The ruling Trinamool Congress is all set to make women’s issues and their development a fulcrum for poll campaigns in the run up to the Assembly elections in April. The party is fielding 45 women candidates this time against 31 in the previous Assembly elections in 2011.
A number of seasoned women candidates seeking to be voted back to power will talk about the Mamata Banerjee Government’s work in the area of women’s development in the last four and half years. Sashi Panja, the sitting MLA from Shyampukur and sitting Minister for Women’s Development and Child Welfare, said: “We will focus on the fact that the State Government has set up 34 women police stations and 51 fast track courts to expedite justice for women. Many women are not aware of this facility”, Panja told Millennium Post. Her constituency has 50 per cent female voters.
With crime against women on the rise, Panja also plans to sensitise the electorate about the various legal provisions (Acts) that can come to the aid of women-the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the Dowry Prohibition Act and the prevention of Sexual Harassment against women in the workplace Act. “At the rural level we are also trying to empower women pradhans through the panchayati raj system--and make them aware of problems faced due to migration and trafficking”, said Panja.
The sitting Law, Health and Family Welfare Minister in the Mamata Banerjee Cabinet, Chandrima Bhattacharya told Millennium Post that the success of the Kanyasree scheme indicates that the state has taken care of the girl child. Over 33 lakh young women have benefitted from this scheme which pays out Rs 25,000 as a one-time grant to girls who are not married till the age of 18 and are studying in Class XII. “This scheme is also the state Government’s way of ensuring that girls are not married at a pre mature age—below 18–and that maternity and infant mortality rates are down”, said Bhattacharya. Another scheme that Bhattacharjee will play up is the Jubasree scheme which gives an annual amount of the Rs 1 lakh and a monthly scheme of Rs 1500. “A lot of young women benefits from this scheme too. After all women who are economically independent can enjoy some amount of social freedom”, she said. Both Panja and Bhattacharya say that the AITC has fielded a healthy mix of politically experienced and new women candidates this year. Daughter of late BCCI chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, Vaishali Dalmia will be making her electoral debut from Bally constituency in Howrah district on a Trinamool Congress ticket. Bally is a seat that was held for years by the CPI(M) until it was won by the Trinamool in 2011. Another new candidate the party banking on is Mahua Moitra, said Panja.