Monday, March 14, 2005 (Dehradun):
In Uttaranchal after the father goes to work in a nearby school, 21-year-old Neelam and her sister set out to do what most women in the hills have done traditionally.
Neelam is studying for her MA, but she and her sister are left with the daily chores. Work on three bighas of land fetches the family around Rs 5000 a year.
“We basically get up around 5:00 am (IST) and then we have to make food. We go to the shed to take the cattle out to graze and get wood from the jungles.
“Then we come back home, work a bit, and then come to the fields and work for an hour. Sometimes we have to go to college too, but I don’t go to college regularly because of the work at home,” said Neelam.
It is a patriarchal system, but things could soon improve for women in the hills.
The Uttaranchal Commission for Women has come up with a proposal to secure the status of ‘krishak’ or farmer for the hill women, who are left in the villages while their men folk go to urban areas looking for employment.
But for Neelam and other women like her such a proposal is just worth the paper it is written on.
“We are working for our livelihood. Men have gone down to work, women here have to look after the land and it’s the way of our livelihood so we have to work,” said Neelam.