Situational Analysis Single Women in Himachal Pradesh

Situational Analysis Single Women in Himachal Pradesh

2006 Compiled by Prajakta Panshikar Subhash Mendhapurkar For Social Upliftment  Through Rural Action (SUTRA)
Area of Operation: Himachal Pradesh
INCOME………………… 16
CHAPTER2  .. 36‘

This section provides a brief historical and demographic profile of Himachal Pradesh. ‘Himachal Pradesh emerged as a distinct political entity after independence. However, it has always been part of lndian history and culture and some of its peoples and regions have figured in our myths, epics, Puranas and history. While there are many communities which are unique to Himachal Pradesh, there are many others who have settled there later and become part of the Himachali identity. Linguistically, Himachal Pradesh is known for its heterogeneity and the dominance of the languages of the Pahar/‘subgroup. Bio-anthropologically, the communities belong to different ethnic stocks, with a substantial admixture of populations.‘ (Sankhyan: 1996) This indicates the state has had a history that has not been linear. The state has been formed by conglomeration of different regions. This very aspect makes it necessary to understand the state, in terms of its own historical, physical, social, political, economic context.

Post independence period
The hilly state of Himachal Pradesh came into being as a chief commissioner province of the Indian Union on 15″“ April 1948 as a result of merger of 30 erstwhile princely states of Punjab and Shimla hills. All these areas at that time constituted four districts viz. Chamba, Mahasu, Mandi and Sirmur with an area of 27,167 and population 9, 35,000. In July 1954, the neighboring part C state of ‘Bilaspur’ was integrated with Himachal, thereby adding one more district. In 1960, the border tehsil
of Mahasu district (chini tehsil) was carved out as a separate administrative unit and district Kinnaur was formed raising the total number of districts to six.

In November, 1966, the Punjab state was reorganized with the formation of Haryana as a separate state and merger of then Kullu, Kangra, Shimla and some hilly areas of Hoshiarpur district and Dalhousie of Gurdaspur district into and Himachal further led to the constitution of four new districts viz. Kullu, Lahaul-Spiti, Kangra and Shimla. With this addition then Himachal comprised of 10 districts. In September 1972, two more districts viz. Hamirpur and Una were created by trifurcation of Kangra district and the Mahasu and Solan districts were reorganized as Shimla and Solan districts. Hence, this has resulted in a total of twelve districts in the state. Since 1972, there have been no changes in the administrative structure of Himachal Pradesh except for carving out of new sub-tehsils and rising of sub-tehsils to level of tehsils.
ln the year 1951, Himachal Pradesh was made a part ‘C’ state, till 1956 when it was rendered as a Union territow. It maintained its status of Union territory till 1971, when it was granted a full-fledged statehood, hence became a state on 25 January 1971.
‘The process of integration of certain districts with Himachal over a period of 23 years indicates that during this period the fulfillment of the interests of Himachal Pradesh remained in others’ hands

(Sharma, S.K, 1995 cited in Cranney 2001:125)

This section provides an insight into a brief profile of the population in the state and the spatial distribution, providing a background characteristic of population as being rural or urban. There is a distinct clustering of population in valleys; areas of harsh climate and steep inclines are thinly populated. The high and the rugged mountain ranges with snow capped pinnacles and forest clad slopes are particularly inhabited.

The state of Himachal Pradesh is located in the north- west of the country. To the east, it forms lndia’s border with Tibet, to the North lied the sate of Jammu-Kashmir, U.P. n the south -east, Haryana on the South and Punjab on the west. The entire territory of the state is mountainous with altitude van/ing from 350 metres to 7000 metres above the sea level. According to the 2001 Census, the state has an area of 55,673 sq. km. It constitutes 1.69% of lndia’s area. Topographically, Himachal’s territory from South to North can be divided into three zones namely the Shivaliks or outer Himalayas, Inner Himalayas or mid mountains and Alpine zone or the greater Himalaya. Administratively, Himachal Pradesh comprises of twelve districts, 52 subdivisions, 72 tehsils and 34 sub tehsil as per Census 2001, with 20,119 villages as compared to 19,388 villages during 1991 Census.

Table 1: Statistical profile of the population of Himachal Pradesh
Area (In Sq.Kms.)
2001 Census
2001 Census
2001 Census
2001 Census
2001 Census
SC Population
2001 Census
ST Population
2001 Census
POPULATION ( 0-6 Years )
2001 Census
2001 Census
2001 Census
% Age of Rural Population to total population
2001 Census
% Age of Urban Population to total Pop.
2001 Census
Decennial Growth Rate
2001 Census
+ 17.54
Density of Population
2001 Census
Source: Year Book 2002-2003, Health and Family We/fare Department, H/‘mac/1a/Pradesh)

Table 2: District profile of population in H.P. (census 2001)
Area (in sq. Total Population
(Source: comp/Yea’ from the Year Book 2002-2003, Demographic &Ei/a/ual/on Ce//, Deptt. of H&F W
Himachal Pradesh.)
From the data it is revealed that Himachal is predominantly a rural state the majority of population
being rural. The state has a population of 6,077,248 (2001 census).
The state of H.P. being predominantly a hilly state, the majority of its population (90.21%) is rural,
living in 16,997inhabited villages. Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts have 100% rural population.
Kangra has the highest number of rural areas (1, 2266, 362) and Bilaspur district the least (3,
18,786). The urban population concentrated in 57 towns is barely 9.80% of the total population.
Shimla district has the distinction of highest urban population (166833). ‘The urban population of the
state is 594,881 people that are 9.79% of the state population against 8.69% in 1991. In fact the
urban population of the state has registered an increase of 32.43% during1991-2001. The primary
reason for this is the addition ofthe new towns viz. Baddi Nagar Panchayat in Solan district having a
population of 22,592 and Mant Khas Census town in Kangra district with a population of 5240.The
state capital, Shimla is the only place with the status of Municipal Corporation and apart from this
there are 20 Municipal Councils, 28 Nagar Panchayats, 7 Cantonment Boards and one Census
town.’(Mehta: 2002). The urban population has shown a trend from 6.99% in 1971 to 8.69% in 1991
to 9.80% in 2001, when there was no change in the total area of the state. ‘The decade from 1981 to
1991 showed an increase of 1.08% in the urban population.’(Bisotra, 20002:7)

Population Density
Of the 12 districts in the state Hamirpur continues to have high density of population (369) distantly
followed by Bilaspur (292), Una (291), Solan (258), Kangra (233), Mandi (228), Sirmaur (162),
Shimla (141) persons sq. km. Where the areas are inhospitable it is sparsely populated as in the
case of Kullu (69) and Chamba (71). The trans Himalayan tracts of Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur
carry very little population as they are semi-arid highland zones, the former maintaining status quo
with 2 persons per sq. km since 1971 and Kinnaur stands a little better at 13 persons as compared
to 8 persons per sq. km in 1971. Area wise, Hamirpur is the smallest district that covers an area of
1,118 sq. km (2.01%) and Lahaul —Spiti covers the largest area of 13,835 sq. km (24.85% of the
area of H.P.)
Religious composition, SC &ST
Himachal Pradesh has a large area under tribal belt which covers two districts of Lahaul-Spiti and
Kinnaur and Bharmaur and Pangi development blocks of Chamba district. Geographically, about
half the area of the state is covered under tribal belt whereas the population here is just 2.2 lakhs i.e.
4.2 percent of the total population of the state According to 1991 Census, the Scheduled Caste (SC)
and the Scheduled Tribe (ST) constituted a little over 25% and 4% respectively of the total
population of the state. (Parmar, 2004:29) The religious composition of Himachal indicates a
preponderance of Hindus who constitute 95.77% of the total population. The remaining population is
made up of Muslims (1.63%), Christians (0.09%), Sikhs (1.22%), Buddhists (1.23%), Jains(0.02%)
and others at 0.01% (Cranney, 2001:125)
Table 3: Decadal Population growth in Himachal Pradesh
I Time reference ‘ Population
951 ‘ 9,815,367
961 ‘ 13,51,144
971 ‘ 34,60,434
981 ‘ 42,80,815
991 ‘ 51,70,877
001 ‘ 60,70,305
(Computed from B/lsotra: /-//‘mac/1a/Prao’esh.’A Demographic Analysis, 2002)
The decadal increase was less than the national decadal growth in population. The decadal growth
of the country has been 24.80%, 24.66%, and 23.50% for the decades of 1961-71, 1971-81, and
1981-91 respectively. The population of the state has been 0.31% of the population of India in
1961, 0.63% in 1971; 0.64% in 1981and 0.61% in 1991.’(Bisotra, 200217). According to the 2001
Census, the state accounted for a meagre share of the total population of India (0.59%). The total
population in the state grew from 1.9 million in 1901 to 6.1 million in 2001‘ (H.P. Devt. Report,
‘Among the districts of Chamba, Kangra, Bilaspur, Mandi, Kuiiu , Solan, Sirmaur have shown a
higher growth rates in 1971-81 decades, whereas Chamba, Kullu and Solan continued to indicate
higher growth rate during1981-91 decade. However, other districts showed decrease in growth rate.
The district of Kangra and Hamirpur showed highest growth of rural population during 1971-81
decade; however, they showed signs of decline in the decade that followed.’(Bisotra, 2002: 71)
Sex- Ratio
‘The sex —ratio has been rising steadily since 1901 in Himachal Pradesh when it was 884. It crossed
the mark of 900 in the 1951 Census’ (Mehta: 2002). The sex ratio in the state has improved since was 915(1951), 923(1961), 958(1971), 973(1981) and 976 in 1991. The sex-ratio has been
above the national average from 1971 onwards. (Bisotra: 2002) An alarming aspect of gender
related demographic changes in HP has been the sharp decline in the 0-6 age group sex ratio
brought out in the 2001Census reflecting not just the growth of adverse social attitudes but also the
state’s inability to grapple with the issue.(Sanan,2004)
The trend in the sex-ratio in the district is almost the same as reflected in the state average except
for the districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul- Spiti where the sex-ratio has continued to decline and
fluctuate since 1961 due to selective migration.'(Mehta, 2002)
The sex —ratio in the age group 0-6 according to the 2001 Census for Himachal stands at 897, much
lower than the national average of 927. Within a decades time from 1991-2001 there have been 54
girl children “missing” across the state. ‘The highest sex ratio in the O to 6 age group is recorded in
the Pangi tehsil of Chamba district and Junga tehsil of Shimla district.’ (Mehta: 2002).
Table 4: A comparative of sex ratio of India and H.P from 1901-2001
1901 872 885
1 91 1 964 904
1921 955 902
1931 950 906
1941 945 897
1951 946 915
1961 941 923
1971 930 958
1981 934 973
1991 927 976
2001 933 970
(Source: Year Book 2002-2003, Demographic &Ei/a/ual/on Ce//, Deptz‘. of H&F l/l/, Himachal

The data reveals that sex-ratio in Himachal has shown a rise since the 7O’s relative to all India
averages. Although there has been a slight decline in past decade in overall sex ratio, it is the sex
ratio at birth and child sex ratio that is of great concern.
Table 5: Sex Ratio at Birth for H.P
1993 898
1994 876
1995 883
1996 879
1997 858
1998 849
1999 784
2000 857
2001 856
2002 866
2003 877
2004 872
:S0urce.’ C/’v// Reg/strat/on System, Annual Report 2004; Health and Fam//y We/fare Department,
Himachal Pradesh
The sex ratio at birth in the state has been on consistent decline since 1993 with fluctuations in the
year 2000-04. In 1993 the sex ratio at birth in Himachal Pradesh was 898 females per 1000 males
that recorded its lowest in 1999 to 784. At 2004 the sex ratio at birth stands at 872 which is much
lower than 1993. The tabulated form is presented below. ln almost a decade there has been a decline
of 26 girl children. Within HP, Kinnaur shows the highest sex ratio at birth (CRS 2004) of 948 females
per 1000males followed by Lahaul-Spiti (934), Shimla (920), Kullu (918) and Mandi (894).
Hamirpur shows the lowest sex ratio of 814 compared to that of the state as a whole. Please see the
state wise graphs of the sex ratio at birth given as annexure.
What remains a significant cause of concern is the declining sex ratio in the 0-6 age group in the
state, which stands low at 897 in 2001 as compared to the all India figures of 927. The sex ratio has
shown a difference of -54 from the year 1991 when the child sex ratio was 9511.
1 visit for comparative understanding of
child sex ratio across the states and union territories in India. 8

