So here’s how it happened. @JesuisAruna on Twitter wrote to us at The Ladies Finger and pointed out that the Telangana CM’s 19-minister Cabinet doesn’t have any women. She sent us the link to her Change.Org petition, that’s been doing the rounds on the internet, asking Chief Minister K Chandra Sekhar Rao to appoint a woman minister.
That’s when we realized that Telangana isn’t the only state with an all-male cabinet. In February this year, The Hindu found that at least eight states didn’t have women on their council of ministers. And in August, 6TV Telangana counted seven such states. Today, a quick count on the internet finds ten states without women cabinet ministers: Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, J&K, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Puducherry and Nagaland.
But women in the Telangana movement clearly have a kind of energy that the rest of us don’t. @JesuisAruna’s Twitter handle was coined in solidarity with Congress MLA DK Aruna, who petitioned the Supreme Court for compulsory appointment of a woman in every state cabinet (her petition was declined). As citizens of a new state, who contributed significantly to the struggle that led to the its formation on June 2, 2014, the women of Telangana seem to have set higher standards for themselves seeing as they have petitioned the Supreme Court for a woman minister in their cabinet. Apart from this, they have put together a Twitter hashtag and, two months ago, a petition to the CM:
It is to bring to your kind notice that the women participation in Telangana state achievement cannot be under estimated as they not only fought for Telangana they also stood as back bones for the Telangana martyrs. Some have lost their children, some lost their husbands, brothers and now they remain unidentified for their sacrifices. This mistake cannot be overlooked as it will be a big disgrace not only to the martyrs but also for the Telangana State as a whole. On Women’s Day, March 8th, 2015 TRS [Telangana Rashtra Samithi] MP K. Kavitha from Nizamabad constituency attended an event “Empowering Women Empowering Humanity” in which she said that the TRS party will extend its complete support to the Center if it introduces women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha.
The petition also pertinently quotes the TRS’s election manifesto:
If any nation cannot use women’s contribution in all the sectors it cannot flourish. In Telangana all the opportunities will be given for Women Development, Empowerment and TRS party is committed for this goal.
In July this year, DK Aruna filed a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) asking the Supreme Court to make the inclusion of women in a state cabinet mandatory.
On October 5, however, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao announced that he was going to reshuffle the cabinet after Dussehra. The Siasat Daily mentioned TRS MLA Konda Surekha as as a likely candidate for Tribal Welfare Minister. @JesuisAruna listed prospective women candidates and wished them the best of luck. As of today, the Telangana government website lists only male cabinet ministers.
@JesuisAruna’s petition and her mention of women’s roles in the Telangana movement is invoking what the formation of the new state is obscuring: the long history of women’s participation in Telangana going back to the Telangana Uprising, a communist-led agricultural revolt that took place between 1946–51. Women’s stories in this uprising, that consisted of three million people and three thousand villages, have been documented in “We Were Making History”: Women and the Telangana Uprising, by Stree Shakti Sanghatana, a group of six women from the former united Andhra Pradesh. As Sheila Rowbotham says in her review of the book:
The women of Telangana thus not only tell a story of valour but of the particular strains of giving themselves to a political movement which empowers even though it denies many aspects of their experience as women. […] The memories of the women of Telangana defy the emergence of a future ‘sealed off from change’. We Were Making History is thus both a moving record and a dramatic act of political intervention. The power of such testimonies is transmitted over time and circumstance. It is a book not only about women’s heroic past but about the dilemmas of socialism and feminism today.
Chakali Ailamma, for instance, was assisted by hundreds of villagers in defending her crops from the Nizam’s thieves. During the revolt, Dudala Salamma was brutally tortured by them and questioned about the communists’ (revolt leaders’) whereabouts. Dayani Priyamvada ran away at 15 to join the revolt. Sheila Rowbotham recounts, “Manikonda Suryavathi sold her silk wedding saris and dedicated herself to the Party. But one day she spoke at a village meeting in dangling ear-rings. Years later she remembered the stern letter of reproof from the District Secretary.”
Those of Telangana’s women who have access to the internet are making use of being in the 21st century, with their Change.org petition and Twitter activism. How about you? Have you checked how many women ministers are in your state’s cabinet? I’ll confess I only just found out that my state of Karnataka has none (though there is a woman Minister of State, for Women and Child Development and Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens), and I am feeling thoroughly sheepish after looking at @JesuisAruna’s fiery petition.
