other types of organisation
9.4 The third category of personnel to be trained at the grassroots level are the representatives of the voluntary agencies There are very few voluntary agencies which impart the skills In organising women In acquiring skills relating to credit, raw-materials, marketing and how to prepare projects and apply for loans, and subsidies A larger number of voluntary agencies need to take up this work and they have to be trained In this respect
9.5 As far as the infrastructure for training is concerned, it has to be developed at the district level, divisional level, state level and national level At the national level, an Institute of Training should be set up which, apart from carrying out training programmes will also formulate guidelines and help the other constituent units at the State level, divisional level and district level to carry out training programme
9.6 Vocational Training Institutes, Industrial Technical Institutes, Polytechnics etc should hold regular meetings with local industrialists to know their general and specific demands, and organize training programmes accordingly Especially for women and young girls in rural areas, setting up of a large number of polytechnics is essential, with dormitory and creche facilities, in order to provide them with skills that have a real value in their own environment, and which will provide them a steady income. Examples are repair and maintenance of charkhas, handlooms, waterpumps, biogas plant and training In poultry, cattle care, veterinary, service, testing of milk, simple accountancy, making smokeless chullaahs, sulabh shauchalayas, soak pits and such other useful trades and services
9.7 Follow-up guidance should be provided to trainee to enable her to get a job or to start her own enterprise
9.8 Although the Commission is not In favour of recommending reservation In jobs, it strongly recommends reservation of seats In vocational training institutes. At least 30 per cent of the seats should be reserved for women. In order to give priority to poor women, the Commission recommends that reservation should not be only on the basis of academic qualifications, but also on income levels. The entry in the trades should be such that women's employment opportunities are diversified and do not remain stereotyped and sex based.
9.9 The extension service provided In this field should be strengthened, the number of women extension workers should be increased. They should help women by not only
improving information of Government's schemes under which benefits can be availed of, but should actively assist women in taking advantage of these schemes and training and programmes assisting them to form cooperatives and societies like Mahila Mandals. The Mahila Mandals should be energised to promote more economic activities and assist women groups to get subsidies, fertilisers, etc.
9.10 The Commission has also observed that the number of women cultivators is declining. The distribution of surplus land has not benefited the poor women. Such distributions should be followed with concrete steps of providing assistance in improving land and bringing them into cultivation.
9.11 Women's cooperatives should be encouraged to involve women in management decision making.
9.12 Women should be mentioned as specific target groups for all agricultural development programmes and efforts should be made to involve them in decision making at all the levels.
9.13 Continuous monitoring should be done of women's programmes so as to improve the programme designing and implementation.
Supportive Services and other Programmes:
10.1 In line with our approach that all women are 'workers', the distinguishing feature of a woman worker is her responsibility for bearing and rearing children. In addition, the responsibility of doing all household chores and looking after the aged and sick have traditionally been her responsibility. It is for these reasons that the women worker in the informal sector has to go through her life of drudgery, jolting long hours of arduous work with no respite. It is, therefore, necessary that social support services should be provided to women workers for assisting them to do their work at home and outside, better and with less worry.
Maternity Benefits and Child Care Facilities
10.2. The Commission is of the considered opinion that no solution to the problems of women at work will be complete without taking into account her reproductive functions. This can be effectively tackled through maternity benefits and child care. The maternity benefits, on the scale provided under the Maternity Benefits Act, should be universally available to all women. The responsibility for this should be borne by all employers, irrespective of whether or not they employ women through a levy calculated as a percentage of the wage bill and placed in a separate fund from which the maternity benefits can be provided. In respect of a large number of women, like home-based workers and others where the employer is not identifiable, the responsibility for providing maternity benefits must lie with the State Governments. We do not consider it necessary to restrict the benefit to two or three confinements because we are satisfied that the universal availability of maternity benefit and child care will, in the long run, lead to smaller families.