Table 6: Child Sex Ratio in the Age Group 0-6 Years, State/Districts, Himachal Pradesh
SI. No. State/Districts Child Sex Ratio Absolute Change
1991 2001
Himachal Pradesh 951 897 -54
1 Kangra 939 836 -103
2 Una 923 839 -84
3 Hamirpur 938 864 -74
4 Mandi 968 916 -52
5 Solan 951 900 -51
6 Bilaspur 923 884 -39
7 Sirmaur 973 940 -33
8 Shimla 958 930 -28
9 Kullu 966 960 -6
10 Chamba 965 962 -3
11 Lahul & Spiti 951 986 35
12 Kinnaur 958 NA’ NA*
Census Z001 was not conducted /n K/nnaur d/sir/ct due to natural ca/am/z‘/es.
S0urce.’http.’//wwvi/. /nd/’afema/efoeticide. org/h/macha/pradesh 1 5ma y. htm)
A glance at the data across districts of Himachal Pradesh delineates the sub-regional picture, with
Kangra district emerging as to be one with the lowest sex-ratio in the age group 0-6, Una, Hamirpur,
Bilaspur, too exhibit a sex-ratio lower than the state average.]
Son preference has been a part of the Himachal culture for centuries, as much as it is elsewhere in
India. The histow of Himachal Pradesh shows a culture of female infanticide although it is
concentrated only in some parts of the state like in parts of Kangra and Chamba. However
technological advancement has introduced foeticide at a large magnitude. Earlier a preference for
son would result in practice of bigamy and polygamy that would be acceptable even to the wives.
However today it stands as a viable ground for divorce or informal separation. This is because of
two important equations that have emerged in the social fabric. One is that the increase in the
female literacy levels has led to opposition to the practice of bigamy or polygamy. Therefore more
women today are intolerant to existence of co-wives and prefer a monogamist marital relationship.
At the same time however there has been no change in the belief of ‘son preference’ therefore if the
woman is unable to conceive a male child then that becomes a socially acceptable ground for
divorce and humiliation in the family. Thus in turn women find sex detections and sex selective
abortions as one of the means to save their marriages and resultant humiliation. There has been not
only a shift of preference to monogamy but more and more couples today are engaging in nuclear

residence patterns and there has been an apparent shift from joint families to nuclear families. This
has led to a problem typical of the shift and that is of ‘mother desertion’. Sons are then preferred in
the hope that they would provide some securities to their parents in the old age.
Land reforms in Himachal Pradesh
This section briefly highlights the different initiatives taken in Himachal Pradesh as in terms of
equitable distribution of land.
Himachal Pradesh has taken various steps under the various land reform policies to improve the
rural economy. To improve the agricultural efficiency, especially of marginal and small farmers who
account for 77% of farmers with 35% of operated land, the State Government initiated
multidimensional efforts. Serious thought was given to the land tenancy and tenured system
prevailing in the state. (Singh et al, 1992)
‘The state has enacted various land reform legislations to restructure the agrarian structure and
ensure land to the actual tiller and also distribute the surplus land among the landless households.
in fact over the years, the land reform measures enacted and implemented in the state have aimed
at conferring ownership rights on the tenant cultivators; reducing inequalities in respect of the
distribution of landholdings; encouraging the consolidation of landholdings to prevent fragmentation
of land; revision and updating of land records and allotting waste land /village common land to
landless and eligible persons under Nautor Rules, 1968 and Utilization of Surplus Area Scheme,
1975(Economic Review, Himachal Pradesh,1997,p.19cited by Sharma, et al ,2000). The Himachal
Pradesh Abolition of Big Landed Estates and Land Reform Act were enacted way back in 1953.
With the passing of Punjab Re-Organization Act 1966, certain areas of erstwhile Punjab were
merged in Himachal Pradesh. This led to the enactment of Himachal Pradesh (Transferred Territory)
Tenants Protection of Rights Act in 1971. Again to incorporate the guidelines evolved in Chief
Ministers‘ Conference in 1972 and also to plug the loopholes in the existing land ceiling legislations,
the land legislation act was amended and ‘Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and land Reform Act’ was
enacted in 1972’. (Sharma et al, 2000) ‘For a long time the majority of cultivators were operating on
insecure landholdings without permanent rights on the land they were cultivating from generations.
Keeping in view this situation the State Government passed an Act, called Himachal Pradesh
Tenancy and Land Reform Act, 1972(HPT &LR Act, 1972). Under this Act, tenant cultivators were
given ownership rights of the land, which they were tilling since a long time. In addition to that, under
the landless scheme, every rural household in the state has been provided a minimum of 5 bighas of
land (0.40 Ha.) for agricultural purposes those households who owned less than 5 bighas of land
were given additional land to the minimum land holding of 5 bighas.’ (Singh et al, 1992) To
eradicate the phenomenon of landlessness and to augment the amount of surplus land, the
Government of Himachal Pradesh enacted ‘H.P. Village Common Land Vesting and Utilization Act
1974’. The Act placed shama/at (common) land at the disposal of the government for the allotment
to landless households. (Sharma et al, 2000)
A glance at the figures available from selected districts supports the fair progress of land reform

measures in H.P for example ‘ln respect of the tenancy laws, out of 4.34 lakh non occupancy
tenants, about 3.96 lakhs have already been conferred proprietaw rights . Among different revenue
divisions, there were 2, 35,472 non-occupancy tenants in Kangra division out of which 2, 17,332
have been conferred proprietary rights so far. The remaining tenants fall under the category of
protected categories of landowners like widow, minor, army personnel disabled and infirm persons.
Similarly, in Mandi division, there were 1, 07,107 non-occupancy tenants out of which 95,621 have
been conferred proprietary rights. In Shimla division, 30,078 tenants have been conferred
proprietaw rights out of 31,477 non-occupancy tenants. Likewise, nearly one-lakh landless
agricultural laborers have been allotted land acquired under ceiling laws and H.P Village Common
Land vesting and Utilization Act, 1974. What is significant is that ‘there are very few landless
households in the state who are left without allotment of land. Consequently, the incidence of
landlessness is very low. According to National Sample Survey Data, landless households were
7.72% in 1981-82 and 10.46 % in 1991-92. These households are likely to be allotted land in the
near future. In so far as the consolidation of landholdings, 21.93 lakh hectares stood consolidated up
to March 1996.’ (Sharma et al, 2000)
In spite of such good land reforms the reforms seem to lack a gender angle to it. When we consider
the cases of single women it is evident that land is a biggest asset for the single women. However
from the on-field experience it is evident that their marital families or even the natal families deny the
women their land rights and property rights. In Himachal women are veiy often the marginal
workers. They are the real farmers and tillers of land. Due to the restriction on the physical mobility
of the women it is very often the men who travel outside village for work and this is evident from the
increase in male main workers than female. However the women are left behind to look after their
lands. Therefore the land reforms need to take into consideration the status of single women and
provide them with some security through the reforms. Where land is considered as the highest asset
it can prove to be restrictive for women if she is unable to migrate with her husband to his place of
residence. There are cases where women have had no knowledge of their husband’s second wives
or keeps as they were left in the villages to look after the land while the husbands left for work. Apart
from land as an asset, land is also found to be restrictive for the women. Since the land keeps her
from moving in with her husband to the place where he has migrated. Thus land in turn restricts her
physical mobility and binds her to her marital home.
Agriculture and social fabric
This section briefly looks at agriculture and agricultural activities in the state.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Himachal Pradesh, contributing 21.7% towards the state
gross domestic product. This has been lower than the previous years. Out of the total geographical
area of 55.67 lakh hectares the area of operational holdings is about 9.99lakh hectares and is
operated by 8.63 lakh farmers. The average holding size comes to 1.2 hectare, distribution of land
holdings according to 1995-96 Agriculture census shows that 84.5% of the total land holdings are of
small and marginal farmers. Semi medium and medium farmers own about 14.9% of land holdings
and only 0.6% of land holdings are owned by large farmers. Apple cultivation is of special
significance for the people living in the higher hills of the state. Crops grown here comprise wheat,

maize, rice, pulses (accounting for more than 50% of its total agricultural production) and ginger,
potato, mushroom and fruits. (Balokhra:1995)
Himachal Pradesh can be divided into four agro climatic zones, on the basis of the homogeneity
shared by each zone in respect of natural factors, viz. topography, altitude, temperature, rainfall,
humidity and crop combination. The four zones are Low -Hill Subtropical Zone; Mid Hill Sub Humid
Zone; High Hill Temperate Wet Zone and High Hill Temperate dry Zone (Khan: 1996). The
characteristics of these Zones are further elucidated in the table 1 of the annexure.
A study on the economic (anthronomic) activities of the villages? was conducted in 1991-92 in
different set of villages selected randomly from the four agro-climatic zones of H.P. The group of
villages was taken to be better reflective of anthronomic activities than unitary as both the number
and chances of diversification got enhanced in the process. The household survey was conducted
during 1991-92 in the Chamba tehsil (high hill temperate wet zone); Keylong (high Hill Temperate
Dry), Bangan Tehsil (Low Hill) and Theog (Mid Hill). The study elucidates that in the low hills a
mixed subsistence farming system exists, heavily supported by off-farm income (basically
remittances). in the mid hills, a mixed farming system exists, where livestock, farm forestry,
vegetables, and off-farm activities are equal contributors to household incomes. The climate of mid
hill zone is suitable for of-season vegetables and stone fruits. Wherever the weather is favorable
and there is easy access to roads and markets, these activities have emerged as the main sources
of household income and employment. In such locations a farming system based on vegetables and
stone fruits has become prominent. As far as type of best crop is concerned fruit cultivation (mainly
apples) predominates in the high hill wet zone. In the high hill dry zone, livestock and off-farm
activities are the main sources of sustenance. Due to the dominance of commercial crop cultivation
the per capita income in the high hill wet zone is much higher than in other zones. (Khan: 1996)
The production of crops in Himachal has increased manifold over a span of last fifty years. The
figures generated by the agriculture department of Himachal Pradesh reveal that the food grains
production has increased from 200 thousand tonnes in 1951-1952 to 1397.98 thousand tonnes in
the Year 2003-2004.
Table 7: Land utilization pattern in H.P
i Area /n ‘O00 ha
Total Geographical area 5,567
3,396 100.00
Reporting area for land utilization
Forests 1,056 31.10
Not available for cultivation 331 9.75
Permanent pasture and other grazing lands 1,204 35.45
Land under miscellaneous tree crops and groves 46 1.35
Cultivable wasteland 123 3.62
2 The economic activity in the respective villages has been termed as ‘anthronomic’ by the author

Fallow land other than current fallows i 26 i 0.77
i Current fallows i 52 i 1.53 i
Net area sown i 558 i 16.43 i
Source: State of Forest Report 1999, Forest Survey of /no‘/a
it is estimated that 87 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture, largely at a subsistence
level. In the lower valleys agriculture and animal husbandry form the backbone of the economy
whilst at higher altitudes, agro-pastoral systems predominate. Landholdings are small and
agriculture is mainly rain fed. Wheat, maize, pulses, rice, sugarcane, vegetables, ginger, garlic,
potato etc. are grown. Agriculture covers 60 per cent of the available private land. in fact agriculture
and allied activities (including horticulture) remains the mainstay of H. P’s rural economy, providing
direct employment to 71 per cent of workers. Population density per unit area of agricultural land is
very high compared to the national average, and landholdings are small — 64 per cent are less than
1 hectare. Only 20 per cent of the cultivated area benefits from irrigation; the rest is rain fed and
productivity is low (though not necessarily in horticulture, which has enjoyed good yields). Marginal
subsistence farmers, particularly those in high altitude areas, manage to be fully self-sufficient from
agriculture for only about two to six months a year; consequently they rely on other livelihood
strategies for survival.
The economy of Himachal has witnessed a move since 198O‘s from one of subsistence
characterized by a diverse and self-reliant mountain agricultural system based on food-grains, to
one that is mainly cash driven and market-oriented based on vegetable crops and fruits. Literature
from the eon of 8O’s suggests that in the hilly state of H.P. mixed farming has been the common
characteristic. The farmers had been growing cereals, pulses, and vegetables, fruits on the land
available. However with the changes in the environment and with the increasing needs of the
family, and with the expansion of roads and infrastructural facilities ‘farmers are shifting to three
dimension system, wherein agriculture including horticulture, animal husbandry and forestw are
combined together’ (Nadda: 1987). Today the economy of Himachal Pradesh is based mainly on
agriculture, horticulture and forestry. There has been a shift from a semi-feudal type of economy to a
market economy in many areas of H.P. (Cranney, 2001:125). Horticulture has become a key
economic activity in HP in recent years. 3 Women mainly look after agriculture. Looks at the work
force participation rate shows that women are bound to agriculture and work as cuitivators where as
men take up jobs outside in industrial sector or service etc.
Shifts to cash crop patterns have led to changes in the agricultural methods. Not all can afford the
techniques for growing cash crops in large quantities. Besides this the pace of life has speeded with
percolation of industrialization and tertiary sector. Therefore the newer generations are less patient
and less interested in agriculture. This has been apparent in the 3Oyrs of experience from fieldwork
gathered by the organization. Since most of the time for men has gone into educating themselves
they are often not trained into methods of agriculture. Whereas the girls, even while they are
studying, are made to do household and other tasks like cattle rearing, essential farm activities
3 Note that the term ‘Horticulture’ is used to mean fruit growing in Himachal Pradesh, and not production of
flowers, which is termed ‘florieulture’.

except ploughing, grass cutting, wood gathering, storage of fodder etc. Girls are made to leave
education even before or soon after their 10″” or 12ths standards. Therefore girls have more
experience and knowledge about tilling and cultivating than boys. This in turn forces them to look
after land while the men go out to work in secondary or tertiary units.
Realizing the contribution of women as farmers the government of Himachal Pradesh had launched
a scheme called “women in Agriculture” during 2004-05. An analysis of its outcome needs to be
done to see how efficacious it has proved to be.
This section looks at the industrial growth in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
The literature on industry in Himachal Pradesh suggests that industry is a recent phenomenon in the
state; it has started gearing up in the state in the past two decades only. A news report outlines that
‘During the past two years alone the state has succeeded in attracting an industrial investment of
over Rs.11, 500 crore and all the major business houses were setting up their units in the state.’
(The Tribune, August 4, 2005)
‘The process of economic reforms initiated in July 1991 by the Govt. of India and the consequent
industrial policy reforms/initiatives in the form of de-licensing and automatic approvals of foreign
investment in identified areas have generated significant investor interest in Himachal Pradesh’,
(www.laghu-udyogcom). The progress of industrialization can be gauged from the following figures
Table 8: Growth of Industry in Himachal Pradesh
Year Units (No.) Employment (No.) Investment ( in crores) Current

