Dr Surendra Singh Pokharna
March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day. Routine activities are carried out to bring the women’s related issues into focus and action needed on them. However, actually various components of society and nature are interrelated and are interdependent such as men, women, children, plants, trees, animals and the whole environment. By giving too much emphasis to such international days, we are handling various other issues in isolation.
What is needed is to study the society as a whole and the environment as one single system. This is being done in Indian philosophy in general and Hindu philosophy in particular. Following are some of the issues which should be discussed and studied so as to have an integrated view of the problems and arrive at what is known as an ‘optimal or balanced solution’ of the various problems. This term commonly used in the management jargon is extremely important as we have a large number of interacting systems and a set of goals are there with a specified set of constraints.
Balanced development and role of women
Nature has made women different from men and they have widely different characteristics. They are essentially meant for performing different tasks. If men and women continue to do their well assigned duties then certain balance is maintained in the process of development which can be called an equilibrium or an optimal development. When people talk of bio-diversity then there is a need to talk of other types of diversities in the nature. We must therefore recognise the intrinsic nature and differences among men and women and then define their activities in such a way that certain balance is maintained.
There is lot of emphasis about the term ‘development’. Some people talk of economic development, some talk of materialistic development. Environmentalists on the other hand talk against economic and materialistic development. If we look at the western world they have talked mostly of economic development which was further strengthened by the scientific and technical developments. However, they are almost entirely responsible for polluting the world's life support system in the form of green house effects, ozone layer problems, pollution of water, soil and others. There is virtually little place for spiritual development in their social system. Their concept of development is being propagated through various platforms in the form of educational programmes, development of women and children and through international aid agencies and so on. This point of view is clearly reflected in the table given below used by the World Bank to recommend policy initiatives to bring various indices of development for men and women closer. Why these Bank experts have ignored family values, cultural, religious and spiritual development, care for children and other such factors. Should one not define indices for them also ?. The most unfortunate part of the story is that our politicians and bureaucrats have fallen into this trap without looking at the problem in totality.
Being an Indian, one should add that a term like spiritual development and enlightenment is also very popular in our country. Actually what is needed is to combine the economic development with the spiritual development not only of an individual but of the whole society and the country. As women have been found to be close to nature, they have been assigned the duty to keep the religious and spiritual traditions alive and keep the economic development under control through religious discipline. By talking of the modern version of the economic empowerment of women we break one leg of the development and strengthen the other one which leads to one dimensional development and hence an instability in the future which could prove a disaster.
Empowerment of women as per Indian culture
In our country women are worshipped in the form of Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga which are symbols of money, education and power. Thus they have been empowered economically, educationally and physically as well. This has another interpretation i.e. women are so much empowered that they are being worshipped as these three deities. As per Chankaya women are much more superior to men in many respects. It is due to the influence of the invaders that this aspect of the women is being forgotten and they are treated as inferior to the men and hence looked down in the society. In the olden days, it was never the case.
Women are best for keeping family structures and a family-society-nature equilibrium at macroscopic scale. It is due to this realisation that women have been given most challenging job and responsibility in our society. The key responsibility is to act as a nuclei of a family which consists of several different type of characters. To have happiness and balance in the family (called samaradhi), women have to be very wise, very hard working, very patient, very intelligent, highly tolerant and very kind with smiling face at all times. It is because of these qualities that they are given maximum respect in the family and the society.
They are basically responsible for building good character in the future generation. They also provide love, care and food to all family members. They have also played a key role in preserving our religion, culture and spiritual traditions over thousands of years. They take maximum interest in celebrating various festivals which keep our life vibrant and pleasant. They have also played a key role in preserving our environment and various facets of it by worshipping trees, flowers, rivers, air, sun, soil etc. during various functions. They are best suited for doing these activities because they are very close to the nature. Many of these things are done by them while enjoying and they derive lot of pleasure also from these activities. This structure leads to a balance between economic growth and spiritual growth. It has been found that in a family where both men and women are doing jobs, the additional income goes in wasteful expenditure which just adds to the environmental problems and many members of the society remain unemployed.
The current terminologies like ‘women empowerment’, ‘women liberalisation’ and ‘women's development’ and ‘gender bias’ are too small as compared to the status which has already been given to women in our culture.
The origin of women's related issues in Independent India
If we look at the history of agitations and programmes on women's liberalisation, women's development, gender bias, women's empowerment, etc. all these terminologies have come from the west. Many international agencies have pumped in lot of money for activities related with these issues after Independence. Some time back they organised international conferences in India and China. Their motive seems to induce and instigate quarrel among men and women in an intelligent and non-violent way in these “two would be superpowers of the world”. One can guess the motive of these western powers in encouraging such movements. One can also observe that a majority of the women involved in such movements have some foreign connections and are getting money from such agencies. Why western power is so much interested in the development of our women and not in the development of crores of poor unemployed youth in rural areas?
Lot of noise these days is made for women's education. But what type of education is actually required. Should we plan same type of education for men and women or should they have different type of education and hence duties so that a balance is there in our concept of development. For example in the Indian context, one can mention that Kerala has the highest level of education for both men and women. This has resulted into large scale employment for women and large scale unemployment for men. This can be attributed to the breakdown of the family structures and increase in the unemployment and the resulting tensions.
Some probable future consequences of the Women's Reservation Bill
Now let us see the consequences of the women's reservation in the future. Once there is reservation for women in the Parliament, voice will be raised for similar reservation in many other walks of life. The first consequence of women reservation will be beginning of a cut throat competition between men and women for limited political and economic resources. So will it lead to more respect for women by men or an increase jealousy and hatred? With reservation for women in the economic sectors, opportunities for men will decrease, are we prepared for such a society, there will be more women in good services but they may not find suitable husbands, so they may remain unmarried throughout life? Such processes have already started and can be verified. Job opportunities are already very few in the country as compared to the population, if some jobs are reserved for women what will happen to the men? What will happen to the family structures and their happiness on a large scale? Also will the women be satisfied with double duties? What will happen to the character building process of the future generations? Who will provide food, care and love to the children? Who will care for the religious and cultural traditions of the country which has been hitherto protected by the women? What will happen to the generation who will be deprived of the love of their mothers because of their process of economic empowerment alone?
Need to start cultural traditions in which more respect is given to women
The current problems about women are there because we have stopped those traditions and customs which emphasis on reminding the people about these aspects of women. Thus there is a need to give more emphasis to the customs through which women are given respect like deities. When the whole world is looking at us for mental peace and social harmony why we are falling in the wrong trap. There is a need to reactivate the slogans that deities live in place where women are worshipped. In our system we have a tradition in which a person brings his salary and give it totally to his mother or his wife. She then controls the whole economics of the family. We want this type of economic empowerment. We should avoid those methods in which women are looked up as competitors. In that processes they will not get respect or honour, rather there will be more hatred and may be disorder. There are festivals in which small girls are honoured and worshipped and are specially invited for food. On many occasions small girls are decorated like Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga and are worshipped. Let us revitalise these customs for a real implementation of women's empowerment.
Differences in development among men and women (Per cent of the total).
Parameter Males Females Total
Own-account workers 19.7 1.9 11.4
Employer 2.2 0.3 1.3
Unpaid family worker 5.1 3.8 4.5
Regularly salary earner 8 1.2 4.8
Casual labour 15.5 4.2 10.2
Unemployed 3.3 2.1 2.8
Pensioner status 1.3 0.4 0.9
Student 32.5 26.5 29.7
Housewife 0 45.7 21.2
Unfit for work 2.6 3.3 2.9
Others 9.8 10.5 10.2
Total 100 100 100
Courtesy: Business Standard