Anasuya’s article looked at the impact of making educational qualification a requirement for panchayat elections on rural women.
New Delhi: Journalist Shreya Ila Anasuya has been chosen for the Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2015-16 for her story in The Wire, ‘In a Democracy, Education Certificates Shouldn’t Matter. So Why is No One Talking about Norti Bai?‘, in the web-features category.
In her article, Anasuya talked about the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, which disallows people from contesting elections based on educational qualifications (or lack thereof) and similar amendments that were made in Haryana. The amendments were challenged in the Supreme Court, but the court held them up. This law was impacting those women in particular who were already struggling to be recognised as legitimate political players, Anasuya reported. Instead of their achievements being recognised and rewarded, these women have now been “twice humiliated – once by the state government and once by the Supreme Court – for reasons of systemic oppression and a profound failure of the state”. Anasuya used the example of Norti Bai:
“By any account, Norti Bai is a trailblazer. As a construction worker in 1981, she won a legal fight on the chronic gender pay gap between men and women workers. Thereafter, she became computer literate, even though she’d had to drop out of school as a child.
She contested panchayat elections, becoming the first Dalit woman sarpanch in the village of Harmara in Rajasthan. As sarpanch, Norti Bai organised computer training lessons for the girls in the village, fought land mafia to build a hospital and had three thousand trees planted by villagers who she ensured were employed under the MNREGA scheme.
As a highly capable and effective sarpanch, who fearlessly stood up to powerful upper caste men in the village, built latrines and roads, hand-pumps and solar streetlights, she exemplified the spirit of the 73rd amendment, the central aim of which was to decentralise government in India.
Norti Bai should have been celebrated as a shining example of the success of the panchayati raj system, and a strong example of the power of those battling the horrors of gender, caste, and class discrimination in India.
Instead, right before the elections that Norti Bai would have re-contested were due to be announced in 2014, an ordinance was issued that disqualified her from running for sarpanch again.”
Anasuya was also awarded in the print-editorial category for her article ‘Suzette Jordan’s Victory‘ in the Hindu Business Line.
The Laadli Media Awards were launched in 2007 to celebrate those in the media who highlight gender issues. It is a collaboration between Population First and the United Nations Population Fund.