1999-00 ‘ 28045 ‘ 182 ‘ 28227 ‘ 119618 ‘ 28930 ‘ 148548 ‘ 613.56 ‘ 2288.49 ‘ 2902.05
2000-01 ‘ 28731 ‘ 188 ‘ 28919 ‘ 122745 ‘ 29047 ‘ 151792 ‘ 643.50 ‘ 2310.52 ‘ 2954.03
2001-02 ‘ 29479 ‘ 191 ‘ 29670 ‘ 1265954 ‘ 29382 ‘ 155976 ‘ 685.48 ‘ 2363.34 ‘ 3048.82
Source: Director of Industries Himachal Pradesh as o/teo’ in State Development Report, 2005272)
The foregoing table shows that there has been an increase in the number of both the small scale
industries as well large and medium industries in the state over a period of time, but it has been the
small scale industries which are predominant in the state. In tandem with the growth of the
industries, the employment and investment in the industries too shows an increase. The Economic
Survey of Himachal Pradesh 2004-05, as conducted by Economics and Statistics Department,
reports ‘At present there are about 229 medium and large scale industries and about 31,384 small
scale industries with a total investment of about Rs. 3,28O,99 crores working in the state. These
industries provide employment to about 1.70 lakh persons’.
Table 9: Medium & Large Scale Units – actual
units functioning in the State (Rs in crores)
Year No of large & medium scale Investment Employment
153 (up to 12/95)
Table 10: Small S
cale Units – actual
No of small scale units
functioning in the state
(Rs in crores)
Investment Employment
24587 (upt012/95)
Source: www./
The foregoing table shows that there has been a rise in the number of industries of both small-scale
units and large-medium units in the early 90’s. Within 2004-05, more 18 large and medium scale
units have been registered with and investment of Rs. 67.82 crore that shall employ 1000 workers.
In the same year 545 small-scale units are registered (as on December 04) with an investment of

Rs. 753.32 that shall employ 3,759 workers. It is apparent that the large and medium scale
industries are heavily invested into as their contribution in domestic product is more but the
employment provided in these industries is low as compared to small-scale industries. Therefore it is
evident that the pattern of industrialization that the state of Himachal Pradesh has adopted is largely
designed on the lines of areas in plains and is not sensitive to cultural and geographic diversity of
the state.
Much of the industrial activity in Himachal Pradesh is related to agro-processing and located in rural
areas. Compared to the national average, industrialization indices are lower in Himachal Pradesh,
as compared to the national average. (ISST, 2002:5)
There are acts and laws relating to regulation of mining activities but it still seem to be very difficult
to stop uncontrolled mining. Materials mainly extracted are limestone, barites, rock salt, silica
boulders, gypsum and shale as major minerals and brick earth, clay and building material like 12
sand, stone and minor minerals. Three cement factories are already functioning in the state and
there are plans to set up a few more. Annually about 4.5 million tonnes of minerals, including about
2.7 million tonnes of limestone, is extracted from an area of 330 hectares that has been leased out
by the state government to cement factories. Usually conventional open cast mining operations are
followed except for two mines, one of rock salt at Drang in Mandi and other of barites in Sirmaur that
are using underground methods.’(Gouri et al, 2004). The contribution of the industrial or
manufacturing sector has grown significantly from Rs.774 crore in 1995-96 to Rs.192O crore in
2001-02. in terms of percentage, the share of the manufacturing sector in the GDP has increased
from 12.18 in 1995-96 to 14.38 in 1999-00.
The industrialization has speeded up in past decade however there has not been much diversity in
the occupation and therefore the process seems to lack a promise for future employment for all the
workers in the state. The women in particular do not have much choice of occupation that would
cater to their work patterns, life styles and ensure employment to most women.
it is observed through the Economic Survey of Himachal Pradesh of 2004-05 that the percentage of
State Domestic Product since 2001 till 2004 has been comparable to that of the country as whole.
TSDP at current prices from 2002-03 to 2003-04 has increased by 11.6%. The Per Capita income
from 2002-03 to 2003-04 increased by 9.8% (at current prices)
Table 11: State Domestic Product (S.D.P) I State Income at constant prices (1993-94) (in%)
Year i H.P i India
2001-02 5.4 l 5.6
2002-03 4.5
2003-04 8.1 8.5
The SHDR, 2002, outlines that in the wake of paucity of literature, the Department of Economics and
Statistics of H.P attempted to estimate individual district incomes for the first time in 2001. The table
below gives a vivid picture of the variations across the districts.

Table 12: Per capita income at 1990-91 Prices (in rupees)
1990-91 1999-2000 Annual Compound Growth Rate (1991-2000)
Lahaul & Spiti
Himachal Pradesh
Source: Computed by the Department of Planning, Himachal Pradesh based on the information
supp//ed by the DESHP (Pg. 8 7 in SHDR, 2002)
The differentials in the inter sectoral economic performance of the districts, particularly in the
Primary Sector, are quite marked and ground for concern, although the compound growth rate of
7.38 per cent of the State as a whole indicates that structural transition is moving in the right
direction. Plan wise the growth rate of the NSDP was very slow initially but since the Fourth Plan it
has been rising consistently, hitting 8.8 per cent in the Seventh Plan and averaging approximately
6.5 per cent during the entire period. (SHDR, 2002)
‘The growth rate of Net State Domestic product for Himachal between 1990-91&1999-2000 has
been 7.38% for the state as whole. The secondary sector recorded the highest growth rate at 9.75%
followed by tertiary sector at 7.85% and the primary sector at 4.78%. Sectoral contribution to the
Domestic Product in 1990-91&in 1999-2000 shows that the Primary sector contributed 37.45% to
the state income in 1990-91 &in 1999-2000 the share declined to 29.32%. The contribution by
secondary and tertiary sectors has relatively increased. Per capita income of the state in real terms
grew at an average annual compound rate of 3.49% between1990-91 and 1999-2000.The maximum
growth rate was recorded in Una district at 6.47% while at the other end of the spectrum tribal
Kinnaur which is prone to flash floods, frequent slips & slides had negative rate.

Table 13: Sector-wise Contribution to Total SDP
1990 91 2003-O4
rimary ‘ 35.1% 6.38%
econdary ‘ 26.5% 3.23%
Tertiary 38 40% 40 49%
It is seen from the above table that there has been a considerable decline in the contribution of
primary sector that includes agriculture and agro-based occupations. Where as the secondary and
tertiary sector have shown a significant increase. In the tertiaw sector in the year 2003-04
Community and Personal Services have contributed 18.55% percent of the total tertiary
contributions; Transport, Communications and Trade contribute 14.28% and Finance and Real
Estate contribute 7.56% of the tertiaw share in Total State Domestic Product
The rate of growth of district income during 1990-91 to 1999-2000 has been less than the state
average for the district of Chamba, Kangra, Kinnaur, Kullu, Lahaul – Spiti and Shimla. The highest
growth rate in the district income was recorded in Una district, which was followed by Solan,
Bilaspur, Mandi, and Hamirpur. The annual average growth rates of GDP/SDP per capita at 1980-81
prices (%) for year 1990-91 to 1996-97 in Himachal stood as 2.27% lower than the national average
(3.47%). Sectoral share in GDP/SDP% for 1996-97 for the primary sector in the state stood as
33.56% higher than the national average of 28.80%; the share in secondary sector was 26.85%,
lower than the national average 28.30% and in the tertiary sector also stood as 39.59% lower than
the national average of 42.90%.’ (Compiled from SHDR, 2002)
Table 14: Growth of State domestic product and Sectoral components
1970-71 1980-81 1990-91 2000-2001
GSDP growth rate(%) at 4.21 8.01 3.90 6.00
constant prices
Per Capita NSDP(%)at 2.11 4.98 -0.40 4.10
constant prices
Sectoral oomposition of
Primary Sector
Secondary Sector
Tertiary Sector
Source: Economic Re view (relevant issues) as cited by K aushiir &Kar0/, 200556)
If we look at the figures over a period from 1970 to 2000, the real GSDP growth has averaged
slightly more than 5.53% a year in Himachal Pradesh. Along with this the real per capita NSDP

growth averaged 2.70%. The over all economic growth in total state domestic product during 2003-
04(Q) was 8.1% as the total state Domestic Product at constant prices (1993-94) increased to Rs
9163crore from Rs.8473crore in 2002-03. As per the advanced estimates on the basis of economic
conditions up to December, 2004 the likely growth rate for 2004-05 was expected to be around 7.5%
(Economic Sun/ey, HP:2004-05) Meanwhile, we can also see a movement in the economy from
primary sector to one in which secondary and tertiary sectors have become predominant. The share
of primary sector also shows a substantial decline from 58.74% of GSDP in 1970-71 to less than
30% by 2000. Although the share of agriculture and allied sectors showed not much fluctuation in
nineties, the economy has shown a shift from agriculture and allied sectors in TSDP has declined
from 57.9% in 1950-51 to 55.5% in 1967-68, 26.5% in1990-91 to 21.71% in 2003-04. The share of
industries and service sectors respectively has increased from 1.1 and 5.9% in 1950-51 to 5.6 and
12.4% in 1967-68, 9.4 & 19.8% in 1990-91 and 14.8% & 18.7% in 2003-04. In spite of the shift in
agriculture the contribution of this sector cannot be undermined.
‘The primary &secondary sectors registered much lower growth in employment opportunities which
stood at 1.39% and 1.29% respectively in comparison to the tertiary sector. The data on labour force
participation rates suggests that the overall LFPR for the state has been 74.38% and for males
stood as 87.58% relatively higher than for female (59.44%) for the labour force in 15-59 years. The
rate of LFPR is considerably higher in rural areas. LFPR for males does not differ much in rural and
urban areas though participation rate of females is significantly lower in rural areas.
The districts wise data suggests that LFPR is high in Lahaul-Spiti& Kinnaur both are tribal areas and
Lahaul is entirely a rural district. Female Work participation Rate for 1991 stood as 34.8% higher
than the national average of 22.3%.’ (Compiled from SHDR, 2002)
The total workforce of the State registered an annual growth rate of 2.53 per cent from 1981 to
2001. While the percentage of male workers decreased from 62.93 per cent to 56.33 per cent, the
female work force registered an increase from 37.07 per cent to 43.66 per cent. This reflects a
possible out migration in the state specific to male workers. Another study revealed that full-time job
opportunities in the State showed a 2.09 per cent growth in the decade 1981-91 with a maximum
growth in full time job opportunities of 5.97 per cent recorded for the Tertiary Sector.
Table 15: Work Participation Rate for Women at the District Level
Districts Tota Female
99 200 99 200
ilaspur 4.60 ‘ 48.95 ‘ 40.82 ‘ 45.56
hamba 8.58 ‘ 50.04 ‘ 42.89 ‘ 45.94
amirpur 1.87 ‘ 49.90 ‘ 39.81 ‘ 48.85
angra 4 37 44 04 22 94 37 O1
Kinnaur 2.42 i 60.54 ‘ 43.48 ‘ 54.78

1 47.93 1 57.05 1 41.28 1 53.20
-Spiti 1 64.93 1 63.50 1 60.07 1 57.43
andi 1 45.72 1 50.44 1 42.38 1 48.23
himla 1 48.62 1 51.19 1 41.29 1 44.20
irmaur 1 46.59 1 49.30 1 36.50 1 41.32
olan 1 45.05 1 52.70 1 35.06 1 42.60
na 1 33.45 1 45.03 1 18.50 1 37.41
1 42.80 1 49.28 1 34.80 1 43.69
(Comp//ed from /-/.P De ve/opment Report 2005)
A view of the work participation rates based on the Census Reports across district of Himachal
suggests that Lahaul-Spiti stands out with the highest WPR for female for both Census periods.
Kangra has the lowest WPR.
‘A study of labour inputs on farm households reports that women in Himachal Pradesh work longer
hours than men, on the ‘light’ non-seasonal work in cultivation (e.g. sowing, weeding, hoeing,
harvesting, cutting grass fodder). The study also found that women spend a lot of time tending
animals, a way of supplementing the gains from small plots.
Traditionally the hill people had always to look for ways in which to diversify their occupational base.
The government is the largest employer in Himachal. Location advantage of its contiguity to the
prosperous states of Punjab and Haryana and its proximity to the capital city also adds to the
opportunities of jobs. Hill women have a deep involvement in the struggle for survival. This labor-
intensive agrarian economy has had to rely on the participation of women as well as men. In a land
dominated by small and marginal farmers, women have to actively participate in the fields. (De et al,
2002). Jean Dreze too opines that ‘a distinctive feature of H.P. has been a high level of female
labour-force participation; women‘s involvement in economic activities outside the household is
much higher than elsewhere in North lndia.‘(Dreze)
This section gives a brief outline of the state of poverty situation in Himachal Pradesh. It also
provides a glimpse into poverty amongst the households headed by women.
The North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh has incidence of poverty of 28.44 %, which is lower
than the national average. Even rural poverty at 30.34% is less than the average for all other Indian
States. The incidence of poverty in rural tribal areas is higher at 63.74 percent than the all-India
average of 51.94 percent. (
Poverty Reduction in Himachal Pradesh
‘The incidence of poverty expressed as a percentage of people living below the poverty line in
Himachal Pradesh has witnessed a spectacular decline from 26.39% in 1973-74 to mere 7.63% in
1999-2000 which is much lower than all-India poverty ratio of 26.10% in 1999-2000. The credibility
of this data is highly questionable as the field experiences of Sutra and various other studies have

