In Jewar's Rohi Village, Women Unopposed to Airport, Ask for Share in Development
Till now, about 35 percent of the families have agreed to part with their land. Under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, at least 70 percent of the affected families must consent to the land acquisition process.
Women in Jewar's Rohi village say their concern is that development should not ignore women.
New Delhi: In Rohi, a village in Jewar Tehsil just off the Yamuna Expressway, the local member of Legislative Assembly addresses a gathering of men under a tree. There is a decision to be made -- will Rohi give its land for the proposed Jewar airport project or not? And the women are not a part of the gathering.
"The men will get money as compensation for the land, the sons will get a promised job, what will the women get," asks Kamlesh, the Pradhan of Rohi. But even she did not attend the meeting to take a call on Rohi’s fate. Instead, her husband went.
Thakur Dheerendra Singh, MLA from Jewar, had called villagers to the Pradhan's backyard on Saturday to try and convince them to part with their lands for the airport. The men of Rohi turned up. The women didn't go.
Kamlesh says the authorities have not engaged with women in the village. Patriarchal traditions govern that they remain in parda (veil) and not show their face and talk to strangers, particularly men, even if they are MLAs or District Magistrates.
"I did go to two meetings in Noida and one in Lucknow where two Pradhans (village head) from villages in Jewar were called to discuss the airport," Kamlesh says with a hint of pride. "DM, SDM, Engineers and people from Yogiji's office were there."
Kamlesh doesn't have a problem with the airport. She says it will bring development in the area. Her concern is that development should not ignore women. That it should not ignore her two daughters.
Meenu and Nikki sit with their mother, Kamlesh, and speak when she pauses. Meenu goes to college, or rather she tries to go to college. Travelling 12 kilometres everyday can be difficult without a regular mode of transport. A second year B.Com student, she wants to become an HR manager.
"The government is promising a job to one member of the family if we give away our lands. But that job will go to the sons. What about the daughters?" she asks. "Parents want their sons to work, while they want the daughters to stay home. Even if my mother lets me go to work, what about other girls of the village?" says Meenu
Meenu, like her mother, isn't opposed to the airport. "They should provide amenities, especially for women. That's all."
Pravesh Kumari, 48, has lived in Rohi for 35 years. She has concerns about what will happen to the people of lower sections of the village: the labourers, the disabled, the elderly and the women. "Women need employment too. Men don't listen to us at home. They will come together and decide things and if we say something we will be told to shut up," she says.
Pravesh's eldest daughter moved to Haryana after marriage. Her eldest son is 24 and disabled, while her youngest is 16 and goes to school in nearby Thora village. "What will happen to my sons? One is still in school. The other is disabled. They have promised a job for one. What about the other?"
Pravesh says there is problem of alcoholism among the men of the village.
Savitri Devi, 30, is the sole earner for her two kids, a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. They don't own any land in Rohi. She works as a farmhand, rears cattle to run her household. "My husband drinks. He works in a brick kiln but most of his earnings are wasted on liquor. The house runs on what I bring in. We won't get good compensation because we don't have land to give," Savitri says.
She doesn't know any other work apart from working on farms and rearing cattle. If Rohi comes to a consensus and makes way for the airport, her future would be bleak at the rehabilitated place.
Dheerendra Singh, the local MLA, has promised the women that they will be taken care of. Kamlesh had talked to him and raised her concerns. "I have told the women not to worry. We will work on their skill development so they can find employment. With the help of NGOs, they can start small scale businesses and earn a living," Singh said.
Till now, about 35 percent of the families have agreed to part with their land. Under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, at least 70 percent of the affected families must consent to the land acquisition process. Rohi's fate will be decided in the coming days, but Rohi's women want to decide their own fate.
"We want one job for a girl, in addition to one job they are offering. Women work harder. We save more money too," Meenu says. Her mother thinks women, especially the elderly who can't work and earn, should get a monthly pension. Pravesh says women must get work. "Hume rojgaar chahiye (we want employment). There is no woman here who can't work and fill their stomach," she says.
There are a few other concerns as well. If the airport comes and Rohi goes, Kamlesh, Pravesh and Savitri all want to be rehabilitated as a community. "Jagah acchi honi chahiye aur log saath hone chahiye (the place should be good and the people of our village should be together)," they say. Meenu and Nikki too are ready to uproot their lives and move as long as they are together.
Meenu wants a college at the place where they will be rehabilitated. "Other girls should not go through the same difficulties as I have," she says. Meenu speaks assertively. "They say development will come with the airport. But development should come either way, shouldn't it? Airport, or no airport."
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