10.3. Child care facilities are provided in various labour laws. However, it is distressing to note that the provisions of the Labour Law are not being implemented in favour of women and at times it has led to retrenchement of women workers because the employers would like to evade their statutory responsibility. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure an extended system of child care throughout the country. This will directly help in reducing the burden on women and in the all round development of the child. The National Commission recommends
1. All child care services should meet the intersecting needs of women and girls. They should provide for the healthy development and welfare for the young child, meeting the need, of the working mothers for heathy and convenient places for her children while she is at work to eliminate the burden of child care for older children especially girls to enable them to attend schools.
2. Better and effective implementation of the Labour Laws which provide for child care facilities. The implementation machinery should be strengthened.
3. A substantial increase in the number of creches alt over the country with improved facilities, better infrastructure and flexible timings so that mothers are encouraged to send their children to the centres.
4. The existing Anganwadi Centres under the ICDS need to be upgraded with proper day care-centres so that the full working hours of the mother are taken care of.
5. The setting up of family based day care centres with support from voluntary agencies. This centre will be set up by suitably trained individual local workers, preferably in their own homes to take care of a certain number of children,
6. The setting up of social based day care centres under the auspices of the local primary schools. This will help in relieving the older girl child of the care of siblings and serve the dual purpose of encouraging enrolment of girls in school and the care of primary children.
7. Setting up of women's organisation-based day care centres supported by cooperatives, mahila mandals and unions. This will enable women who are associated with these organisations to utilize the facilities provided by these centres and expertise available at these organisations could be useful in running these centres.
8. Setting up of mobile day care units for migrant/shifting workers to be run by an independent agency but funded by the employer. This will be seen on the line of mobile creches which have proved quite successful in Bombay and Delhi.
9. New approaches and diverse programmes for working groups including home based Workers and seasonal agricultural workers. Since child care is essentially an individual oriented programme, innovations will have to be made to cater to the needs of various groups. Such innovations should be promoted by the Government in consultation with women workers voluntary agencies and experts in the field of child care.
10. Child care, by its very nature is a small scale and localised operation, which has to respond to the needs of women, children and girls. For this, a three tier structure is recommended. The actual running of the service should be at the local level entrusted to organizations like balwadis and anganwadis, mahila mandals, panchayats, cooperatives and unions. The supervision, funding, training and monitoring should be at an intermediary level entrusted to organisations like volunatry agencies, district authorities, municipal authorities, charitables trusts and public sector undertakings. At the apex level, there should be an umbrella organisation functioning as an autonomous body similar to the Labour Welfare Board under the joint auspices of the Ministries/ Departments of Women and Child Development, Education, and Labour.
11. It is recommended that funds from such a service should be drawn from the budgetary provisions made in the budgets of Ministry/Department of Labour, Women and Child Development and Education, from employers in the form of a welfare cess to be uniformally applied to all employers/producers regardless of the number of employees and the sex of the worker employed, from worker parents in the form of contributions from trade unions and in other cases through individual contributions made directly at the local level.
Support for Destitute Women
10.4. The incidence of destitution is quite high amongst the labouring women in poverty. This situation may arise as a result of widowhood, migration, illness of the husband or as a result of his addictive habits like alcoholism or taking of drugs. In this context, the National Commission recommends—
1. Labelling of such vulnerable women as 'destitutes', 'distressed', 'helpness is counter productive and does not help them in the long run. Their worth as workers should be recognised and the entire approach should be from that angle.
2. The number of short stay homes and crises homes are very meagre, their numbers are required to be substantially augmented.
3. The running of the homes also needs to be monitored closely to ensure me well-being of the inmates and prevent them from becoming victims of corruption and mismanagement. They need a well trained staff who can understand their needs as also counselling services.
4. Inputs of vocational training and medical health should be inbuilt in the running of the homes.
5. Training and upgradation of skills should be followed up by placements in jobs and services as a top most priority so that such women can become self-reliant and independent.
6. Voluntary agencies are already working in the field of helping destitute women. They need to be encouraged through financial assistance. The quantum of assistance should take into view that some of the workers are required to be professionals and well-paid. Representatives of voluntary agencies need regular orientation courses to keep them abreast with new techniques and development. Some of these agencies are being operated as in the nineteenth century.
