By Ila Ananya
Remember Assam’s new draft population policy that proposed to penalise people who have more than two children, that was criticised strongly across the country for being anti-women and anti-poor?
It seems like in a new move to soothe everyone who’s critical of the policy, Assam’s Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that the BJP-led government has recommended a revision: to provide a pension and skill training to Muslim women divorced through triple talaq. Now, the policy itself is being renamed the ‘draft population and women empowerment policy of Assam.’
On 9th April, the government’s draft had first proposed to prevent politicians with more than two children from working government jobs. Now, as Hindustan Times reports, divorced women will be given skill-based education and employment, and Muslim women divorced through triple talaq will be given this, as well as a pension. Sarma also reportedly said, “steps will be taken to prevent and deter women from being abandoned or deserted (or divorced) by husband on flimsy grounds such as birth of girl child, etc. We will bring a law which will make it a punishable offence.”
It seems like these new proposals were put into place after Sarma received feedback (which was undoubtedly mostly criticism). Hindustan Times also reports that this bit about ‘women’s empowerment’ was introduced because there were “suggestions that women could be discriminated against under the policy.”
Except, what we don’t understand is why these two different things have been clubbed together: it does come across as a convenient way to pretend to make everyone happier about an otherwise horrifying population policy.
The same time Sarma had made statements about providing a pension to triple talaq victims, he’d also added that they’d added a few points to ensure that the birth of a third child wasn’t a hindrance to get a government job. These special circumstances included birth of twins in the second pregnancy and the death of children. But here’s the big catch — parents will need to seek special permission from the government for these benefits.
We don’t hear the government saying anything about improving healthcare services in the state or providing more contraceptives, both very real problems. If the government was really so interested in making things better for women, perhaps they could have come forward with their ideas separately, instead of clubbing them together so that everything has to get passed together.