Despite West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Dilip Ghosh making derogatory comments against incumbent Chief Minister Mamata Bandopadhyay, the Party can show the audacity of portraying its concern for the women of West Bengal. Though the motormouth Hindutva rabble-rouser and his brethren exhibit sheer misogyny from time to time, the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women have no limits.
As part of a series exposing the lies in the BJP’s West Bengal manifesto, we will analyse the Party’s promises to the women in this article.
Inside some of the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women
33% Reservation for women in government jobs
One of the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women is a flat 33% reservation for women in all state government jobs. While the promise is quite an enchanting one, the reality speaks otherwise.
According to the “Percentage Distribution of Workers According to Broad Employment Status: 2011-12” by the National Sample Survey Office, 68th Round, July 2011-June 2012, the proportion of regular wage/salaried women in BJP-ruled Gujarat was 36.8% while in West Bengal it was way higher at 40.02%. This shows that government job reservation for women should be 50% at least, as fixing 33% will be a regressive idea.
As per its loyalty towards big foreign monopoly-finance capital and its Indian comprador-crony capitalist lackeys, the BJP is on a privatisation spree and selling off all government-owned or public-funded assets to its corporate donors. Now, if it wants to increase women’s participation in the labour force and close the gender disparity fissure, it should have promised reservation in the private sector by making laws.
But by remaining mum on reservations in the private sector for women, it’s clearly showing the women “their place” according to the Hindutva fascist doctrine subscribed by the BJP and its parental body Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It’s a clear indicator that the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women are deceptive.
Free public transport ride for women
One of the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women is free rides on public transport vehicles if Ghosh or his bete noire Babul Supriyo becomes the chief minister. This promise is copied exactly from the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) similar programme in Delhi, which the BJP vehemently opposed by accusing the state government of degrading women’s pride by turning them into “beggars”.
However, the BJP isn’t disclosing to the women that its agenda of privatisation won’t leave any public transport vehicle in West Bengal, including the Eastern Railways or Kolkata Metro, where the women can avail free transport option. Despite the claim by the BJP’s West Bengal election manifesto 2021, it can be easily found how the Modi regime opposed free transport for women in Delhi Metro.
Free education for women from “KG to PG”
When it comes to education, nothing beats the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women. The BJP’s manifesto promises free education to women from kindergarten (KG) to post-graduate (PG) level. But it didn’t tell the voters that the Union Budget 2021-22 has reduced allocation for education.
While Rs 993.12 billion was earmarked as a budget estimate (BE) for education in the financial year (FY) 2020-21, which was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic that drove away a large number of students from education due to extreme poverty and dislocation caused by Modi’s unplanned lockdown, and displacement as well as their inability to subscribe to online education, Rs 850.89 billion got into the revised estimates (RE). This means the government has spent less than what it allocated for education in the COVID-19 year when ideally it should’ve spent more.
Despite the gloomy economic environment and the inability of many students, especially girls, to avail online education due to poverty, the Modi regime earmarked Rs 932.24 billion as BE for the FY 2021-22, which is less than the BE of the previous FY. With such less allocation for education, with the disastrous National Education Policy 2020, the BJP has already taken away oxygen supply from public-funded education. Now how will it reverse the same tide in West Bengal? There is no such explanation.
The promise of lumpsum payment on girls turning 18
The BJP’s West Bengal election manifesto 2021 promised a lumpsum payment of Rs 200,000 once a girl turns 18. It also promises a stipend for girl students. This is an amount the BJP, exhibiting its quintessential patriarchal outlook, wants to allocate for the marriage of the “family’s daughter”.
This amount is larger than the Rs 25,000 paid lump sum under the Kanyashree Prakalpa programme of Chief Minister Mamata Bandopadhyay, but it’s hollow because the state has a debt of Rs 4.90 trillion and after repaying its instalments, the government can’t pay the amount without widening the state’s budget deficit, which the BJP always says it wants to do. Then how will it manage the funds for this programme?
Other women empowerment and healthcare
There are a lot of schemes and promises for women regarding their health, empowerment and welfare in the BJP’s West Bengal election manifesto 2021. However, on a national scale, the BJP isn’t as generous when it comes to women empowerment.
Take for example that while the BE for Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women was Rs 11.63 billion in the FY 2020-21, the RE has been 7.26 billion while only Rs 480m is allocated for the scheme in the BE of the FY 2021-22. This shows how seriously the BJP takes the cause of women in India.
In this article, we have discussed how Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath came out to demand women’s security in West Bengal when his state tops India in crimes against women. While the BJP has a very shoddy record in terms of protecting women rights and is infamous for curtailing women’s rights, the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women are not for them but for the men who are keen to control their lives.
Now it’s to be seen whether the BJP’s promises to West Bengal’s women can rally the support of patriarchal men who want to control all aspects of women’s lives—what should they wear, eat, do and whom shall they love or marry—or it polarises the women against the Party? How the women take up their struggle against Brahminical patriarchy will also determine the outcome of the larger anti-fascist struggle against the RSS-led juggernaut that wants to seize control of West Bengal, its land, resources and people’s lives.