Old Age Pension
10.5. The State as well as society owes a debt to those people who because of their advanced age are no longer in a position to work but have contributed their due share all their working lives. The plight of old women who in a majority of cases are widows, is pathetic as they have no social security, and no savings, and are reduced to a State of beggary. A scheme of old age pension and pension for widows in there is many of the States but the amount given (like Rs. 60/- P.M.) is very meagre. It is often delayed because of late sanction of budget and those whose adult sons are employed are not eligible for the pension. The National Commission recommends the following measures to alleviate their condition.
1. The meagre amount of pension should be enhanced and supplemented with some monthly provisions of foodgrains and supply of a saree every six months through fair price shops and priority in getting free medical treatment.
2. The delay in getting pension should be totally eliminated and the amounts, both in cash and kind, should be disbursed regularly on the stipulated dates.
3. The linkage with the income of sons cuts at the very root of self dependence. She is left at the mercy of her son who in such circumstances of poverty and deprivation is in any case not inclined to help. Pension should be given irrespective of the employment of the son and based on the rights of the woman alone, who has contributed in her life time as producer and reproducer.
4. In case of younger widows, the thrust should be to provide her without suitable training and employment opportunities. She should be given preference in training, in asset building and in getting loans.
10.6. In India, like in other developing countries, women get into the profession of
prostitution due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities. In some parts of the country, there is a practice of Devdasis. Although the practice of devdasis is carried under the name of religion a girl at a very young age is dedicated to goddess by the parents), the root cause is poverty. The conservative and male dominated society gives social acceptance to the practice by giving it a religious sanction. These women live in poverty and earn as long as they are young They do not have any social and emotional security nor any public sympathy and support
10.7 Prostitutes/devdasis suffer from a number of health problems, particularly from sexually transmitted diseases. The prostitutes with whom the Commission members talked to also said that they are sick for 10 to 15 days in a month. During this period, they cannot even earn any income. At the Municipal/Government hospitals they are looked down upon and not given proper medical treatment, and the private doctors charge exhorbitant for medicines
10.8 The Commission recommends that there should be regular health check up and clinics for these women. They should be located preferably in the neighbourhoods where they live
10.9 The prostitutes have to live a secluded life due to their low-status in the society Their children become victims of this social ostracism. These women try their best to give better life to their children, but they cannot overcome the social attitudes which always make their children aware that their mother is 'bad woman' and they can never be accepted as 'normal' by the society. They find it very humiliating when their children are denied admission in good schools because they cannot give their father's name at the time of admission The Commission recommends that there should be a policy that father's name should not be required for admission in a school
10.10 It is also recommended that there should be more openings for residential schools for different income-groups and children of prostitutes should be given admission in residential schools on priority
10.11 These women, due to the socially unacceptable life they are leading, are generally cut-off from family relationship and are not married. So, in their old age, they do not have anyone to depend on Many of them have a resort to begging. The Commission strongly recommends for an old age pension scheme which will help them take care of their basic necessities and children's education
10.12 Alternate employment Most of the women get into this occupation when there are no other alternatives for survival, in the condition of poverty. If there is an alternative available, many women would like to leave the dehumanising occupation and lead a dignified life. In Nipani, some activities have tried to rehabilitate devdasis and provide training for self-employment There is a need for more effort to provide training and employment to these women to offer them a better way of life. And the alternative provided should be attractive enough, so that the women are not driven back to their earlier profession.
10.13 The women who try to run away from the brothels and take shelter find it extremely difficult to get support/shelter. The homes for destitute women, 'Nari Niketans' should be more flexible so that the woman has an assurance of getting a shelter
10.14 In IRDP female headed households are assisted with loans. But in the case of devdasis who invariably are the sole earners, are not accepted as IRDP beneficiaries. In this regard, the Commission recommends that in all anti-poverty programmes, their economic status should be considered
10.15 The situation of these women should be regarded with sympathy by all those who are trying to help these women instead of taking a moralistic stand Also, a more integrated approach towards their rehabilitation including shelter, employment, and education
for their children, should be adopted by the helping agencies
10.16 The drug menace is not only limited to the urban elite but has also spread to urban slums and rural areas The problem has taken the form of a serious crisis in the border States like Manipur and Nagaland in the North-east Women are the worst sufferers of the drug problem in their family. Due to the addiction, the male members, particularly the young and able-bodied, do not provide any economic contribution.
