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Seven-year itch for women’s policy

- Social welfare’s draft too much of an essay for hard-nosed finance department

Ranchi, March 4: The state women's policy, a social welfare, women and child development department's work-in-progress since 2007, has been again rejected by the department of finance with directions to make it “crisp and to the point”.

A finance department source said: “The draft does not read like a policy document, more like an essay of ideologies. The policy should be such that the state can use its guidelines to draft future plans.”

What the finance official means is that a policy should define existing problems, give doable solutions for the same and suggest budgetary estimates for their execution.

So, the finance department suggested inclusion of sections pertaining to gender budgeting, trafficking and proposed work plan so the policy could be a reference for other state departments while planning schemes.

Jharkhand has specific crimes against women such as witch-hunt and trafficking, rising cases of sexual assault and age-old ones such as dowry harassment, including murder and sex selection, to name a few.

The first women’s policy was drafted between 2007 and 2008. Since then, it underwent changes, revisions and additions no less than seven times.

In July 2013, the department of social welfare, women and child development sent the policy to the finance department so that the latter could forward it to the cabinet. Instead, the policy was sent back last November with finance department observations. Social welfare again made “revisions” and sent the policy draft to the finance department.

But history repeated itself again in 2014.

“The social welfare, women and child development department is the nodal agency on women’s development. How it missed out on so many relevant points is surprising. We hope the department officials send us the draft at the earliest so that it can be immediately forwarded to the cabinet,” the finance official said.

When contacted, minister of social welfare, women and child development Annapurna Devi said she “heard” the finance department had suggested certain additions.

“I directed my officials to make them and forward them as early as possible so that the policy can be announced before the model code of conduct is put in place for Lok Sabha elections,” she said.

In drafting a state policy, a minister depends on the principal secretary, bureaucrats and outsourced consultants, if required.

While the existing principal secretary of social welfare, women and child development Rajiv Arun Ekka was not available for his comment, his predecessor Mridula Sinha admitted a policy had to be “comprehensive”.

But Sinha, now the housing principal secretary, also claimed: “Though the first draft seemed little vague, with a series of additions and deletions, the policy has taken shape.”

She also added that during her tenure, the finance department suggestions were “apposite”. She went on to claim that “changes had been made accordingly".

Mahua Majhi, chairperson of Jharkhand state commission for women, stayed diplomatic. Pressed on her reaction to the delay, she said: “Though the women’s policy has been delayed, I am sure once it comes, it will be a guiding tool to frame development schemes and projects.”


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