shown that the poverty levels in the state have been on rise. The experiential data shows that there
has been an increase in the demand for starting micro credit system in villages in past 10 years and
the main reason for its popularity is the increasing need for loans. This reflects plausible poverty
Rural Poverty
Himachal Pradesh ranks third in inverse ranking among major states of India.
The incidence of rural poverty dropped from 27.42% of rural households in 1973-74 to 7.94 % in
1999-2000. The bulk of reduction in rural poverty however occurred after the mid 1990’s, due to a
high growth of investment and employment opportunities in the secondary and the tertiary
sectors.'(Kaushik, 2005)
Table 16: Poverty Ratio in Himachal Pradesh and India (percent)
Year Himachal Pradesh India
Rural Urban Total Rural Urban Total
1973-74 27.42 13.17 26.39 56.44 49.01 54.88
1993-94 30.34 9.18 28.44 37.27 32.36 35.97
1999-2000 7.94 4.63 7.63 27.09 23.62 26.10
Source: Economic Survey, 2002 and Economic Re view (re/e van! issues) cited by Kaush/Yr, 200.5″ pp:
A study was conducted in the Solan district to map the perception of the beneficiaries’ socio-
economic programmes in the state. The study attempts to assess the qualitative improvement in the
living standard of the rural people and the disadvantaged groups in the society through the feedback
on various socio-economic programmes implemented in the state and Solan district during 1996-97
to 1998-99. Kandaghat block, one of the five blocks in the district, was selected for Micro-level
investigations as it has domination of rural population. high concentration of Scheduled Castes and
highest incidence of poverty. Sample households numbering 449 from the Below Poverty Line (BPL)
families’ list prepared for the Eighth Five Year Plan were inten/iewed through a pre- structured
Beneficiary Schedule-cum-Questionnaire (Family Profile). Reference period of the Study was 1996-
97 to 1998-99. On the whole, centrally sponsored rural alleviation programmes, national social
assistance and state sector social security and welfare programmes were being implemented to a
large extent in true letter and spirit for improving the social and economic standard of living of the
targeted. Secondary data made available by District Rural Development Agency, Solan and block
administration at Kandaghat relating to physical achievement of rural poverty alleviation
programmes and basic minimum sen/ices in the district and the selected block show that the
progress is quite good. The primary data collected during the micro investigations in the study area
did throw certain problems and difficulties being experienced by the people, which have been
highlighted for example some of these are lack of irrigation facilities in the area, lack of marketing

network for the produce of vegetables and flowers, there is no established form of disseminating
information about the poverty alleviation and social security schemes etc. (
Despite variations in Head Count Ratio for the state as obtained by using different poverty lines the
poverty increased in Himachal between 1987-88 and 1993-94, and as literature suggests poverty is
more pronounced in rural areas of Himachal. Population below the poverty line according to the
Planning Commission estimate (percentage) stood relatively low for Himachal as compared to the
national average as the 30 day recall period, the population BPL was 7.63% in the state far below
than the national average of 26.10%. According to 7 day recall period also the population BPL in the
state stood as 7.27% relatively low to the national average of 23.33%.
A household survey in the rural areas of Himachal Pradesh conducted by the Department of Rural
Development of Himachal Pradesh to assess the number of rural families living below poverty line is
the only information available to have an idea of incidence of poverty in the districts. The latest
survey conducted by the Department is for the year 1998-99.'(Baru :2004)
Table 17: Survey of the Poor Families (1998-99) Rural
No. of rural
No. of rural families
below poverty line
% age of families
below poverty line
1 Bilaspur
2 Chamba
3 Hamirpur
4 Kangra
5 Kinnaur
6 Kullu
1 |_& Spiti
8 Mandi
9 Shimla
10 Sirmaur
11 Solan
12 Una
(Source: Depa/fment of Rural Development, Himachal Pradesh, as cited in SHDR, 2003
The table shows that the maximum number of families in rural areas living below poverty line was in
Chamba district. At 19.06% Una excelled in having the least number of families below poverty line.

Lahaul-Spiti (37.93%) and Shimla (33.67%) were the only districts besides Chamba with number of
families below poverty line higher than the state average. Overall in Himachal Pradesh, 27.62% of
rural families lived below poverty line.'(Baru, 2O04)4
‘A survey of the rural households conducted by the Rural Development Department in 1998-99
revealed that 2.86.447 families constituting 27.62% of the total of 10,36,996 households lived below
poverty line in the state. In the case of some of the districts like Chamba, Lahaul-Spiti and Shimla,
the percentage of people below poverty line is over 61.00, 37.93 and 33.67 percent respectively,
which is significantly above the national average’(Parmar,2004) Chamba District is one of the
poorest districts of Himachal Pradesh and is in the list of 25 most backward districts in India. Of the
total families Below Poverty Line (BPL) in the state, 16 % lie in Chamba district even though only 7
% of state’s rural Households fall in this district. In fact 61.7% of Chamba’s households are Below
Poverty Line. (Ahal et al). This aspect is also corroborated by news reports which outlines ‘ Chamba
district continues to be the most backward districts and ranked 51$‘ in terms of ‘backward districts ‘ in
the country despite launching of various centrally sponsored projects. The percentage of families
below poverty line in the district has been recorded 61.72%, which is also the highest in the state.
Out of 76,418 families, 47,165 families are living below poverty line.’(THE HINDU, 29″” December
Considering the statistics prior to 1999 there has been a slight increase in the poverty. The table
below shows the percentages of total families in rural areas that are below poverty line are 27.59%
and as high as almost 15% households below poverty line are headed by women. These women
also include the number of single women. One would expect the number of households headed by
women to be under poverty line to be high even today considering the limited employment options
they have and also the lack of economic support that would be discussed later in the report.
However there should be a gender sensitive investigation in the status of poverty in Himachal as the
data available is scarce.
Table 18: Rural households living below poverty line (1997-98)
Total No. of rural households No. of rural households living Rural households headed by
below poverty line women below poverty line
10,36,996 ‘ 2,86,447 (27.59)* ‘ 41.850 (14.61)**
‘*’ Percentage of total no. of rural households
‘**’ Percentage of total no. of rural households below poverty line
Source: H/’macha/ Pradesh Fact Sheet, H/mac/1a/Prades/1 Human Development Report 2002
Himachal Pradesh has notched up key successes on the literacy and elementary education fronts.
The literacy level witnessed a quantum increase from 32 per cent in 1971 to 77 percent in 2001 with
4 This data has been taken from Himachal Pradesh Human Development Report , 2002, compiled for ‘Lessons Emerging
from the State Human Development report-health’ submitted to UNDP,2004

female literacy trebling from 20 per cent to 68 per cent in the same period. Amartya Sen and the
PROBE report (1999) have also recognized the progress in education. The Public Report on Basic,
Education (PROBE) prepared by Jean Dreze et al and the Centre for Development Economics, in
fact calls it a ‘schooling revolution’. (Sood: 2003) In the earlier decades if we examine the position of
Himachal in terms of literacy rates, it had a lamentable position in this regard. ‘Only 7.5% of the
male and 2.0% of the female population were literate (1951 Census). This literacy percentage works
put to be 4.8%. It is to be noted that this percentage was the lowest among all the states and union
territories of India. The ratio of the educational institutions was one of the poorest in the nation i.e.
one school in an area of about 70 square kilometers inhabited by 2,700 persons in 1948. ‘(Khan,
1996: 60-61)
Table 19: Literacy Level in H.P: A Decadal Variation
Census Year Literacy Percentage
Himachal Pradesh | All India
| 7.7
| 15.6
| 21.2
| 24.0
| 31.9
| 29.5
| 42.5
| 36.2
1991 | 63.3 | 52.2
(Source: cited in Khan, 79.96565)
The foregoing table suggests that literacy in Himachal Pradesh was far below the national average,
and showed abysmal figures relative to the national average. During the period of 1961-71 literacy
levels show huge leap and beyond the decade of 70’s it shows a high growth as compared to the
national average. ‘During 1961-71 the literacy ratio of Himachal Pradesh rose up nearly by 85%,
which was the highest growth rate recorded during the period by any state in lndia. (Singh ’71 cited
in Khan, 1996:65) ‘The reason behind this phenomenal increase was partly boosted by the merger
of those areas of Punjab, which were having high literacy rate with Himachal Pradesh. (Khan,
A study by Pathania (1997) on the literacy front makes an attempt to map the district level spatial
temporal variation in different dimensions of literacy in Himachal Pradesh for Census period 1981-
1991, also glances at the disparity in the literacy rates from different segments of population i.e.
rural/urban, male-female and SC/ST at two points of time (1981-1991). Then author makes an
attempt to study a tiny state’s performance on literacy front taking a span of two decades. The
findings of the author reveal that the state has fared quite well on literacy front as it has higher
literacy rates for all the sections of population. Being the highest literate states of India it also follows
the national pattern with low female literacy rate, as compared to male literacy rates. The difference
between maIe& female literacy rates is higher in rural areas, than in urban areas. As the economy is
more diversified, so literacy is prerequisite and also the education infrastructure is well developed
thus increasing the enrolment rates. Even SC/ST population has quite higher rates though
predominantly being as rural state. Many tribal development programs and schemes like literacy

campaigns and DPEP have been started at relevant time period to reduce the gap between male
and female literacy rates.
The district level analysis shows that Hamirpur has had the highest literacy rates as it has the
concentration of education institutions and in migration of literate population from attaining higher
and professional education. Chamba has emerged as the lowest literate district in the state. Low
literacy rates are prevalent in this district for all sections but worse for females. The backwardness of
literacy in the district is also because of localized factors such as inaccessible terrain, harsh climate
and migratory nature of its tribal population, Gujjars and Gaddis all lowering the literacy rates. There
appears a clear clustering of the districts in terms of literacy in the state. The Northeast cluster
shows low literacy values and comprises of the tribal areas of Lahaul & Spiti, Kinnaur, and Chamba
& Kullu. Districts of the South West cluster have high literacy rates comprising of Hamirpur, Kangra,
Una, Bilaspur and Mandi. The author highlights that localized factors are more pertinent in the kind
of clustering of districts. Kangra district is a traditional place for out migration especially in the
service sector, which in return brings motivation for other people to avail education, thus increasing
the literacy rates.
Policies adopted by the state government, opening up many schools in far-flung rural areas and
expenditure on education have been spent in good amount, which has cumulatively brought in
higher literacy rates in Himachal.
Table 20: Literacy change over a period of time in the districts of Himachal Pradesh
Literacy Rates
Source.‘ Comp//ed from H. P Human Development Repon‘, 2002 &H.P development Repo/1 2005
The table suggests that over a span of two decades all districts in Himachal have shown a rise in the
literacy rates. Hamirpur emerges as the leader in literacy rates throughout, with literacy rates quite

above the state average. Chamba remains as the backward district in term of literacy rates.
‘Census 2001 report reveals that literacy rate in district Chamba is 67.73%, while the female literacy
is 49.70 %, the lowest in the state. The standard of education in the district is still low. The district
was chosen for launching the central government sponsored by ‘Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan ‘with the sole
objective to improve the literacy rate. However, the results of the project are not encouraging. The
literacy in Hamirpur district is 86.13% while female literacy is 76.41%, the highest in H.P.‘ (THE
HINDU, 29″‘ December, 2003)
Female literacy remains a second to male literacy in both the Census periods of 1991 and 2001.
Urban areas score over the rural areas in terms of literacy for both male and female except for
Kinnaur & Lahaul-Spit as both the areas are rural areas. The rural urban differentials in literacy
stand more pronounced for districts of Chamba, Kullu, and Sirmaur, the lowest rural-urban
differentials are obsen/ed in Una district. (See table in annexure).
Although there are many reports on a commendable performance of Himachal Pradesh in improving
its literacy levels, there is a paucity of data on the impact these rising levels have had on the socio-
cultural and economic fabric of life in Himachal. It is apparent from the case studies of single women
and the experience of NGOs on field in several years that increase in literacy levels of the girls have
resulted in them opposing the practices like bigamy and polygamy. Most importantly it has increased
the age at marriage for women. The success of the Mahila mandals in rural Himachal is directly
correlated with the increase in literacy levels amongst women.
This section briefly highlights the migration pattern in Himachal Pradesh.
Giving a detail of migration in Himachal Bisotra (2002) outlines, ‘the migration of all types in
Himachal Pradesh has not been very high. The decades 1951-61 witnessed in-migrants due to
process of rehabilitation of refugees from West Pakistan following partition. This process affected
Shimla, the capital of H.P. and its surrounding towns and villages. The shifting of offices of the
Punjab government to Shimla also influenced and caused some migration from nearby
towns/villages. The decade 1961-71 was the significant decade as the area and population size of
the state almost doubled as a result of re-organization of Punjab in 1966. Migration also took place
during this period. Males in Himachal Pradesh outnumber females in migration. The phenomenon
of migration has always existed in Himachal, but it has accelerated during the last three decades.
According to study conducted by Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India there were 4,
03,697(1971) and 5, 11,394) migrants in the state (both in- migrants and out-migrants.) Out of this
male in-migrants were 24.59% and females 20.10% in 1971 and 24.02%, 21.20% in 1981
respectively. This little analysis indicates that more men migrated from one place to another than the
Within district migration the figures are skewed towards females. The migration within the district in
respect of females has been more than 60%. This is mainly due to marriage. The inter-district
migration cause by socio-economic factors like the growth of industries, agricultural horticultural
development and urbanization has been about 33% of the total migration during 1971-81 decade.