10.17 On the contrary, they become a burden to the family and take away whatever little earnings the women bring in the house after working for 12-14 hours per day The Commission's recommendations are towards reducing the plight of these women
1. There should be strict enforcement of laws to prevent drug trafficking and exemplary penalties in case of violation of the law.
2. The women, whose husbands/sons are known to be addicts, should be given priority for anti-poverty/development programmes instead of considering only families where the male member is absent
3. A more community based approach should be adopted in the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts. The deaddiction centres and curative services should not only be limited to urban areas but spread to remote rural areas
4. Local women's groups, like the Mothers' Club in Nagaland, should be involved in identification of cases, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts.
5. These local centres can be provided training by an expert who can also design and implement the plan for awareness building about drug addiction and measures to be taken by the family of the addicts. The Government, at all levels, should support this activity
10.18 All over the country, the Commission met many women who were agitated over one common issue that was ruining their life—alcoholism amongst the men in their family and in the community
10.19 Women are directly affected by this problem. A large number of women are the sole supporters of their families due to the alcoholism amongst their husbands. The men not only do not contribute, but even take away whatever income the wife brings into the family Harassment including wife-beating and violence in the family are closely related to the problem of alcoholism. Their children are also affected by this
10.20 At the community level, the women find that their safety is at stake due to increasing incidence of alcoholism. Particularly in hilly areas, women are scared of sending their daughters to school or coming back late in the evening after work due to their increasing incidence of alcoholism. They do not even find support or security from the police or other powerful men in the community. The Commission recommends
1. Although in a number of places during the tour women recommended total prohibition, the Commission feels that total prohibition may not be a realistic solution But steps should be taken to discourage opening of new liquor shops
The Governmental approach needs to altered. It should not just view liquor as a source of income to the revenue department but also consider the social implications before taking any policy decisions. The women in H P said "We have been asking for schools since the last 20 years but we have not got any yet, we have not asked for a theka (liquor shop) but still every few months new thekas are coming upto. The Government should have a policy about the number of shops permissible depending on the population of the region Beyond that, no new
licences should be issued. The policy and the rules laid down should be strictly enforced.
2. All the unauthorised liquor dens should be evicted and the Government at the local level (police, municipality) should not support these activities.
3. Strict action should be taken by the State Government against the offenders and the local officials who are involved or supporting these activities.
4. Before opening any new liquor shop in a village, the Panchayat/Government should take public opinion and a new shop should be sanctioned only if a majority (2/3) of the population give their opinion in favour of opening of new liquor shops.
5. No liquor shops should be opened within 3 kms. from schools, colleges or bus stop.
6. There should be proper regulation about the number, location and timings of the liquor shops and strict enforcement of these regulations have to be done.
7. Mahila Mandals should be given powers, parallel to the Panchayat, so that their opinion can influence the local power structure. The Experience of many grassroots organisations like AMM, Bombay and SUTRA, HP has demonstrated that in our country, specially amongst poor women, the problem of alcoholism can be tackled better by organizing (community approach) the women rather than the individual counselling approach. It is essential to see this problem as social rather than individual or personal problem of the family of the alcoholics.
8. In many parts of the country brewing liquor is very common. It is generally observed that illicit brewing amongst the poor if carried out more for subsistence in the agricultural economy. There is no regular employment throughout the year. Therefore, provisions of alternate source of employment and regulation of employment conditions would considerably reduce the incidence of illicit brewing of liquor.
9. There should be policy that in the case of women whose alcoholic husbands are in regular jobs, the major part of the men's salaries should directly go to the wife. Then she will have some control over the family income.
10. Special efforts should be made to include the wives of alcoholics in all anti-poverty programmes and particularly to give them assets in their names. This will give the women some security, because the man would not be able to sell off the assets as easily as he can take away the cash/money from the wife.
