Uttar Pradesh Speaks: Yogi's government is not for women

A Lucknow University student speaks up as the state heads for another Assembly election

Uttar Pradesh Speaks: Yogi's government is not for women

Syeda Sadaf Tasneem

How easy it was for the government to say “no one died due to oxygen shortage”. Oxygen shortage was more painful for us. I lost my paternal uncle to Covid. Though he was financially well-off and lived in Lucknow, he wasn’t allotted a bed by the CMO and his family found it difficult to refill oxygen cylinders at short notice. By the time he finally got a hospital bed, his lungs were damaged beyond repair. The poor, of course, fared much worse.

At the peak of the second wave, the government announced that no one would get individual cylinders. And this was after oxygen shortage in the state had been highlighted by Dr. Kafeel Khan back in 2017 itself. The mismanagement came as no surprise though. UP is No. 1 in crimes against SC/ST and women, dowry deaths and custodial deaths.

Women think hard before venturing out of home. The theatre society in our college performed at a function hosted by the state police. It was around midnight when the event got over. Although police vehicles were dropping us home, our parents were still worried till we returned. Hostels in Lucknow University are not wrong to impose a night curfew at 7 pm for women. They know how dangerous it is outside. We are no longer shocked when a Women’s Commission member says that girls should not be given mobile phones because they would speak to their boyfriends. Indeed, a BJP member from Varanasi said women should not step out after 5 pm. Why do they want to disconnect us from the world?

I strongly feel that it’s only when the construct around women’s virginity is broken, that sexual assaults will decrease. Men must not get away by thinking that they can ruin a woman’s life and reputation by raping them, that nobody would then marry the rape victim.

No institution is established keeping women in mind. Is there a single hygienic public washroom in Lucknow where menstruating women can go if they want to change their pads? Maybe the Metro washrooms. But those aren’t accessible to everyone. Not everyone can afford to buy a Rs. 10 ticket to enter the station and then use the washroom.

One might expect the police to help you elsewhere. Not here. I was part of a group protesting against the injustice meted out to the Hathras victim. The police detained and questioned us for five hours. No police official had their badge with names as they manhandled us.

We were told to go and protest at Eco Gardens. What change can we bring by protesting at Eco Gardens, where no one goes? Who will we influence or share our message with? Protesters routinely bear the brunt of batons. Why can’t government safai karmis protest if they are not paid their due? Why can’t people protest against high number of vacancies in the government?

Lucknow University has been demanding the status of a central university for long. Last year when LU was celebrating its centenary, NAAC accreditation took place for the first time in the university. But the infrastructure in the university is so poor that there is not a single washroom with all taps functioning, adequate water supply, sanitation and mugs. There are some 20-25 students whose PhD is on hold because authorities have filed police cases against them. There is no transparency in entrance examination results either.

A poetry session organised by AISA was cancelled on the ground that its sponsors were ideologically inclined towards the communist party. But research scholars and professors who are part of the RSS are free to engage in propaganda and influence students even during classes. Half my batchmates are from rural areas and many of them were forced to buy smartphones to attend online lectures. But not everyone has access to a proper network connection. The university doesn’t even acknowledge that these are problems faced by the students.

The government boasts of supplying food ration to people during the lockdowns. But what about education, health, hygiene, electricity, water, cooking gas, fuel prices? How can a family afford to refill their gas cylinders? Why are fuel and gas prices so high when prices of crude oil are low globally? In the UP of my dreams, there’ll be a limit on how many air conditioners a house can have; doctors will not shy away from posting in villages; children in Varanasi wouldn’t be forced to cremate bodies to afford a meal. Potholes will not be filled up only during VIP visits. Children will be found in schools, not vending ware at street crossings; 80% of the funds for a project won’t be spent on advertisements.

In my UP, the law will be for everyone; youth will not be heard reflecting, “Padh ke kya karenge? Naukri toh hai nahi.” I dream of an Uttar Pradesh without caste and religious discrimination.

(Views are personal)

(As told to Garima Sadhwani)

This was first published in National Herald on Sunday

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