This percentage is higher than the national average, which was 21.32 % (1971) and 24.48% (1981)
of the total migration. This figure would have only increased since 1981 due to increase in tertiary
and secondary sectors and emerging industrialization. The rate of migration whether within the
districts or outside the districts has been more for the males. There seems to be a paucity of data
that investigates the impact of migration on women. However it is evident from the on field
experience that the men who migrate often leave their wives back at home to take care of their
lands. Some of these men re-marry another woman from the place where they settle after migration.
Their wives back in the village are kept unaware of this and very often the men do not return to their
houses in the village. The women are thus left deserted and they who are the real tillers of the land
are not given the rights to own the land. The case studies of single women as emerging from the
field area of SUTRA spoke of the impact of the migration on women. The no. of the women deserted
by their husbands is unknown however the on-field experiences say that there could be large
number of women who have been deserted by their husbands. A proper study needs to be
conducted in the state to enumerate such women. A situational analysis of Himachali women as
done by Madhu Sarin in her report for UNICEF (1989) spoke of desertion in large numbers in the
state of Hamirpur which is believed to have what Sarin calls “money order economy”. The report
reflecting on the causes of desertion speaks of hefty dowries for the daughters of the migrated
fathers especially if they have migrated in the urban areas. Apart from this personal preference of
the men, less strict restrictions for men and sanction of their behavior under the garb of male
superiority are some of the main reasons. Polygamy is still very prevalent in Himachal Pradesh and
migration has strong correlation with the practice of polygamy.
There has been an increased incidence of migration from urban to rural areas particularly in the last
two decades. This was noticed in the peripheries of towns which were rural areas but developing as
urban areas. Most of these areas now from the part of statutory towns or have developed into areas
having urban characteristics. Such peripheries of towns are around Shimla, Solan, Manali, Kullu,
Dalhousie, district headquarters of many other small towns.
A collaborative study of The Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India and the East-West
Population Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA in 1989, to study the patterns of internal mobility in
Himachal Pradesh by distance area and sex, concluded that, ‘urbanization in Himachal Pradesh is
low as compared with other states. Female migration is higher than male migration. Males move
longer distance for employment and higher education. The pattern of internal mobility is different
than that of India and the neighboring states because of unique topography and predominantly rural
character of the population. There are a number of hydel projects, roads and bridges works in tribal
and rural areas where the number of skilled workers and casual laborers from urban areas are
deployed. The state is an apple-state and grows huge quantity of seed potatoes. Many urban-based
persons have become orchard farmers. They move to their orchards to supervise the crop and
deploy much horticulture labor from outside the state.’5 (Bisotra, 2002)
5Notes: The labor performing work on apple orchards in Himachal now a days mainly comprises of Nepali
migrants, most of them turn up during apple season from Nepal specifically for apple season and some of them
keep shifting there bases within the state, and join in to reap the harvest of different crops like apple, potato ,

Observations made by a Praxis report elucidate migration in Kullu and Mandi districts of Himachal
Pradesh. The report outlines that seasonal migration was seen to be common livelihood strategy
pursued by men in Kullu and Mandi. Women rarely migrate for work. The popular migration
destinations include the apple orchards, the potato farms in Lahaul Spiti. log-felling and sawing sites
in Kinnaur, hospitality industry in Manali, construction sites in urban centers and sand mines in
Solan. Work in hotels was estimated to fetch the best returns followed by work in the apple
orchards. Preference for work in Solan sand mines appeared to be warning due to hazards involved,
despite good returns. Work in PWD projects was popular but rarely available. Migration takes place
amongst people belonging to all castes, except in places marked by cannabis economy. The
phenomenon of permanent migration has also increased as fall out of a boom in the tourism
industry. Migration was seen to be mainly a group phenomenon, except in the hospitality industry.
Cases of deceit by contractors were also commonly found. For the SC migrants in Nirmand (Kullu
district) returns from migration were believed to help them tide over indebtedness, without accruing
any surplus’ (
Burden of Diseases in H.P.
The Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Himachal Pradesh, entrusted a
special study to the Department of Community Medicine, Post Graduate Institute of Medical
education and Research(PGMlER)., Chandigarh, to assess the burden of disease in Himachal
Pradesh. The findings of the draft estimation report show the top ten causes of the burden of
Diseases (DALYs) in Himachal Pradesh classified by age and sex. According to it, the disease
patterns vary with age and sex in Himachal Pradesh. Lower respiratory infections and diarrhoeal
disease are the most frequent causes of the disease burden among the children aged 0-4 years
irrespective of sex.
While iron deficiency anaemia is the most frequent among children in the age group of 5-14,
diarrhoeal diseases, asthma and other unintentional injuries are also widely prevalent in this age
group. Whereas road accidents and other unintentional injuries are also widely prevalent in this age
—group. For the age group of 15-44, it is iron-deficiency anemia and other maternal conditions that
account for most of the burden of disease among females in this age group. From the age 45 and
above, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease constitute the largest burden of disease between both
the sexes. Further tuberculosis, ischemic heart diseases, other unintentional injuries and asthma are
widely prevalent among the males aged 45 and above, while other maternal conditions, asthma, iron
deficiency anemia and other ischemic heart disease are prevalent among the females in the same
age-group.( H.P. Development Report,2005) Women in villages (lchasser and Devnagar in district
Shimla) where the Cranney(2001)c0nducted research identified the following diseases that family
members had suffered from- tuberculosis, jaundice, typhoid, pneumonia, diarrhoea and dysentery.
The Voluntary Health Association of lndia (Shimla Branch) lists the same diseases, which the
women cited as the most prevalent. in incidents of death due to diseases peculiar to infancy,
diarrhoea and prematurity are responsible for 47% of the total (UNICEF 1991, cited by Cranney

20011216). See table 2 in the annexure for a tabular distribution of the burden of diseases. In the
table it is evident that mental health is not accounted anywhere. The case studies of single women
spoke of depressions, hypertensions, and sense of low self-esteem and veny low confidence levels.
Women have reported their mental conditions affecting their physical health. They speak of
consistent illnesses to an extent that they affect their ability to work. Sadly the mental health is not
accounted for while talking about the health status of women. Even the figures on medical
institutions and state expenditure shows that the mental health of women and single women in
particular is not paid any attention.
According to the NFHS-2, nearly 67% of children in Himachal Pradesh were found to be anemic, a
proportion that is higher than anemic women (41%) in the state.
The District Survey showed that for the year 1997, the proportion of girls suffering from anemia was
as high as 63.2% in Solan, 27.3% in Shimla, 18.3% in Hamirpur, 12.1% in Lahaul & Spiti, the other
districts ranged from 5% to 10% except Mandi (3.7%) and Sirmaur (2.4%). [SHDR, 2002]
ln Himachal Pradesh, reproductive health problems are widely prevalent amongst women,
especially amongst the poorer women and those living in the rural areas. Poor nutritional status
during pregnancy and delivery thereafter increases women’s susceptibility to these problems.
‘SUTRA has identified the major health problems for women in terms of gynecological problems
such as vaginal discharge, menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding) uterine prolapse, sexually
transmitted diseases and anemia.’(Cranney, 2001:205) Other NGOs have identified leucorrhoea as
a major problem with women in different parts of Himachal Pradesh. There is no conclusive
evidence as to why leucorrhoea is such a serious problem with so many women. Some NGO
workers suggest that this is due to the lack of hygienic conditions as well as poor diet. (lbid: 206)
Table 21: Life expectancy at birth for 1993-1997, H.P & India
LEB age in
Himachal Pradesh India
0(Birth) 65.1
1 68.5
5 65.4
10 60.8
20 51.3
30 42.5
40 33.7

50 1 25.2 1 25.1 1 25.0 1 23.8 1 22.5 1 25.1
60 1 18.1 1 18.7 1 17.2 1 16.5 1 15.5 1 17.5
70+ 112.2 113.9 110.1 110.8 110.1 111.4
Source: Abridged from statements 5 6 &7 pertain/’ng to Experience of Life 7992-93 and 7993-97
made ava/Yab/e by the l//ta/ stat/st/cs D/vision, Reg/lstrar General Office, R.K Purarn, N-De/h/ as
cited in SHDR, 2002: 707
Life expectancy in Himachal Pradesh is comparatively higher to the national average across all age
groups, irrespective of gender categories.
Matemal Mortality Rate
According to NFHS-1, The Maternal Mortality rate is higher in Himachal Pradesh (453) as compared
to the national average of 453.
Morbidity pattems
The data of NSSO, 52″“ round shows that both in urban and rural areas of Himachal Pradesh
females suffer more due to short term ailments than males; whereas males suffer more from long
term ailments. As compared to other states, the incidence of hospitalization is very low in the state.
A major factor for this low incidence could be the problem of accessibility due to the difficult terrain.
(SHDR, 20021135)
Like other states, Himachal Pradesh is also afflicted with HIV/AIDS. As on November 2000, out of
26837 persons screened, 267 were found as HIV positive which includes 82 AIDS cases. Over 80%
of these cases are from District Hamirpur, Kangra, Shimla, and Bilaspur& Mandi. On the basis of
HIV sentinel Surveillance data is collected in 1999, it is estimated that there might be around 3500-
4000 HIV positive cases in the state.
The problem of RTI/STD is also quite high in the state. A community based study carried out in
district Hamirpur in March 1997-revealed STDs prevalence through syndromic diagnosis as 23.9%
and by etiological diagnosis as 3%. The prevalence is higher in women. However, seropositivity for
Syphilis, which was 37.04% in 1952, has declined to 0.73% in 1999. Overall prevalence of RTI/STD
is quite high.
‘HIV/AIDS emerged in the state only in the early 90’s, when the first AIDS case was detected in
1992. During the period March 2000-2003, the number of HIV- positive persons has increased from
201 to 531, and the number of AIDS patients from 72 to 143‘ (Director, State AIDS Control Society,
H.P. as cited in the H.P. Development Report, 20051167)
HIV/AIDS across districts of Himachal Pradesh
By 2001, HIV/AIDS cases reported from every district except the tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti. HIV-
positive cases are concentrated in the five districts of Shimla, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Mandi and
Kangra. (SHDR, 2002 &Govt. of H.P, 2002)

The Multiple Indicator Survey (MICS 2000) focuses on awareness about HIV/AIDS. 64% of women
aged 15-49 in Himachal-Pradesh have heard about HIV/AIDS of which 61% are in rural areas and
85% in urban areas. Awareness about AIDS was higher among the never married women (78%)
than among the ever-married women (59%). (H.P. Development Report, 2005:167) Regarding the
status of HIV/AIDS in Himachal Pradesh statistics reveal that ‘As on 315‘ March, 05, 1212 HlV+
patients have been detected in random screening with 264 full blown AIDS cases. In sentinel
surveillance conducted by HP govt. recently the serious indication of increasing prevalence in
pregnant women has come which reflect the increased prevalence of HIV in children in near future.’
On the basis of information gathered by the NFHS-2, Bist elucidates that ‘in the state less than two —
thirds (61%) of women have even heard of AIDS. Awareness of AIDS is particularly low among
women who are not regularly exposed to any media, women from households with low standard of
living and illiterate women. Among women who have heard of AIDS, 90% learned about the disease
from television and 33% from the radio. 32% of women who have heard of AIDS, learned about it
from posters and hoardings. Among women who have heard about of AIDS, 27% do not know of
any way to avoid infection.‘ (Bist, 2005176)
Health Vision 2020 (document of department of H&WF, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh) outlines that the
state has not witnessed a major epidemic of communicable diseases since 1991, when only a few
districts were affected by Cholera epidemic, which took a toll of more than 100 lives. However, the
state is more prone to disasters due to its geographical features and its location in the seismic zone
for earthquakes. Various health problems which constitute the burden of diseases include
communicable and non-communicable diseases, trauma and under nutrition.
The routine data about Himachal Pradesh on morbidity profile for the year 1998 for ten leading
diseases is given in the following table
Table 22: Morbidity profile for ten major diseases in Himachal Pradesh- 1998
Diseases Number of Num er of Total (%)
patients in patients in
Acute Bronchitis
s,14,7s5 (15.81)
Ch. Bronchitis
Dental Diseases
Skin Diseases
Tonsil, adenoids
Wound, Injuries
Ill defined intestinal infections

Amoebiasis ‘ 1,02,785 ‘ 3180 ‘ 1,05,965(5.25)
Total ‘ 19,45,633 ‘ 51064 ‘ 19,96,697(100)
(Source: Himachal Health l//sion 2020, Dept. of Health & Family We/fare)
This above table reveals that diseases like acute bronchitis; anemia, chronic bronchitis, and dental
diseases gastroenteritis are largely responsible for the dominant morbidity in the state.
Health expenditure so far
Table 23:Tota| Expenditure on Public Health (Rs. in Millions)
| 1981 | 1987 | 1991 | 1996 | 1998 | 1999
Himachal 112.00 417.01 84. 74 175.80 238.55 289.01
Source: For 1981 and 1987 is combined Finance and Revenue Accounts Comptroller and Auditor
General of India GOI, respective years. Other years- Demand for grants, respective States: as
compiled in ‘Review of Health Care in India’ by Prashant Raymus, January 2005, CEHAT
Table 24: Health Expenditure as percentage of Total Expenditure
|1981 |1987 |1991 |1996 |1998 |2001 |2003 |2005
Himachal 6.63 13.50 3.32 6.16 7.04 5.64 4.50 5.08
Source: Upto 1987 is combined Finance and Revenue Accounts Comptroller and Auditor General of
India GOI, respective year; For year 2001 is State Finance A Study of Budget of 2002-03, RBI; For
year 2003 and 2005 is Public Finance November 2004, CMIE: as compiled in ‘Review of Health
Care in India’ by Prashant Raymus, January 2005, CEHAT Publications
The tables above show that although there was an increase in the percentage of expenditure on
health out of the total expenditure till year 1998, there has been a decline since then. As per the
budget speech of March 3, 2006 the health expenditure proposed for the year 2006-07 is Rs. 365
crore. Although there is an increase in the proposed expenditure the expenditure to account for
mental health is nil and doesn’t find any mention in the speech or even in the figures so far.
From this the speech by the honorable chief minister it is known that the state is under a huge debt
burden of 16,532 crore (as reported on 31$‘ March 2005). At the same time the pension liability of
the state is increasing very rapidly and is likely to touch about Rs.1, 000 crore by 2009-10. This has
resulted into heavy reduction of investment in health sector especially in secondary and tertiary care
sectors. With this reduction the state is falling to meet the requirements of certain segments of
society for whom access to health services is difficult which includes single women and women in
crisis situation. The concept of charging incremental user fee from primary to tertiary level disables
single women to avail health services which were hitherto available free of charge or at nominal
charge. This is apparent from expenditure on hospital and dispensaries reducing from 41.75%
(1980-81) to 21.22% (1996-97) for further details follow the table below. The increased expenditure
on Family Welfare and Maternal and Child Welfare has no consequences for single women’s
healthcare needs.