Housing and Toilet Facilities
10.21. Housing for the poor has been recognized as one of the basic requirements of human life. Housing for women have an added dimension since traditionally they rarely own land or house. Moreover it involves more than a roof over ones head: it includes social and community facilities and is connected with employment and earnings. For women who are more home-based and often use their home as workplace this is of crucial importance for them. The provision of housing has to be considered in the urban and the rural context separately since the situation in both is quite different.
10.22. The problem in urban areas concerns the slum dwellers who face terrible overcrowding, lack of essential services, terrorisation by local thugs and finally the constant threat of eviction and demolition.
10.23. The problem in rural areas relates to the progressive destruction of natural resources which has led to a crisis in the accessibility of land and local construction materials. Besides the houses themselves are poorly designed with no ventilation or outlet for smoke.
10.24. In this context and keeping the priorities of women in view the National Commission recommends
1. An integrated development plan for the country which must be eco-system based and
linked with other programmes like employment and income generation, education and provision of credit which fall under the purview of different Ministries
2. Involvement in the planning stage itself of people for whom the houses are being planned, besides involvement of civic authorities who would be in charge of not only building but also development of the infrastructure
3. Ongoing research on building technologies with the aim of reducing cost, simplifying designs, providing low cost sanitation and such provisions like smokeless chulas to improve the environment so that planners can make informed choices. Housing plans should take into account the needs of women, specially home based workers whose work place is the home.
4. Decentralised implementation of housing schemes with the participation of the local community. This will not only increase the involvement of the people but provide employment under various public and civic works of the PWD, CPWD and other state authorities
5. Funds to be made available at affordable interest rates and in the joint name of the couple and in case of single woman without discrimination. Funds to the very poor should come in the form of building materials so that they are not tempted to diversify liquid cash
6. The needs of special groups like destitute women, those living in disaster prone areas and migrant workers should be considered separately through providing destitute homes, community shelters
7. A complete review of existing laws and legislation to provide for joint ownership of property, stricter tenurial rights and regulation of eviction and demolition which in case of the poor should be only with the provision of alternative homes
10.25 The common problem faced by the majority of labouring women is the lack of toilet facilities. Open plots of land for the use of women to ease themselves are no more available in urban centres and even in the villages now
10.26 The system of bucket privies for the disposal of night-soil in urban areas is nasty and hazardous to health
10.27 Due to bad condition of the roads, they find it easier to carry the night-soil on the head rather than push the trolly. The containers of bucket privies also develop holes, so the night soil gets scattered around the dwelling houses and creates a problem both for the dwellers and cleaners
10.28 The Commission recommends
1. Simple, suitable toilet facilities should be provided in every village and urban slum Common toilet facilities near their place of work and public places like markets should also be provided
2. Looking at the conditions of water, cement and other resources, we recommend low-cost circular 2-pit water seal latrine to be provided for each family, in their house on loan-cum-subsidy basis. We learn from experts that the cost of community or private latrines comes to the same.
3. The local Mahila Mandals should be entrusted with the entire programme. The Mahila Mandal should identify the homes, receive funds, mason the material needed for the latrine like footrests, platform, drain, pits, keep maintenance, train the women technicians, motivate local women and men, hold awareness camps in the beginning and occasionally. The displaced Scavenger women can be rehabilitated in production of the sanitary wares, soap and maintenance.
4. The Government should provide for the assets, maintenance and training It is learnt that the cost of two pit water-seal latrine is about 500/- (Sulabh Shauchalaya model or some such suitable model) consumes space of 7'x4'x5' (depth) and needs little water
5. The human waste thus accumulated can be utilised for fuel through two-gas plant, to
be managed by Mahila Mandals.
