AIPWA's letter to Prime Minister of India regarding women's rights, nutrition and safety during second phase of Lockdown

To
The Prime Minister
Government of India

Subject: In the context of women’s rights, nutrition and safety during the second phase of Lockdown

Respected Sir,
Yesterday you announced an extension of the Lockdown till 3 May 2020 in order to control the Corona pandemic. While you were announcing the second phase of the Lockdown, we were hoping that you would also announce appropriate measures to resolve the problems faced by women during the past 21 days of Lockdown. Unfortunately, however, your address did not contain any such steps.The guide line issues today of starting some economic activities from 20th april but even in these guide lines women have been ignore.  Sir,over the past 25 days many incidents have come to light which shows the horrific life conditions women are facing.At Jehanabad in Bihar a mother watched helplessly as her child died in her arms due to want of an ambulance. A woman TB patient who had returned from from punjab and was admitted in the quarantine ward was raped and subsequently died.(her test report showed negative for corona).attacks on women who are ‘Corona Warriors’. It was hoped from you that you would delineate some steps to ensure that such incidents are not repeated. On behalf of AIPWA we would like to say that fighting against a pandemic and fighting against starvation and attacks on women and children are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, we demand action from you on the following issues:

It is surprising that the government is taking decisions which establish discrimination against women. We are astounded to read newspaper reports that the government has relaxed the provisions in the PNPDT Act till the month of June, which in simple terms means that the ban on sex determination tests has been removed.  The ludicrous logic being offered for this decision is that it will be a time-saver for women, doctors, hospitals, and private clinics that do ultra-sound tests. We demand that this decision should be revoked immediately. We demand that instructions should be given to the Health Ministry to strictly implement the provisions of the PNPDT Act. All District administrations should also be instructed to keep a special surveillance on its implementation.

There is no arrangement to protect women against domestic violence during the Lockdown. We demand that a 24x7 hotline should be established in every District and special teams are formed to reach women who want help. If required, the help of women’s organizations can be taken for this.
In your address on 14 April you said that there is no shortage of food grains or medicines in the country. In that case, why are people still dying of starvation? Inasmuch as children, pregnant women, and foster mothers who used to receive nutrition from Anganwadi centers have not received it at most places even though half of April is already over. In some States (for example, Bihar) the government has spoken of putting money into the beneficiaries’ accounts instead of nutrition, and Anganwadi helpers have been asked to collect account numbers, mobile numbers and Aadhar numbers for making this list. Women who live in the worst conditions are the ones who receive nutrition-food from Anganwadis. How can the government expect that all these numbers will be available with them? Secondly, food and nutrition are needs which have to be attended to immediately. Thirdly, they will get cash for food at government rates but they will have to buy the food grains at market rates which are much higher. Therefore, we demand that food and nutrition should be distributed immediately and the amount received by women should be doubled from what they used to receive earlier because now their families will not be in a position to spend anything on their care.

In your address, you appealed to the common people to feed the poor. Many people including social activists and organizations are already engaged in this work (although they are now being stopped at some places by the administration). But it is necessary that the government discharge its responsibility. Instead of letting food grains rot in go-downs, governmental community food centers should be opened in every poor Basti for the next three months and this should be given top priority.
Keeping in mind the needs of women and children during the Lockdown, arrangements should be made at government ration shops for free distribution of sanitary pads for women and milk for children.

Talk of honoring ‘Corona Warriors’ seems like a joke when we see that ASHA and other health workers are not being provided even with masks by the government. Your ‘gamchha challenge’ is fine for those who stay at home but it is of no use to people working in the field. Similarly, Anganwadi workers are being used for fighting against Corona but they are not being given insurance. We demand that ASHA, Anganwadi workers and sanitation workers are given an additional amount equal to 3 months salary or Rs 10000 minimum as ‘honor money’. All scheme workers should be given helth insurance. Other warriors—doctors, nurses, police personnel etc should also be given ‘honor money’ according to their posts.

We demand that communal divisive forces and the rule of loot in the country should be curbed. Sir, our request is that the government should issue instructions for immediate steps to be taken on all over points.

Yours sincerely,
Rati Rao, President
Meena Tiwari, General Secretary
Kavita Krishnan, Secretary
All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA)

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