Structure of Public Expenditure on Health in Himachal Pradesh
1 992-
1993-94 1994-95
Maternal &
Child Welfare
Total Revenue
on Health
Note #.’ Expenditure on health administration is included in ‘other expend/’ture’f0r the years 1995-.96
and 7 996-97
[Saurce.’ Data complied from Contra//er and Auditor Genera/, Government of India, Combined
Finance and Revenue Accounts (for 7980-87 <2 7985-86″and the ‘State Budgets ’9f0r years 7985-86
onwards) by CEHA 7: cited in SHDR, Z002: 754]

At the very outset we started by giving a historical profile of the state. The historical profile of the
state indicates that it has had a chequered history. The state witnessed different waves of migration;
for a long period had a feudal set —up until the state was re-organized. ‘Under the rule of the princes,
the region of H.P suffered from the worst kind of feudal exploitation. The rulers did not consider it
necessaw to develop their territories by utilizing the wealth of natural resources.6The changes in
size and the administrative structure that the state has gone through between 1948 and 1971 have
influenced the level and pace of its development. Himachal inherited a primitive economic system
from its feudal structure, and an inadequate institutional framework, which constituted a weak base
for socio-economic development. Thus, at the initial stages the state was at disadvantage in relation
to the rest of the country in pursuing the process of development. In this context, the institutional
task of setting up an integrated administration, transforming a feudal system into a modern
democratic one, necessitating the abolition of all feudal practices and laws, was certainly difficult.7
The state has been formed by a combination of different regions and different ways of life. Like any
other region Himachal too presents a wide heterogeneous canvas, on one extreme we have the
tribal areas like Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti evincing a borderline with Hindu and Buddhist cultural
realms and on the other end are some areas integrated after the reorganization of the state way
back in 1966, from the state of Punjab have a fair admixture of the Pahar/and Punjabi culture. ‘The
state has three well-defined eco-cultural zones which are intrinsic to the understanding of various
ethnic identities. For instance, the upper niches of the Himalayas are dominated by the communities
following the Mahayan tradition of Buddhism or Lamaism, speaking languages belonging to the
Tibeto-Burman family and practicing pastoralism (9.48% as against national average of 1.90%),
horticulture (15.52% against 4.27% ), animal husband|y(4O.52% against 21.55%), etc. The middle
belt is dominated by the communities following terrace cultivation (25.86% against 4.75%) and
horticulture and some elements of pastoralism, following Hinduism (78.45% as against 76.35%) and
folk religions. Ethnically they belong to Khas, Ku/1/nda and/(0/, speaking the languages belonging to
the Indo-Aq/an family. The lower belt consists of sub-mountainous ranges and plains peopled by the
communities such as immigrants (61.21%as against 59.98%) with an exposure to the larger world
practicing settled cultivation (21.55% against 35.12%), business and trade (43.97% against
33.59%), speaking Pahari languages.“
Any investigation in the status of single women in Himachal Pradesh and the determinants of the
status needs to be looked in the light of process of socio-eco, political, historical, geographical
developments over time. In the wake of these processes, many aspects are cumulatively feeding
into each other e.g. policies and programs, national policies & programs pursued with an aim of
realizing development goals. However certain processes that have been pursued in sections that
follow have an effect on social conditions, the quality of life and the mental health of population. The
6 M.G. Singh (1985); cited in State Development Report, 2005:40
7 L.R Sharma,(1985); cited in H.P. Development Rep0rt,2()05
3 People of India, Himachal Pradesh, Vol. XXIV, ed. Sharma & Sankhyan, ASI, 1996)

cultural transformation, different waves of migration, natural calamities, and changes in political
structure that accompany socio-economic development tend to bring shift in the existing patterns
governing human behavior and lifestyles. In the wake of its course, these changes tend to produce
new patterns of consumption, new conditions of morbidity, variation in access to resources,
utilization pattern of resources.
The agro-economic profile of the state delineates that it is predominantly an agriculture-dominated
state, which gets reflected in its workforce composition and the industry though still in a growing
stage is also largely agro-processing based. Agriculture being predominant and apple cultivation
being the core, migration is also pursued as livelihood strategy by many throughout the state.
Literacy levels attest a good performance in the state. The health status indicators attest a fair
performance, the health institutions too have shown a marked increase but what becomes evident is
that regional imbalances, variation in concentration of health institutions, differences based on
gender, on basis of rural urban divisions in the sphere of health still exist in Himachal.
While we made an attempt to glance at the Health Services and Health Service system in Himachal,
we took large references from the State Human Development Report and a paper submitted to
UNDP based on the analysis of the State Human Development reports (‘Lessons emerging from
State Human Development Report-Health‘, Baru with Pathak & Dhaleta: 2004). The disaggregated
data for districts and across gender, rural-urban divisions has been provided for some indicators
only. it also provides an insight in to the national programmes running in the state for malaria,
leprosy, tuberculosis, blindness, AIDS with a brief preview of infrastructure (institutes/beds/treatment
centers) available for these programs and the kind of intervention being implemented specifically in
relation to HlV/ AIDS in the state. Aspects like patterns of the health expenditure, expenditure by
systems of medicine across decades post 8O’s,utilization patterns (based on accounts generated by
NSSO) and health care provision have a so been looked at.
When we supplement the good indicators of economy and health with the actual data from the field
several questions become apparent. There has been decline in the workforce of government
sectors, reduction in social sectors as the state today is sunken in huge debts that have burdened
the state to large extent. In order to repay these debts the state has welcomed private sector
investment especially in the sectors of health and education. In order to avoid the pension liability
the state has resorted to “contract labor” policy. The industrial policy laid by governments provides
exemption of taxes for the private investors with the condition that 70% of the workers would be
Himachalis. Although the condition is mandatory the trend has led to severe intra-state migration
and also immigration from neighboring states. The promise of employment to the youth remains a
matter of concern for coming years. The steep reduction in the investment n health sector has direct
impact on accessibility and availability to marginal and vulnerable sections of society especially
single women who have been hitherto neglected by the society, family and now the policy makers.

Culturally Defined Attitudes Towards Women
There is considerable cultural diversity among sub-groups of Himachal‘s population. Given the tough
hilly terrain and difficult communications between areas even within the state, different pockets have
strong cultural identities, which have received little exposure to outside influences. The outer
Himalayan zone is inhabited by descendents of people from the plains who were driven into the hills
a couple of centuries ago due to persecution by the Moghuls. Here one finds a blend of Punjabi and
‘Pahari’ culture. The inner Himalayan zone has a much stronger ‘Pahari’ culture. However, attitudes
towards women among most of the population are defined by strong patriarchal society norms. The
parts that have been merged from Punjab and Haryana have brought in Himachal a strong feudal
culture that has been strongly patriarchal in practice. This has undergone some variation in due
course but the values have remained unchanged. The ‘pahari’ culture or culture of hilly people has
also been patriarchal but the “pahari” women enjoyed more liberty than the women in plains in
matters of marriage, inheritance of property, divorce, separation and even sexual liaisons before
marriage. She held a supreme position in the family and was treated with respect and dignity. This
does not rule out the fact that there existed domestic feuds on matters of ‘reet’ and compensation to
the husband for separation from him.
Irrespective of her geographical location and culture specificity within Himahcal, a woman’s main
capability of her body to produce an offspring especially a male child and being an obedient,
uncomplaining wife cum manual laborer has always had greater importance. In her own right, she
has little identity and is not expected to have any desire for self-fulfillment. From birth, she is
socialized to make her life subservient to the demands of patriarchy. Her parents invest little in her
development as she is ‘paraya dhan’ (someone else‘s property) who eventually has to be ‘gifted’ to
another home. At her in-laws, she is an outsider, viewed with suspicion till she has established her
complete loyalty to her new home and proved her worth by giving birth to a male child. The strength
of this cultural attitude is reflected in the practice of ostracism of women unable to bear children who
are compared to an infertile cow. People consider it inauspicious to be with, or eat in the company
of, such women. The fact that it might be the husband who is infertile or unable to produce male
progeny is socially unrecognized.
A case study of a woman who is barren as her husband is a eunuch…she is eventually divorced
from him.
It is not only her body on which a woman has no control. She is not permitted to choose her own
god or goddess either. In some parts of the state (e.g.) Sarkaghat, Mandi district), while in her
parents home, the woman must worship the god/dess of her father‘s clan. At her in-laws, she must
worship the god/dess of her husband’s family but she is not permitted to do even this till she has
produced a son! Thus, even her right to faith in a god/dess is conditional to her producing a male

Because of this social role assigned to the woman, her natal family’s honour depends on delivering
her to her home of marriage in an ‘unpolluted’ form. Should, through some accident, an unmarried
girl lose her virginity before marriage, she not only brings dishonour to her family but becomes
unacceptable to most ‘respectable males. The rest of her life is often spent as a piece of social
rubbish. Chastity is a value to be honored and followed by a woman all through her life. It is even
stricter for widows in some parts if she wishes to inherit the property of her husband. However the
history of Himachal shows that although this is true there were some parts in the state where
chastity was a value that was not mandatory on women. In fact women were valued more as a labor
force on field and knowing their importance and usefulness as labor women often chose to have
several sexual liaisons with men without actually getting married. Even the widows were allowed to
be with their partners as long as they do not leave the house of the deceased husband whose
property she can then claim.
In more remote areas such as Chauhar Ghati in Mandi district, the obsession with pollution of a
woman’s body takes a more bizarre form due to rigid caste differences. There, if a higher caste
woman is found to have had a relationship with a lower caste man, her depollution involves an
elaborate ritual. A deep ditch is dug in the ground and the woman is made to stand in it. The ditch is
then covered with modern planks (with the woman still underneath), which, in turn, are covered with
earth. Only after the earth on the planks has been ploughed is the woman allowed to get out of the
ditch. She has to discard her old clothes and wear new ones before coming out. A higher caste man
having a relationship with a lower caste woman does not need to be de-polluted. In fact, a man does
not need to be de-polluted. In fact, a man does not get polluted no matter how much he indulges in
violating social norms or abusing women. The entire burden of maintaining cultural values is placed
on women’s shoulders.
A saving grace of the Pahari culture is that a once ‘honourably‘ married but later deserted or
divorced woman is permitted to remariy. ln fact, remarriage through the ‘Reet’ system involves the
woman’s new husband having to pay the old one a certain price for her – a kind of bride price.
However, male members of the two families do all the negotiations and the money stays in men’s
control. There was also a custom in past where the women were allowed to dissolve the marriage at
any point in time. However they had to pay the husband some amount as compensation for his loss
of labor. It was often easier for men to remarry as their main concern would be to have some one to
till their lands and plough it. Therefore in some places the census records as old as in 1800s show
that there were fewer men who were widowers than widow women.
Attitudes towards widow remarriage, however, are harsh, particularly among the Rajputs of the
lower belt in districts Kangra, Hamirpur, etc. Here, the woman is held responsible for her husband‘s
death and made to feel that the rest of her life is worthless.
In Sangdaha block falling across the Giri River in Sirmour district, the adult woman seems to have
greater freedom and can walk away from an oppressive husband to another man. There is no
premium on a girl’s virginity either and widow remarriage is not frowned upon. Possibly because of
this freedom, she has greater value and is treated better. A study found that in Renuka tahsil of
Sirmour district, men share the burden of agricultural, livestock and domestic work more equitably

with women than in all the other 3 districts of Mandi, Hamirpur and Solan.
Unfortunately, with the opening up of interior areas and universalisation of the dominant values
through the formal educational system, national level policies and programmes like the family
planning etc women even in such pockets are being made to renounce the limited freedom offered
to them by the traditional culture on ‘moralistic‘ grounds. ‘Educated‘ girls look down upon women
leaving oppressive husbands as a symbol of ‘backwardness‘ or ‘illiteracy’. On the other hand, the
inflow of outsiders into such areas is resulting in increased sexual exploitation of women due to the
more liberal sexual morality of the local culture.
This is not to say that the traditional culture of such areas has placed women on a pedestal. Even
here, the birth of a male child is still celebrated with fervour while the birth of a female child receives
little attention. Marriage of girl children between the ages of 10 to 14 is still widely prevalent and
there are cases of girls having been forced to change 3 to 4 husbands by the age of 30 to 40. Such
practices have their inevitable impact on the education and health of young women.
Pollution taboos related to childbirth and menstruation are a unique feature of hill cultures. In most
parts of H.P., childbirth has traditionally taken place in the cattle shed with the mother and the
newborn being kept there for several days due to being considered ‘dirty’. Similarly, during
menstruation, women are not allowed to enter the kitchen, cook or serve food, enter the temple or
touch men. On reaching puberty, girls are not allowed to read the scriptures and are made to believe
if that they will go mad if they enter the temple during menstruation. They are also made to refrain
from some foods like milk, cream, curd, leafy vegetable etc during menses under various beliefs of
foods being too hot or too cold and therefore harmful. Thus girls are deprived of important nutrients
at the time when they need them the most. This affects their health greatly. in interior areas like
Chauhar Ghati in Mandi district, women are not allowed to enter the house at all during their
menstruation and have to alive in the cattle shed during those days. Should they enter the house for
any reason, they have to mud wash the whole house to purify it.
These values and customs are powerful tools of keeping women manipulability and subservient and
keeping them afraid and ashamed of their bodies. They systematically create a sense of
powerlessness among women through a process of internalizing these values from childhood. Girls
are conditioned to not look up at men, not talk back, work without being heard and learn to adapt to
their destiny from early age. It is in this light that one must understand the issue of the single women
who are left vulnerable and groundless in circumstances that lead to their desertion, separation,
divorce and their widowhood. Lack of social support, lack of economic security, social ridicule,
discrimination, political dumbness and negligence by the government; these all lead to the
deprivation of single women and damage their dignity of life.
Himachal women‘s major social problems are rooted acute sense of powerlessness inculcated in
them through the socialization process from birth. The absolute preference for the male child in the
patriarchal culture of the state and the combined force of local myths, practices and beliefs
conditions the girl to believe in the meaninglessness of her life in its own right. Legitimacy and