6. All the housing schemes provided for the poor by the Government should have low-cost latrines.
11.1. Although at the planning level, there is consciousness about women's low status and the need to focus on women's needs in development, but at the implementation level, this awareness percolates very slowly. The delivery system is based on a stereotyped concept of women's development where women are objects of pity or welfare and are given some benefits in a sporadic and haphazard manner. In their urgency to meet their targets, the developmental agencies are not enough concerned whether there is an adequate coverage of women or not. In fixing targets, there is generally no consideration of women as a separate disadvantageous group. The implementation machinery is largely insensitive to the basic needs of women in poverty. The experience of IRDP where there is a constant pressure from the centre to fulfill the 30% target of women beneficiaries, has been though slow but positive and encouraging.
11.2. Under the headings of Planning, Monitoring and Training, suggestions have been made on how to improve the functioning of the administrative system vis-a-vis women in poverty. Apart from the straight line, bureaucratic channels of Government, Ministries and Departments at the State Level, the Commission recommends active involvement of State Social Welfare Advisory Boards and State Women's Development Corporations in reaching out to the poor women.
11.3. From its studies, the Commission has reached the conclusion that there should be an infrastructure in every State for helping women in economic ventures. Although a new infrastructure may be desirable, the Commission would not like to recommend a proposal which would lead to infructous expenditures. The Commission, therefore, would like to recommend that the existing State Advisory Boards should be strengthened. They have a great potential for helping the rural poor women in the informal sector. However, the functioning of the State Advisory Boards at present is not quite effective. Programmes are added without corresponding increase in the manpower. Hence, if women's programmes are to be undertaken, they need manpower support and preparatory training as well as access to consultancy. There is limited delegation of powers, at times delays of 9 to 12 months take place for sanctioning of grants. The Board's procedure for sanctioning of loans needs to be reassessed and they should be revitalised to help women in poverty. In addition, adequate linkages with the State Government need to be built up. They should also promote starting of more voluntary agencies. When the Board was constituted in 1953, in the initial years it assisted around 3000 voluntary agencies and in 1988 it assists approx. 10, 000 voluntary agencies. Since the voluntary agencies work far and in between, and not always in the interior, it is necessary that the number of such agencies should be expanded, to reach out a large number of rural poor women of a faster rate. However, a cautious approach should be adopted so that there is no mushroom growth of bogus organizations which exist only on paper. Apart from social workers, the State Advisory Boards should have more professional expertise available in marketing, project formulation and training as these should be important functions of the Board to assist poor women and help in the growth of Women's organisations.
11.4. The State Advisory Boards should also have more active links with the banking institutions. One of the bottlenecks which poor women are faced with is coping with the banking procedures and this work could be tackled by the State Advisory Boards who can act as
effective go-between to get loans to poor women. At present, there are programmes in the State Advisory Boards in which there is a tie up of the components of loan and subsidy that needs to be more effective. The constraints should be studied and removed, and the programmes be redesigned more realistically.
11.5. During its tours, the Commission was able to study the work of the Departments of Social Welfare and Women's Development Corporations in the States. The Commission is of the opinion that the Women's Development Corporations have a better potential to reach out to the poor women in a more effective way than the State Departments. However, these Development Corporations are only in five states, so far. and have their limitations in terms of resources and the context in which they work. Their approach in certain cases is restricted only to a few activities like grant of loan or subsidy. Some of the Corporations, with the assistance of NORAD, a Central scheme, have set up some production units. The Commission feels that such Corporation should be set up in every State. The terms of reference should be expanded and they should play an effective promotional role emphasising on poor women. The poor women, who come under our purview for generations have known only employer and employee relationship, they are not familiar with the concept of entrepreneurship cooperatives, and credit institutions. The Corporations should take care of these needs and also perform on their behalf feasibility and marketing studies so that activities which have a market are promoted. In other cases, the same activity having less demand can be promoted with better designing to capture new markets. Still in other cases, the activities which have no possibility of getting a market need to be discouraged and women motivated to start new activities.
11.6. The National Commission has observed that, under various developmental schemes, there is variation in the component of loans and subsidies. Similarly, the quantum of stipend also differs as also the training programmes, leading to imbalances. For instance, programmes which will not be very viable and useful tend to get more response because of the quantum of stipend being paid. Therefore, the matter of standardisation of the stipend needs to be undertaken.
