Former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University Dr Roop Rekha Verma is not surprised at a large number of women in the state rooting for Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. “There is no sea change that you see on the ground,” she says, “but this Government has managed to generate the confidence that something is being done for women.”
One of the founding members of Saajhi Duniya, an organisation dedicated to gender equality and communal harmony formed in 2008, Verma says her experience on the ground indicates better policing with respect to women’s safety.
“When we deal with victims of domestic violence and abuse, the police reacts more promptly and appears to be better sensitised,” she says, while chatting at the organisation’s no-frills office in a part of the house of eminent Hindi writer Yashpal.
The one-stop centres established in many cities in Uttar Pradesh where medical and legal aid is given to aggrieved women, she points out, is another commendable step which has gone a long way to instil confidence in women. Police modernisation, the 1090 Helpline and the ‘Mahila Samman Cell’ besides more efficient patrolling, she acknowledges, have also been responsible. “Bahut kuch nahin, par kuch to kiya hai” (he may not have done much but the little that he has done has helped).
“When we deal with victims of domestic violence and abuse, the police reacts more promptly and appears to be better sensitised.”Dr Roop Rekha Verma
Talking of the state government’s inability to curb communal flare-ups, Dr Verma says no government has been able to do much to stem communal violence. But recent events have shown that people are able to see the political agenda behind attempts to foment trouble. This is the reason why attempts to once again whip up communal ferment in the state (Dadri, Kairana and Muzaffarnagar) failed to mobilise people for rioting.
Samajwadi Party has also taken action based on the Sachar Committee report to launch several schemes for Muslims, whose condition as mentioned by the report is worse than Dalits. Though the court stalled the schemes, Verma believes that this at least showed the government’s intent to take action rather than just use the minorities as a vote bank.
On corruption, Akhilesh Yadav may have benefitted from a positive perception once he was seen taking on the old guard of Samajwadi Party including his own father, she held. Despite the presence of several tainted ministers in the cabinet, Akhilesh Yadav still gets the benefit of doubt among people.
Dr Verma, however, does not mince words in saying that mere distribution of laptops to students was not enough. The government has not been able to upgrade the textbooks to acceptable quality, the Right to Education is yet to be made fully functional and a lot remains to be done in the field of education, she holds.