fulfilment for the woman is defined only in terms of her subservient relationship to a man-be it father,
husband or son. Woman is not supposed to have any desire of her own and any woman attempting
to break out of this mould can easily be labelled a witch or a ‘dakin‘ who must be destroyed or tamed
by any means available. The fear of this fate prevents most women from even contemplating
breaking out of the mould.
The power of these cultural values on the unconscious psyche has not been adequately discussed
or considered while understanding the common predicaments in which a large number of women
continue to suffer unending humiliation and misery without questioning the status quo. This is
particularly important in the context of the structure of the state’s agrarian economy, where, despite
women playing a crucial and growing economic role, they have not experienced a better situation
also makes it clear that women’s participation in economic activities does not by itself imply an
improved status for women.
The woman’s subordination is rooted in her secondary position within the family and it is in the
sanctified preserve of the ‘home‘ that she experiences maximum oppression. From childhood, she is
taught to accept discrimination against herself in terms of allocation of family resources be it food,
clothing or opportunities to acquire new skills or literacy. Strict control on her mobility to protect her
virginity gives her limited exposure to the outside world. And, she is taught not to look men in the
eyes while talking to them, to not talk back or ask questions – simply continue working endlessly and
accept and adapt to the situation in which she is placed through marriage. She is seldom given
control of the family‘s productive resources and is particularly vulnerable in her home of marriage
due to starting life there as a resourceless outsider. Due to her economic role being confined to
subsistence production, despite her hard labour, she seldom handles any cash. And her whole world
can come crumbling down if for whatever reason, her husband or her in-laws treat her badly. Totally
isolated, with deep inhibitions against talking about the injustice being meted out to her, especially
when she carries the burden of maintaining the family‘s honour in the eyes of the outside world, no
resources to start life independently, she finds herself totally trapped. There is nowhere to go except
back to her parental home if that option is still available. Recourse to legal action is beyond her
reach because of ignorance about her legal rights and a strong, internalised fear of stepping out of
the preserve of the home simply because the outside world is a frightening unknown.
Practice of Bigamy and Polygamy
The absolute preference for a male child in the local culture has been the major traditional reason
for men bringing in second wives. If the first wife is unable to produce any children or produces only
daughters; her husband has often made her an accomplice in justification of a second marriage, all
the laws making this illegal act, notwithstanding.
At times, with the first wife‘s ageing or loss of youth, the husband picks up a younger second wife
simply for his sexual satisfaction. In such cases, the age difference between the man and the young
bride is considerable. Although this practice is not so widespread any longer, it still continues,
particularly in the more remote areas. It is common in Nalagarh block of Solan district and in several
parts of Sirmour district. in any case, there are a large number of adult women who were married off

as second wives in their childhood or whose husband brought in second wives several years ago.
According to the law, the second wife has no legal rights as a wife. But if she was married off as a
child, who is to blame? what about the legal consequences for the husband or her parents?
Unfortunately, it is she who has to face the consequences.
A case study of woman married at the age of .9 and remarried to a man 15 yrs older to her… she is
now widowed.
lt is usually the girls of poor families who are married off as second wives to better off husbands.
The parents‘ main consideration is that at least their daughter will not live a life of poverty and want.
The first wife, who has often failed to produce a male child, is coaxed to give her consent on the
ground that without a male child, the family lineage will stop and relatives will gobble up all the
property. If she does not agree, she is afraid that a second wife will be brought in any case but due
to her not agreeing, she might be thrown out. Where will she go if that happens? What will she do
and where will she live? It is terrifying questions like that which have often forced first wives to give
their consent. The younger wife finds herself landed with a husband who could be her father.
Sharing few common interests with a much older man, she is also constantly confronted with the
possibility of early widowhood.
In older times polygamy or bigamy were culturally accepted. There were several reasons for it the
main one being that the wives made for good labor force on farms. Wife’s usefulness as a labor was
so eminent that compensation had to be paid by her if she chooses to divorce her husband. In some
parts of ancient Himachal there would be more widows than widowers as the men would have to
marry another women in order to maintain the supply of labor for fields where as a death of single
husband would lead to many wives being widowed due to the practice of polygamy.
Polygamy in various parts of Himachal Pradesh
In Chamba State, 7904, it was reported that ‘Polygamy is the rule both in town and countg/, each
man if he can afi’ord it, having two or three, and some times more wives. Po/yandw occasionally
common in hill tracts, is believed to be almost non-existent in Chamba’
In Sirmour state, 1.934, polygamy is common both cis and trans-giril A second wife is taken very
oflen, and sometimes a man has as many as four. The main object is to obtain the wile ’s help i’n
cultivation as they do much t7eld- work, besides bringing home grass and fuel In the Dharthi tract a
second wife is often taken, because she can become a source of income by wet-nursing. Other
motives also promote polygamy, and a childless man or one who has only girl children will often
marry more than one wife. indeed a sonless wife will often insist on her husbands taking second
wife. At the wedding the second wife is made to sit in one corner of the room, the first wife sitting in
the opposite corner of the room, while a woman with a lighted lamp i’ii her hand stands by each of
them. Then the family Brahman or an elderly woman stands in the middle of the room and the co-
wives, advancing slowly from their respective corners, approach the person in the middle of the
room, and he or she joins their hands and they give each other a rupee. The lamps are lighted to
prevent the shadow of the one falling on other. This custom is common in the hills of both sides of

the Giri.. ’
Amongst the Kanets of Sim/a District of 1904, 94 man may marry as he likes, the number among
K anets genera//y being regulated by the amount of work he can profitable assign to them (w/yes)’.
/n Kangra District, 1883-84, ‘…/t is not uncommon, however, for a man to sell his wife to anyone
who makes a fair bid for her. Sometimes such agreements are executed on stamped paper and
presented for registration! Polygamy is considered allowable, and is more or less practiced amongst
all the tribes. The difiiculty of procuring wives acts, however, as a considerable check upon this
Source: Gazetteers of respective states and years as republished by lndus Publishing Company
Desertion of their wives by men has been prevalent since long. The bond of marriage was so loosely
held in many parts of Himachal that divorce was easy and accepted within the society. In such
loosely held bond of marriage desertion could certainly have been a common practice. However it is
seen that the social set up in earlier times allowed the women to have economic and social security.
For instance the usefulness of women as labor made their options to remarry stronger. Besides this
the women could inherit the property of their husbands as long as they were staying in their houses.
This was irrespective of her sexual liaisons with other men. Also the women held respectable
positions in both their natal as well as marital homes. Practices like polygamy and polyandry
provided women with greater social security. Therefore desertion as we understand today was not
so much a social problem.
However, today, the practice is assuming new dimensions. This is partly because of increased
physical and economic mobility among men while the women remain confined to rural areas with
little access to legal advice or awareness about their rights. There are a large number of women
whose husbands, after taking up jobs in cities or migrating elsewhere for work, settle down with new
wives where they live without so much as informing their first wives about it or the second wife
completely unaware about his marital status. The first wives, landed with little children, stop
receiving any money from their husbands and are often thrown out by their in-laws who see them as
an unnecessary economic burden. Such cases are widespread in districts like Hamirpur; Una;
Sarkaghat Tehsil of Mandi district which are said to have a ‘money order economy‘.
Demands for more dowries are also beginning to percolate into the villages, particularly where the
girl‘s father has an urban job. With rising materialism, the woman becomes a pawn in the man’s
desire to get rich quickly. Not just increasing demands for dowry but a considerable number of
dowry deaths have been reported from Mandi; Una and Kangra districts. It is just so simple and
easy for the man to abandon his wife and children and get away with it without the slightest sense of
fear or shame. Not only does the typical deserted woman not receive any maintenance from the
husband but is forced to bring up the children on her own. When the children, particularly the boys,
have grown up, many husbands come and take them away.

The graph below shows that many more women in the peak years of 31 to 49 are getting divorced or
separated from their husbands. So far the reasons that are emerging for such behaviour from the
perspective of women are violent conduct of their husbands, mental torture from in-laws and down/.
At times women are forced to give divorce to their husbands as they are pressurised for the same by
their in-laws on the grounds of insufficient dowry. Having a second wife without the knowledge of the
woman also holds a strong ground for divorce
The reasons for separation are often not known to women as well. One fine day after marriage the
husband leaves home for work and never returns. Women in course of the movement report several
cases of such kinds. Women have spent several years and as long as there whole lives waiting for
their husband. The unfavourable social treatment that they have been subjected to through the time
of their waiting has deeply affected their mental wellbeing.
Age wise no.of DivorcedlSeparated women in H.P
3700 —
3200 –
2700 —
2200 _ 1873
1700 –
1200 —
700 —
200 I y y y I
Below so 31 to 49 so to 69 10+
Divorce in ancient Hi’macha/. . .
Chamba 1904
‘The customs as to divorce and remarriage are similar to those practiced in other hill districts. A man
may divorce his wife by giving her a bill of divorce, generally at the instance of some other man who
is desirous of marrying her. The deed is carefully written out and presented to the woman, and on
the occasion of her remarriage the deed must; be shown to the brotherhood, who all collect to
witness this second marriage with almost as much ceremony and so/emnity as /’n the case of a first
marriage. The second husband invariably pays a sum of money – anything from Rs. 50 to Rs. 700 —
to the first. This marriage is fully recognized by the community and the custom is exceedingly
common. The first man is said to ’sell” his wife to the second and no disgrace whatever attaches to

the transact/on. Widow remarriage is customary in all castes in the State, except among the
Brahmans and Ra/puts of the capital and the Bhattiyat l/l/izarat. ’
Gaddis from Chamba
Divorce is permitted by mutual consent, but there is no special form. A divorcee may re-marry. ‘
Churahs fi’om Chamba
‘,4 husband may divorce his wife if he cannot get on wife her. The divorce is complete if the husband
receives back h/’s ornaments and says.‘ “l have divorced you, Baja ki duroh/1”/Ie., “on the Rajais
oath. ” The husband also breaks a stick in her presence. Divorced wives can remarry if they like… ’
Pangwals fiom Chamba
‘Women are allowed every freedom before marriage, and divorce is fully recognized. There are two
forms, one in which the husband pays Rs. 6‘ to his wife for her man or consent and then breaks a dry
stick in two pieces over her head: the other /’n which he accepts a certain sum for her release from
her parents or /over, and then breaks the stick either over the money or her head. The wife cannot
then be reclaimed, and is free to marry again, and her children will be regarded as legitimate. t 1) ’
Today, out of the total married women that are enumerated in 14,38,905, 15.96% are widows. Out of
the widow women 10% are covered in the pension scheme of defense sen/ices and 0.46% are war
widows and are covered under a special pension scheme for war widows. Widowhood was not a
status that was subjected to humiliation or ridicule in society in the ancient Himachal Society. In fact
widows had all the liberty to remarry a husband oftheir own choice and at many places the marriage
was celebrated with as much pomposity as it was at the time of first marriage. However our
experience with single women shows that the widowhood today exists in a form that could easily be
called corruption of older forms. The widows at every walk of life are faced with challenges. Whether
it is property rights, rights to re-marry or right to employment etc the widow woman has to struggle at
every point and is not respected by society.
Following table gives the number of widow women in various age-groups:
Table 25: Marital status of women in H.P
Married ‘ Married ‘ Widow ‘ Widow
Total (males Females Total Females
C —l
otal 27 92 645 14 38 905 289 703 229,664
pto 19 9,461 1.119 160
Upto 29 651 469 422 165 842 814

Upto 39
795 744 406 732 15 749 22 465
pto 49
pto 59
pto 69
pto 79

312 44167 31,850
The maximum number of widows is above the age of 49 whilst the maximum separated women
belong to age group of 31 to 49, which is clear from the table given below:
Table 26: Age wise marital Status of men-women in H.P
Married Widows Divorced/Separated
Women Persons
1 392
22 to 30
31 to 49
50 to 69
In other
words, every 7″‘ ever-married woman
is widow,
which is a
very high