11.7. In the development programmes, specially anti-poverty programmes, although care is taken to identify the beneficiaries the Commission has observed that single women and women headed households, get left out and the poorest of the poor at times are not selected. For identification of women beneficiaries, mahila mandals and women's organisations may be actively associated.
11.8. At the field level, where there should be convergence of services, however different Departments tend to work. in a compartmentalised manner. It is recommended that field functionaries should be imparted information, regarding programmes of the related Departments. This is necessary as women in poverty are normally involved in more than one activity and if one functionary reaches them, he or she should be able to impart information on other activities as well.
11.9. The Commission is of the opinion that women workers are in a better position to reach out to women and have a greater understanding of women's problems. It is. therefore, recommended that in all Departments, there should be at least 30 per cent women workers. This should include Departments like Agriculture, Animal Husbandry. Forestry, Labour, Excise and Taxation and Industry.
11.10. Women's representation should be in all decision making levels, right from the lowest rung of the hierarchy to the highest. The decision making bodies may be government or local bodies like panchayats. or municipalities.
11.11. The National Commission has observed that, inspite of special programmes for
SC/ST, the women in these groups lag far behind than men in taking advantage of such programmes. The Scheduled Caste Corporations in the State Governments also have not been laying emphasis on the coverage of women. Even in the Tribal Plans and the SC Component Plan, separate targets for women should be fixed.
11.12. The plight of poor women amongst the minorities is even more pitiable. Their problem is poverty and isolation. The levels of literacy and health are poor. The Muslim women in particular are more confined within their home situated in high density areas. The artisans and home based producers cannot venture to get out of their homes because of purdah and social inhibitions. The entire marketing of the products produced by them is done by the menfolk, the result being that the cash does not flow into their women's hands. The Commission strongly recommends that the needs and interests of poor women among the minorities should be reflected in the Plan allocations and channeling of resources including the State Minority Boards. With spread of education, Muslim women are becoming keener to avail of the new opportunities. Therefore, special efforts should be made to bring them into the mainstream with other women, such as through, planning common worksheds and community centres and enrolling their membership in women's groups. This is the surest way of increasing communal integration.
11.13. Similarly, women in the North-Eastern States deserve special attention. They tend to remain outside the national mainstream. Communication facilities are very poor. Prevalence of higher levels of alcoholism and use of drugs by the men has led to further deterioration in the economic status of the family besides causing mental tension to women. Special steps should be taken to check alcoholism and the use of drugs. Women of this region face the additional problem of harassment from the armed personnel patroling certain areas. Further, the benefits of the Central Schemes, and the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, do not percolate down to the far flung areas of the country. At times, even Government orders/circulars do not reach the sub-divisional levels. The Commission recommends that it is not enough to give plan allocations to these States, but also ensure their proper utilisation. There should be better communication between the Centre and the States Governments. Monitoring and evaluation of programmes under Central and Centrally Sponsored Schemes should be made more effective.
11.14. The Commission recommends that all poor women should be safeguarded by conscious and deliberate policy against exploitation by the middlemen and harassment from petty officialdom like the inspectors, police, municipal authorities and other local bodies.
11.15. Fair price shops should be well stocked. The poor women do not get all the items due to them as per the ration cards. A matter for greater concern and worry is that poor women, specially seasonal and migratory labour, do not get even the ration cards. They have to make purchase of essential commodities at open market rates which they can ill afford. The Commission recommends effective implementation and supervision of the distribution system of essential commodities. It also recommends that Janta sarees should be available at all fair price shops. Each woman should be entitled to two Janta sarees annually at controlled rates. This will be a great relief to the poor women who normally have to spend about Rs. 50/- for one saree and blouse, which at controlled rates will be available for Rs. 13 to 15. In all consumer cooperatives running fair price shops, the women should constitute 50 per cent of membership.
