Mother India or Bharat Mata is referred metaphorically as a Goddess of the billion plus people of India who is as caring and loving besides strong and powerful, who can guide its children to right path. Today, the children of the Mother India are going through a Tsunami of Covid-19 worsened further with the poor Covid governance. This is augmented with the ongoing congregations at elections, Kumbh Mela, and the rising shortage of the medication which are failing both prevention of the disease spread and curing of the disease.
At the background of this, the Mother India is also pained by the poor governance to the ongoing Farmers Protest for over eight months now and a number of protests in the recent times over the privatization of the railways, banking, insurance, and the exclusionary CAA-NRC.
Have you ever wondered, why the Mother India continues to be in so much pain? My thesis is that it is the sons who have been predominantly managing the Mother India since the independence making things go from bad to worse because, the focus on economy has been way too more than human empathy and earth’s ecology.
The testing times of today is a living testimony of the masculine handling of Mother India as pure water got commodified in the past at the cost of poor/rural people and now pure air is commodified at the cost of human lives. Then, some time ago, these global rankings were out where performance of Mother India is a dismay (gathered from different sources):
- Human Development Index: 131/189
- Hunger: 94/107
- Per capita GDP: 142/189
- Peace: 139/163
- Happiness: 144/153
- Healthcare: 145/195
- Gender Gap: 140/156
- Environment: 168/180
- Internet Quality: 79/85
- Water Quality: 120/122
- Press Freedom: 142/180
Mother India may disagree with the rankings and the approach to the ranking system however, there cannot be any smoke without any fire. These world rankings provide some indications of the nation’s welfare and pushes us to relook at our governance and government should we wish to better the state. In a country, where politicians and people bleakly make a distinction between the government and the governance, it will be like breaking my head on a dead wall talking about it.
Nevertheless, in brief, it is known that Governance, a complex phenomenon, is synonym to Democracy and is unlike a comparatively linear phenomenon like Autocracy. While Mother India is drifting from Democracy with the rhetoric of macho New India Development with a 5 Trillion Economy, the impact of exclusion of human wellbeing is evident from poor governance of health and home. As for the last few years, Mother India was bruised with communal matters, it is now burning with covid mortality rather massacre.
If Mother India is not in the best countries in the world with respect to women leaderships, it is also not among the worst ones. However, Mother India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. The indicators, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment, are all crucial and have a direct impact on the current covid care approach.
In South Asia, only Pakistan (153) & Afghanistan (156) ranked below this while, Bangladesh ranked 65, Nepal 106, Bhutan 130 and Sri Lanka 116. Most of the decline in Mother India’s ranking has occurred on the political empowerment with significant decline in the share of women among ministers, which halved, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021.
Ironically, the current cabinet ministry for 58 has only six women leaders which supposedly fairs better than the other South Asian countries. A home to 0.65 billion women, Mother India has widened its gender gap from 66.8% one year ago to 62.5% this year. Since, this disproportion percolates in other aspects as mentioned in the gender gap ranking and otherwise also like social welfare including safety.
Why we need more women leadership at the top? It is a Simple Math. The sex ratio per 1000 Men had 898 Women in 1947 which has improved marginally to 901 Women in 2010 (Census of India). While the child sex ratio is going down and down further since independence and gone worse in this century, it reiterates that we have not done enough to improve the state of girl children and women, but also not enough to subjugate the rising patriarchy.
Here are some scathing figures of women in top leadership positions in Mother India since Independence, looking at those pushes to relate to the apathy of the governance and wellbeing. Starting with the Health Ministry, Mother India had only twice Health Ministers in 74 years – first Mohsina Kidwai (1984-86) and then Sushma Swaraj (2003-04). The state of health facilities can be certainly linked with this absence of women in the sector with no exaggeration and embarrassment since, even in the state of current emergency men tend to think of economy driven development driving on the thousands of dead.
Further in 74 years, the Environmental Ministry had only once Meneka Gandhi led for a year in 1990-91; the Water Ministry had twice women ministers, Meira Kumar for 3 days in 2009 and Uma Bharati for 3 years in 2014-17; the Rural Ministry had once, Mohsina Kidwai for four months in 1984’ Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry had once, Sheela Kaul for four years 1991-95.
While Indira Gandhi has a share of 15 years of Prime Ministership (1966-77 and 1980-84) which is much talked about, but it isn’t enough in a span of 74 years going by the simple math of years and population/sex ratio. Then, Mother India had only once woman President Pratibha Patil (2004-07). While there was a talk about a woman Chief of Reserve Bank of India, which did not materialise, recently the need for a woman Chief Justice of India was pointed by the present CJI, whereas Niti Aayog, Navy, Airforce and Army are yet to discuss that matter.
The most crucial Home Ministry, which is second to the Prime Minister, had only twice women Home Ministers in the form of Indira Gandhi for a week (in 1966) and then for just over two and a half years (1970 to 1973) when she was also the Prime Minister. The problem of the role and responsibilities start with what is the officially stated in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) – internal security, border management, Centre-State relations, administration of Union Territories, management of Central Armed Police Forces, disaster management, etc.