Want to know about the women cabinet ministers of your state? Here are some numbers from a quick skim of the web, in order of percentage of representation:
|No.||State||Number of Cabinet Ministers||Number of Women Cabinet Ministers||Percentage||Name of Women Cabinet Minister(s)||Portfolio|
|5||Jammu & Kashmir||19||0.0%|
|11||Kerala||21||1||4.8%||PK Jayalakshmi||Welfare of Scheduled Tribes, Youth Affairs, Museums & Zoos|
|12||Himachal Pradesh||21||1||4.8%||Vidya Stokes||Irrigation & Public Health, Horticulture, Information Technology|
|13||Maharashtra||18||1||5.6%||Pankaja Munde||Rural Development,Water Conservation,Employment Guarantee Scheme and Women and Child Development|
|14||Goa||12||1||8.3%||Alina Saldanha||Museums, Science & Technology, Rural Development|
|15||Chattisgarh||12||1||8.3%||Lata Usendi||Minister of Women And Child Development, Social Welfare, Sports & Youth Welfare|
|16||Assam||12||1||8.3%||Ajanta Neog||Public Works(Roads, Buildings, National Highway), Planning Development, Judicial, Legislative, Law|
|17||Tripura||12||1||8.3%||Bijita Nath||Minister for Social Welfare & Social Education,Welfare of OBC and Science, Technology and Environment|
|18||Manipur||12||1||8.3%||Mirabai Devi||Social Welfare and Cooperation|
|19||West Bengal||45||4||8.9%||Mamata Banerjee||Chief Minister|
|Sabitri Mitra||Formerly Women & Child Development and Social Welfare, currently no portfolio.|
|Chandrima Bhattacharya||Minister of State, Law & Judicial Department (Independent Charge), Health & Family Welfare (MoS)|
|Dr Shashi Panja||Minister of State (Independent Charge), Women & Child Welfare, Additional Charge of Social Welfare Department|
|20||Odisha||11||1||9.1%||Usha Devi||Women & Child Development, Planning & Co-ordination.|
|21||Sikkim||11||1||9.1%||Tulsi Devi Rai||Water Security & Public Health Engineering and Social Justice, Empowerment & Welfare Departments|
|22||Uttarakhand||11||1||9.1%||Indira Hridayesh||Finance, Commercial Tax, Legislative Affairs, Entertainment Tax, Stamp & Registration, and Election|
|23||Tamil Nadu||29||3||10.3%||J Jayalalithaa||Chief Minister|
|B Valarmathi||Minister for Social Welfare and Nutritious Noon Meal Programme|
|S Gokula Indira||Minister for Handlooms and Textiles|
|24||Gujarat||8||1||12.5%||Anandiben Patel||Chief Minister|
|25||Haryana||8||1||12.5%||Kavita Jain||Social Justice & Empowerment, Women & Child Development, Urban Local Bodies|
|26||Bihar||23||3||13.0%||Leshi Singh||Social Welfare, Disaster Management|
|Beema Bharti||Backward Class and Extremely Backward Class Welfare|
|Ranju Geeta||Sugarcane Industries Development|
|27||Rajasthan||14||2||14.3%||Vasundhara Raje||Chief Minister|
|Kiran Maheshwari||Public Health Engineering, Ground Water|
|28||Andhra Pradesh||20||3||15.0%||Kimidi Mrunalini||Rural Development, Housing, Sanitation|
|Paritala Sunitha||Price Monitoring, Consumer Affairs, Food & Civil Supplies|
|Peethala Sujatha||Women Empowerment, Child Welfare and Disabled & Senior Citizens Welfare, Mines & Geology|
|29||Madhya Pradesh||19||3||15.8%||Yashodhara Raje Scindia||Commerce, Industries and Employment, Public Sector Undertakings, Sports & Youth Welfare, Religious Trusts & Endowment|
|Maya Singh||“Women & Child Development||“|
|Sushri Kusum Mehdele||Animal Husbandry, Horticulture and Food Processing, Fishermen’s Welfare and Fisheries Development, Cottage & Village Industries, Law & Legislative Affairs, Public Health Engineer|
|30||Jharkhand||10||2||20.0%||Neera Yadav||Human Resource Development|
|Dr. Louis Marandi||Welfare(including Minority Welfare), Social Welfare, Women and Child Development|
|31||Central Government||27||6||22.2%||Sushma Swaraj||External Affairs, Overseas Indian Affairs|
|Uma Bharati||Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation|
|Najma Heptuallah||Minority Affairs|
|Maneka Gandhi||Women and Child Development|
|Harsimrat Kaur Badal||Food Processing Industries|
|Smriti Irani||Human Resource Development|
|32||Meghalaya||12||3||25.0%||Deborah C Marak||Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department – Printing & Stationery Department – Secretariat Administration Department – Social Welfare Department|
|Ampareen Lyngdoh||Municipal Administration, Labour Department – Urban Affairs Department|
|Roshan Warjri||PWD (Buildings), Home (Jails) Department – Home (Police) Department|