11.16. The Commission recognises the negative impact of the attitude of the petty police officials in relation to the poor women's working conditions. The Commission would. however, like to mention that the poor women specially adivasi and harijan women, need to be protected from the attrocities of the police. Although, at the higher levels, there are indications
of a sympathic attitude towards women, by and large, the attitude of the police is unsympathetic. When police joins hands with the local thugs, then there is no end to the harassment faced by the poor women. The Commission recommends that the police being an important arm of- the administration should function as an instrument of development. They should protect the poor vulnerable women from exploitative elements. Special measures should be taken up for sensitisation of police to women's issues and their problems. This may be done through periodical training programmes, giving awards and increasing the number of women personnel at the lower and middle levels.
11.17. The Commission recognises that the administrative machinery has an important role to play in alleviating the condition of the poor, specially women. It recommends that the administrative machinery needs to be entrusted with values of integrity, honesty and concern for the poor. This may be done through periodic refresher courses and also by developing mechanisms by which officers at all levels should be entrusted for a sufficient length of time, with the responsibility of planning and implementation of projects for the poor.
Political and Social Will
12.1. From the study of the existing systems, the prevailing social attitudes and cultural ethos, the National Commission has come to the conclusion that the presence or absence of a political will is a very crucial factor in determining the success or failure of 9 programme. Where anti-women traditions are perpetuated, and the various mechanisms, specially the delivery mechanism, is consciously and unconsciously working against women, the presence of a strong political will, perhaps, become the single most important factor to bring about a change in the status of unprotected labouring women.
12.2. Ideally, the social will for changing women's status should proceed the political will. However, in a situation where a vast majority of women working in the informal, unorganized and self-employed sectors is concerned, live a life of deprivation and exploitation, the creation of a strong social will by a minority of people does not seem to be likely. It will take a long time for women to develop the power to resist exploitation and organize themselves for this purpose.
12.3. In such a situation, the role of political leadership is very crucial It should not reflect an elitist image but should crusade for the majority, who are the exploited, and who have voted them into power. This is specially necessary when women's own representation in the political system is very low. In the General Elections of 1984, there were 59 per cent of women voters as against 68 per cent men. As women do not constitute a lobby, the political parties have neither utilised the lobby nor included them in their manifestation, as they go to the other minority/backward groups. They leave the men to influence the women. All political parties are guilty of not seriously tackling the women's issues and taking them up in their party manifestoes. All political parties appear reluctant to field women candidates. If the political leadership decides that women's problems have to be tackled on a priority basis, the entire planing processes, implementing mechanisms and monitoring system will be geared in no time. The National Commission, therefore, places major responsibility on the political leadership for improving the status of the unprotected women and giving them political visibility which is lacking at present.
12.4. The implications of a strong political will are that it will have a direct effect on the planning process and on the system of implementation. The Government, machinery through which development resources are channelised, has proved to be often indifferent and ineffective in reaching the poor labouring women. And for this, the responsibility has to be shared between the political and administrative leadership.
12.5. Since women in poverty are victims of the existing social systems, attitudes and prejudices, one of the factors which can bring an improvement in the status, is the creation of the social will. Social will has to be created in the community, a work which has been started by voluntary action but needs to be accelerated by efforts of the Government through the instruments of education, communication and research. The measures have already been suggested under the appropriate headings mentioned above. The responsibility of the society in this context cannot be underrated. If the society and women themselves, do not become aware and act as watchdogs of their rights, guaranteed in the Constitution and various legislation, they cannot legitimately expect the existing systems, which tend to favour the vested interest, to benefit them. Women's organization have the responsibility of acting as pressure groups on the system and also becoming repositories through which development resources can be channelized.
12.6. There is another type of gap which is existing between women with resources and women without resources. Women who have skills of education, knowledge, and leadership, and are entrepreneurs and professionals, should assist their impoverished sisters in articulating their demands, bring them into greater visibility, and help them to resist exploitation and to rise above the present status of poverty and deprivation. It is only when women can get together as a homogenous group, irrespective of caste, class, community and activity differences, will their collective voice be heard and yield results.
Ela R Bhatt Chairman
Dr. Armaity S. Desai Member
Dr. R. Thamarajakshi Member
Mrinal Pande Member
Jaya Arunachalam Member
Veena Kohli Member Secretary