Women: Shrinking role

“It is perception of a woman how she takes armed forces personnel. If she thinks him aggressor then fear and restricted movement is the follow up measure. However, if a cop or soldier is taken as a guarantor of security then the response will be altogether different,” says noted Psychiatrist, Dr Arshad Hussain.
Unlike the peaceful days, women by and large require male escorts to fields especially in areas close to garrisons or those patrolled frequent by troopers. During the years of militancy, the attendance of girl children in schools nose-dived. The situation prevailed for some time and only started showing change after 1995. But some parents, apprehensive due to the prevailing security situation, even now escort their teenage girls to schools.
A comparison of the census 1981 and 2001 brings out the drastic decline in percentage of women workers, particularly cultivators. As against 74.44 percent women cultivators in 1981, Kupwara had just 9.26 percent of them in 2001. Similarly, Baramulla had 59.20 percent in 1981 and 4.30 percent in 2001. Srinagar had 18.07 percent in 1981 and 1.08 percent in 2001, Budgam had 39.46 percent in 1981 and 8.34 percent in 2001. Pulwama, the fruit bowl of Kashmir, had 59.90 percent women cultivators in 1981 shrunk to 13.50 percent in 2001. The worst affected was Islamabad district. It had 78.27 percent working women in agriculture sector that had come down to 8.66 percent in 2001.
Besides the heavy deployment of forces, some smaller factors such as proliferation of education among rural women, engagement of non-local workers also are responsible for the downslide of female participation in agriculture. A large number of girls have found their way to schools, which has an impact on their participation in economic activities, particularly agriculture. Similarly, the replacement of the women workers by non-locals also proved a reason for this trend. However, the participation of non-locals is limited to a few fields.   
The swell in the number of women non-workers is a bad trend for any underdeveloped economy. Their replacement by non-locals is a major drain on the economy of the state.
“The increasing number of women non-workers is affecting our resources in two different and bizarre ways,” opines Khalid Bhat, an economics scholar at Jamia Hamdard University in New Delhi. “One, we lose economic units in the shape of women and two, lack of physical activity results in numerous ailments thus proving unwanted drain to family income.”
The number of non-workers among women was 60.5 percent in Kupwara in 1981 that swelled to 81.31 percent in 2001. Similarly for Baramulla, the figures read 67.4 percent in 1981 and 84.93 percent in 2001; for Srinagar 85.4 percent in 1981 and 89.32 percent in 2001 and in Budgam 62.50 percent in 1981 and 77.66 percent in 2001. For the fertile Pulwama district the statistics is sharper with 55.80 percent in 1981 and 82.64 percent in 2001. In Islamabad, the difference is not that pronounced with the population of non-working women increasing to 79.60 percent in 2001 from 72.70 percent in 1981.
According to 2001 census, about 60 per cent of the entire female working force of the state was engaged in agricultural activities (55 per cent as cultivators and 5 per cent as agricultural labourers). Agricultural operations like transportation, storage of grains and harvesting used to be handled almost exclusively by women. Women also performed the tasks of collecting and processing dung besides undertaking dung composting and carrying it to the field. Thus rural women play an important role in agricultural farming and J&K state being predominantly an agricultural state cannot afford to ignore the women.
And if steps are not taken to their fearless movement around fields, the remaining miniscule part also will leave fields for home.


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