In pursuance of these obligations, the Ministry is meant to monitor the internal security situation, issue appropriate advisories, share intelligence inputs, extend manpower & financial support, guidance and expertise to the State Governments for maintenance of security, peace and harmony.
While in every house in the country, mostly women are managing the home affairs including the health and happiness of the people in the house; ironically the stated tasks of the MHA miss these two important aspects of human wellbeing. Instead, the tasks outlined implicitly presumes Mother India to be in a constant state of unrest which has been aggravated manifold in the last decade even worse than what we had post-independence with having rages internal disharmony and worsened relations with the neighboring countries.
If MHA is not responsible for the internal wellbeing of the people, there is a serious question. As in this worst state of corona catastrophe, the men at the MHA are indifferent to the wellbeing of the people besides being political about decisions on medical supplies.
I’m noising about women leaderships out of sheer strategy. There is strong evidence why women leadership make a difference in a country’s wellbeing. For example, here is a fact with the similar ranking system of the world’s best countries in terms of happiness. Finland is ranked as the happiest country in the world, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Norway.
It is not a coincidence that six out of eight leading country heads are women. Finland Prime Minister is Sanna Marin since 2019, Iceland Prime Minister is Katrín Jakobsdóttir since 2017, Denmark Prime Minister is Mette Frederiksen since 2019, Simonetta Myriam Sommaruga is the President of the Swiss Confederation for 2020, Norway Prime Minister is Erna Solberg since 2013 and the all-time great Angela Merkel is Germany’s Chancellor since 2005 to retire in few months.
Their priorities more on the human dignity and delivery, care and concern, peace and prosperity, ecology and environment, health and happiness, and even towards gender balance governance have helped them do well even in the economic development. Even a small country like Bangladesh is projected to do better than India and it cannot be a coincidence that it is also led by a woman Sheikh Hasina since 2009.
I’m spotting somethings this has been proven time and again! Women are better multi-taking than men. They are more equipped to handle complex phenomenon than men’s preference to linear thinking and doing. We have had the taste of linear approach such as the Demonetization and the Lockdown which were continuously amended in following days only to worsen situations further.
We were still not over them though and then we are hit by the CAA-NRC and the Farmers Bill. Those are augmented with the covid since the beginning of 2020 and still the current leaderships fail to realize the importance of prevention and cure even at the worst time of it through its irrational elections and economy driven covid strategy. It is important to note that the top women leaders are performing extremely well in the Covid response.
Besides, women are proponents of collective governance and thus a democracy in true spirit. Coming back to the example of best countries, let me provide an example of top best, Finland. Sanna Marin of Social Democratic Party is the world’s youngest sworn in as Prime Minister of Finland who runs a coalition government with four parties. The empowering part of this coalition is that all the parties are helmed by women of which three of the party leaders are incredibly young – Li Andersson (Left Alliance), Katri Kulmuni (Centre Party), Maria Ohisalo (Gren League) and the fourth, Anna Ma-Ja Henrikkson (Swedish Peoples Party of Finland), is fairly young too at 56 years. More encouraging is that they are handling crucial portfolios from home affairs, law to environment.
What worries is why Mother India is unable to ready herself for this kind of change in the top leadership? It even faces suppression of young emerging women leaders and examples are aplenty from Shehla Rashid, Aisha Ghosh, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Safoora Zagar, Nodeep Kaur, to recent Disha Ravi. Indeed, we have had seniors who walked the leadership including ex-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Jayalalitha, and now Mamata Banerjee; we also have a dynamic young lot — Atishi Marlena, Remya Haridas, Chandrani Murmu, Agatha K Sangma, Mahua Moitra, Goddeti Madhavi, Mimi Chakrobarty, Nusrat Jahan and Raksha Khadse. The younger ones have a long way to go and the now in power ones have to work really hard to reach the top slots.
Betting on women leadership is logical. Although I’d like to live a day when there are only leaders, neither men nor women. Until then, when a democracy is not fairly represented in the top leaderships, the grim state of governance shall stay, more so when more and more men are grabbing the top positions and becoming powerful. More men leadership is dragging Mother India/Earth towards destruction and Mother India/Earth require Restoration.
On this year’s Earth Day (April 22), Mother India and Mother Earth call the Women to take strong leaderships to understand the grave situation and take charge of restoring it. Bringing women onboard in the top leadership will also ensure more inclusivity especially the youth and other gender. Finland (and the other top countries) provide hope that Women as well as Youth can be trusted to take responsibilities. Therefore, old men must step aside to mentor the young (women) leaders to become a backbone of the society and not remain the front runners rallying in every nook and corner of the country.***The important questions are why are women not taking charge and how they can do so? I shall try to write about that in my next piece along with daring my choice of best women leaderships that India must have at this point of crisis.
*Entrepreneur, researcher, educator. water enthusiast, governance scholar and keen political observer. Click here for more about Mansee