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Khasi woman denied ration on grounds of gender

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By EMN Updated: Apr 24, 2014 10:12 pm
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EMN
DIMAPUR, APRIL 24

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has demanded immediate action from the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, as well as state and the central government, against officials and politicians in Meghalaya for denying civil food ration to a woman on grounds of gender.
Village authorities of Kynroh Nonglyer, Sohiong in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, are alleged to have barred a woman from availing food rations under the Indian Public Distribution System (PDS), as well as from attending community meetings. AHRC in a press release said on January 31 this year, one Ortila Nongrum, a resident of Kynroh Nonglyer, visited a fair price shop to collect her monthly food ration under PDS, a government programme that seeks to guarantee food security, staple food grains such as rice, wheat, and sugar are distributed.“To her astonishment, Ortila was denied her ration of rice for the month of January 2014. She had collected her last allotment of grain on December 30, 2013.
The fair price shop owner and PDS distributor, Basil Kharthangmaw, informed Ortila that his action is a result of a verbal dictum from Kwit Kyrsien, village Sordar (headman), and Faithstar Nongtri, secretary of the ‘Dorbar’ of Kynroh Nonglyer village,” the commission said.
The PDS distributor is said to have told Nongrum that he was instructed not to serve her ration.
Womenfolk of the village came forth to help Ortila and then contacted CSWO for help. On behalf of Ortila, Agnes Kharshiing, president of CSWO, has filed an FIR with the police on February 15, 2014, under section 7 of Essential Commodity Act 1955. Acting on the FIR, the police has arrested the Sordar, the secretary of the Dorbar, and the PDS distributor who were all later released on bail.
“The AHRC said Nongrum was a “financially disadvantaged” woman, and a custodian of two minor children born to a daughter, now deceased. Additionally, she looks after her son, J Nongrum, 24 years of age…” the commission said.
For reasons of her “outsider status”, the commission stated in the press release that Nongrum was not allowed to take part in village cleaning activities in December 2013. “Village cleaning is a voluntary contribution of labour, however, abstainers are fined by the Dorbar. Despite J. Nongrum’s willingness to take part in village cleaning, he was barred from doing so.
His mother, Ortila, was still fined Rs. 400 INR. The fine appears to have been imposed by the Dorbar to harass Ortila. Ortila’s financial condition didn’t allow her to pay off this fine and is the main reason of her denial of PDS allotments.”
The AHRC is also aware that AAY, and other Below Poverty Line (BPL), beneficiaries in the said village have to pay Rs. 8-9 INR per kg of rice in order to compensate for the transportation cost of the food grains. This is against the laid down rates of the government, and is basically an extortion of poor village residents.
“After the 3 men were released on bail, an urgent meeting of the Dorbar was convened on 10 April 2014 by the Sordar and the Secretary of the Dorbar. The women of the village were prohibited from attending the meeting. They were chased away when they insisted on attendance. The 10 April meeting was called to draw village funds, which the women folk have also made contributions to,” the commission stated.
“In this meeting, the Sordar and the Secretary succeeded in obtaining a sanction of 20,000 INR from the village development fund to pay legal expenses. Some of the members of the Dorbar were unhappy with this use of village funds. They, however, failed to counter the influence of the Sordar. The Treasurer, Terlin Kyrsian, released the amount under compulsion. Village development fund is usually disbursed by the Dorbar for welfare activities in the village.”
Furthermore, the AHRC stated, the leaders of the Dorbar unilaterally decided not to disburse PDS allotments to womenfolk of the village. “The Dorbar leaders apparently took such a decision in response to the criminal cases filed against them for the PDS refusal and also to teach a lesson to the women for an earlier political disagreement with them. Dorbar leaders are known to be linked to political parties of the state and brook no dissent,” the commission stated.
In Meghalaya, gender and political differences can lead to harassment. For instance, the commission stated, one Martha Mawlong had applied for low cost government housing and was accordingly given a Utilization Certificate for the Special Rural Works Programme Scheme. “However, to process her application further she had to obtain the signature of the Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from her constituency of Sohiong. She approached the constituency MLA, H.D.R Lyngdoh, who allegedly refused to sign, on the pretext that Martha Mawlong is not a member of the Congress party.” The AHRC has urged the authorities to take immediate action to restore Ortila’s Nongrum’s food ration under PDS along with the arrears. The authorities must find a way be it by legislation, to allow women to participate in Dorbar deliberations. “They must take action against the errant and vindictive Sordar and Secretary for denying the right to food of women in their village, the commission stated.
The authorities are also told to “expedite allotment of ration cards to all households, especially in rural areas of the district” and initiate removal of anomalies and contradictions in the functioning and powers of the courts and traditional bodies in Meghalaya.

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By EMN Updated: Apr 24, 2014 10:12:59 pm