Age-wise distribution of Widows
0 i i – i i i i i
upto19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80+
—W|d0w Females
What this did not reveal is the number of women who are informally separated or deserted. In fact
having such a database seems to be impossible. Our Field experience shows that large number of
women between the age of 22 to 30 are deserted and the number may be anywhere between
50.000 and 70,000.
Practice of Widow remarriaqes in Himachal Pradesh
Across Himachal widow remarriages were characteristics of lower castes and the upper castes of
Rajputs, Brahmins, Khatris, Bohras etc did not permit it. ln fact in the upper castes chastity, in theory
was the ‘condition attaching to the enjoyment of a life interest in the estate of the deceased
husband. The Kanets in olden days believed that they are those people who have lost caste by the
adoption of Karewa or widow marriage, while other accounts make them out to be the aboriginal
inhabitants of the hills. In the gazetteer of Mandi State, 1920 it is said that ‘there is a saying in the
higher hills that a woman is never a widow and she certainly is rarely without a partner. if she so
wishes then she has little difficulty in finding a new husband for her value in the fields as a worker
makes her a profitable match. If she is disinclined to leave her deceased husband’s home and land
she can still take a consort t live with her without forfeiting her life-interest, which is conditional on
her residence and not on her chastity. Such irregular unions are common, the man being known
generally as Konsal. .. the issues are entitled to the full share in the property of the consort, but have
no claim to the life-estate of the widow.’
Types of widow re-marriage permitted across the state with little variation were
it is an inferior form of widow marriage was practiced mainly in Chamba State by the Churahis
‘…She can choose her own husband within her own caste or sub-division… there are no dhamus
(two messengers from the brides house who come to fetch the boy) and the bridegroom simply goes
to the house with his putriar and brother. The bandha is given as at a regular wedding but an arti is
not performed and there is less feasting and the cost is much less. The binding ceremony in this
form was when an ornament is put on her, usually a nose ring…’reIated to these are yet other forms
called Gari Bachara and Bandha Luaua (similar to Dharewa karewa).
‘Dharewa Karewa’
When the woman cohabits with a brother or near relative of the former husband.
‘The inferior form of marriage is called topi lani. lt is used in the case of a widow’s remarriage, and is
only permissible after a year has elapsed since the husband’s death. The right to claim ‘the widow’s
hand rests with the late husband’s brothers or nephews, and in the presence of two respectable

men the second husband, who should be a brother, nephew, or cousin of the deceased, presents
the widow with a new woollen pig,-tailed cap. Her acceptance of this cap cements the union. If a
stranger wishes to marry the widow, he must obtain her parents’ consent and pay a sum of money
and may then take her home. This is called randi rakhi lal, and is the only ceremony in this kind of
‘The rite is called ‘gudani or jhanjarara and also choli-dori and is solemnized with the pair made to sit
down by the diva and kumbh, with some dhup burning. They worship both these objects, then the
bridegroom places a dori (tape) on the widow’s head and another woman combs her head and binds
her hair with the tape. After this the bridegroom places a nose-ring (balu) in the woman’s hand and
she puts it on. This is the binding portion of the ceremony…if no priest presides at the ceremony the
kumbh etc. worship is dispensed with, but the tape and the ring ceremony is gone through and the
guests etc. are feasted. A widow used to be compelled to marry her husbands elder or younger
brother, but the custom is no longer enforced by the state.’
Source: Gazetteers of Mandi, 1920 and Gazetteer of hamba, 1904;Vol )O(II A; as republished by
lndus Publishing company.
Economic problems
Problems of employment
Single women often did not have any employment to support them economically. Whether divorced,
deserted or widowed, women found it difficult to get an employment elsewhere. Most women’s
physical mobility was restricted to the four walls of their houses and therefore they were not allowed
to work elsewhere. Even if they did work in factories or shops the women were looked down upon.
Some women who worked in factories faced discrimination in the form that when there would be
new workers employed in the factories their salary would be derived from the salary of single
women. Thus the single women would not be assured a steady salary structure and when their
salary gets divided between workers they would be left with very little salary. At the village level it
was found that the jobs like that of the Anganwadi worker, water carrier at schools etc that should
have been allotted to the needy single women in the village were given to the relatives of the
panchayats members or people who had the political influence. In some places where the women
would be assigned the tasks such as that of water carrier or anganwadi workers they would be
denied widow pensions, which is rightly theirs. At times women expressed their will to start a small-
scale business so that they could support themselves but they were not supported in this by their
families and even the villagers would not support them. Due to lack of social and familial support the
single women would not be able to raise money and start their businesses.
Unemployment amongst single women is the biggest hurdle to their upliftment. The women whose
husbands have died due to illnesses had rendered huge loans and remained severely indebted after
the death of their husbands. Due to unemployment these women find it difficult to pay back the
loans and suffer from high tensions. Lack of social support adds to their deprivation.
Denial of Land and propegy fights
It was found that the Single women were very often denied any ownership over the land or other
property assets both in their marital as well as natal families. Due to this they had no economic

security. In majority cases the women were not aware that they could claim for ownership in the land
and property. At times the women completely lacked knowledge about no ownership, as they were
not aware that their names were not even listed with the patwari. At many places in Himachal single
women with no land ownership was denied pension. When women learnt about no ownerships and
began to file legal suits their case would not be given importance and would be delayed
unexpectedly. it was found that some women are aware of their land rights and property rights but
the societal pressure doesn’t let them exercise these rights. The people ridicule them saying that the
women are eating up the property of their family and they are dividing the family by claiming their
Property riqhts of Sinqle women in past…
Chamba, 1904 ‘Sons, whether by a wife married for the first time, or by a widow or divorcee re-
married, succeed, but illegitimate sons do not, unless they are adopted in default of legitimate sons
or heirs. The eldest son gets an extra share, called jaith~tnd, but he has per contm to pay a
proportionately larger share of any debts. Among the sons the property is othenrvise divided
mundavand, i.e., equally, except in Kangra, where the chunda’mnd rule prevails among that small
part of the tribes, which originally came from the southern Bide of the upper Ravi in Chamba)
The Gaddis also have the custom whereby a widow’s child (chau7eandh~t) born at any time after
her husband’s death succeeds to his property, provided that the widow has continued to live in his
house and has worn a red dori (tape) in the name of his chula (oven) or dal’at (axe). Cases have
even occurred in which the widow has retained her late husband’s property without complying with
these conditions, though the Gaddis consider her rights disputable.’
Sirmour 1934 ‘A childless widow has a life interest in her husband’s estate which she cannot
alienate without /awful necessity. This is the general custom of Sirmur. A widow may make an
adoption with the consent of her collaterals. She cannot make a gift of the immovable property. On
re-marriage a widow loses her life interest in her deceased husband’s property… Daughters are not
heirs, but if there is no collateral with Daughters. The seventh generation, then a daughter’s son, or,
in his absence, a sister’s son inherits. Both trans-Girl and in the hill tract of the cis-Giri a father or a
brother can give a part of landed property to a daughter or a sister in charity. But there should be a
written deed of gift… The custom of chundawand (per stripes) does not prevail here. The pagwand
(per capita) is the prevailing custom. Grandsons inherit their father’s property. ‘Daughters cannot
inherit, but trans-Girl a father can give a share of his property to his daughter for his lifetime only…
Daughters, however, receive equal shares in the absence of any male heir or collateral.’
Kangra, 1883-84
‘With regard to a widow’s right to inherit, the Rajputs, Brahmans, Khatris, Mahajans, &c., say that
she holds for life on condition of chastity, The Kanets of Kodh Sowar say clearly that so long as she
continues to reside in her late husband’s house” she can not be dispossessed even though she
openly intrigues with another man, or permits him to live in the house with her, This is die real
custom also of the Girths and other similar castes in Kaugra, though they do not admit the fact so
Source: Gazetteers of the respective states and years as republished by Indus publishing company.
Lack of economic assets
Land is the biggest economic asset in Himachal Pradesh and denial of this asset severely hampers
self-sustainability and upliftment of the single women.
Apart from land pension schemes provide for an economic security to the single women. However
women cannot always avail for the benefits of this scheme. Some women lack knowledge about the
scheme along with this the panchayats too don’t provide them any information over the same.
Women did not know how to get pension and what procedures are involved for the same. Those

single women who got pensions thought the sum of pensions to be inadequate and very low.
Pension scheme doesn’t recognize variation in the categories of single women on the basis of age,
status, ownership patterns, progeny etc. Since the problems of single women especially widowed
would differ across place and age and number of children, the pension scheme should be able to
identify the neediest and should be able to provide economic security for all single women. where
the women got the pension the money would remain in the custody of her family and she would not
get to access it. Widows whose husbands worked in government service or defense services got
some money as compensation apart form the widow pension but the marital family would use this
money without giving any amount to her. If after the death of the husband the insurance money
would go to the widowed wife then the marital family would force her to sign a letter transferring all
the money to them. Thus she would not get any money.
Sometimes women who wanted to file legal suits had no legal aid to fight for their rights. They did
not have money to even get their daughters married. Economic security could work as a great
strength for women in times of their singlehood and lack of it can restrict their progress and growth
and in turn affect their emotional well being.
Social problems
Social discrimination and Social humiliation
Single women are defined as divorced, separated, deserted and widowed women. All the terms
mentioned mean a change in the status of women and in turn change in the roles they play. This
change is not planned for or expected and often comes as a shock to the women. Their ability to
cope with the change in the status depends on the reaction that they get from the society they live
in. Considering the undue importance attached to marriage in Indian society the shift in the marital
status is often not welcomed in the society. Their families and society as a whole blame single
women for their status. They face lot of humiliation not only in the marital family but also in the natal
family. The restrictions on physical mobility and social interaction get strengthened after the change
in the status. Women are not allowed to work outside their houses. They are not allowed to
participate in any matters within the family whether it is marriage, birth ceremonies, religious
ceremonies etc. they are not involved in any decision making even not when matters concerns
them. Where the women choose to work in factories etc they are ridiculed by the society. Single
women are made to toil hard in the houses. They are burdened with work like cooking, looking after
the other children in the family, all the household chores etc. when they are unable to carry out
these tasks they are humiliated by the members of the family who curse them and at times even
carry out physical violence on them. Humiliation was intense in case of women who had not borne
any child in the period of their marriage. Childlessness was considered as the fault of the women
and they were suspected of infertility that led to further ridicule.
Lack of social support
The women in spite of their singular status are willing to stay in their marital families but the families
do not accept them. At the same time the natal family too is not ready to accept the woman and they
ridicule her. There are cases where the women have informally separated or divorced because they

did not conceive a male child for a long time and therefore their in-laws including their husbands
forced them to move out of the house or harassed them to the point that they separated themselves
from the family.
Sexual harassment
Women in marriage are often seen as a property of their husbands. This belief leads to
subordination of women by their husbands. However when the women are abandoned, separated or
divorced from their husbands they are considered as the “betwixt” category in the Indian social set
up. It means that they become a group of women that do not have any position in the social set up,
as they do not belong to any particular category that finds acceptance in society. Due to this others
wrongly perceive the women as “available” for any kind of sexual favors. This perception affects the
single women who face sexual harassment at work places or family set up. There are several cases
in Himachal where sisters are married off in a single family and when one of them becomes single
under varied circumstances, she is coerced to have sexual relations with her brother-in-law without
getting married to him. This is done so that the property that the woman would claim would remain
within the marital family. One can only imagine the repercussions of such practices on the single
women. If any single woman worked outside their houses they were suspected by the people as
definitely engaging in sexual activities like flesh trade. Single women have narrated experiences of
sexual harassment at work places by their seniors due to the single status of the women. The other
members of the family at times ask women for sexual favors even in their marital families. The
humiliation out of sexual harassment extends very often to the daughters of the single women.
There are cases reported by single women of sexual molestation of their daughters by others. One
of the cases of single women talked of a woman who was fighting a legal suit against her in-laws.
While the suit was going on the in-laws persuaded the woman to withdraw her case and that they
would accept her back in theirfamily. The persuasion worked and the woman returned to her marital
family. However after two months of returning the woman was declared as missing by the marital
family. The natal family of the woman suspects that her in-laws have sold her off somewhere.
Laxmi’s story…
lam 39yrs old and l am studied till Standard 8. My family is veiy poor. lhave two brothers and two
sisters. At the time of marriage with Ra/kumarl was 28yrs old. He was from district Mandi and my
sister who worked in Delhi at that time arranged our marriage. She too knew him from Delhi days
but knew nothing about his familial background as he had told her that he was an orphan. He said
he did not have any relatives and therefore he made his living by working in the tactoiy.
Alter marriage / shified to De/h/I At that time he would not let me socialize with anyone in our
neighborhood. He would beat me up over small matters and at times he had even locked me in a
room. Later l learnt that he succumbed to all vices including alcohol, bhang, Sulfa etc. Gradually he
lefi his /ob in the factory and remained unemployed. This led to financial crisis at home and it
became difficult to run the household At this time l took up a small /ob at a Kothi where an old
woman stayed with her two daughters. The old woman behaved nicely with me but one of her
daughters would treat me badly. The old woman would say that her daughter would soon go to

Mumbai and afler that she would make an increment in my salary. But before that itself the daughter
got odds with me and sacked me from work. l had worked for 7 days in their house. My husband
would sleep every night on a makhmal bed and l had to sleep on a carpet.
After some time /a/ong with another friend of mine found a /ob at a beauty parlor. When we went to
have a chat with the owner of the parlor she asked us ii‘ we knew how to do a massage. We knew
indeed. On this she asked us if we could do massage to a man and we said we dint mind. So she
sent one of us to a room numbered 4 and other to numbered 7. As we entered the room we saw a
man sitting in his banyan and shorts. There was a bottle of liquor on the table and some money
kept. As we entered the room they began to give us dirty talks. Both my friend and me ran away
from the rooms and met our owner. She asked us whether we disliked the work. We denied this,
saying that the work was fine and agreed to come the next day instead. She let us go and
threatened us saying that i’/‘u re veal outside what happened here then you shall be murdered.
Afler this incident we never returned to the place. l went with my husband to my marital home. After
returning to Mandi too he had not changed his behavior. He would lock me up in a room there as
well and beat me brutally. After getting tired of these recurrent episodes l called for my neighbor
through the window and wrote the address of my natal family on a piece of newspaper. lpleaded to
her to write to my parents and ask them to fend for me. She wrote to my parents at once and my
father along with other villagers came to look for me. When they had come l was locked in my home
and learning about it ven/ time my father took me back to my natal home. When my father got me
back to my natal home I was pregnant. l gave birth to a baby girl She is .9yrs old now. l am staying
with my parents. My husband has not registered my name in the panchayats lilst as well From the
time l have started living in my natal home my brother and my sister-in-law have left the house to
settle else where. Now l work and earn for my living.
The women who are staying with their natal families are not registered in the panchayats of that
village and the pradhan doesn’t acknowledge their rights in the natal family. At the same time the
panchayats of the marital village do not help the single women with any certificates. Single women
when go to the government offices or panchayats to get their work done faced several problems.
The officers did not hear them and completely ignored them. Women had no voice in public matters.
Problems of aged single women
The single women who are aged are not looked after their own family. Very often the sons do not
take care of the women and leave them to look for themselves. On a meagre pension the women
survive a hand to mouth existence. Very old women do not find themselves capable of working in
the houses not even cooking. In such cases the women are left all alone uncared for.
A Woman who had entered love marriages and was later abandoned by her husband, faced
problems not only in her natal home but she found it difficult to file case against her absconding
husband as she knew very little about his family.

Political problems
Problems of identification and Lack of knowledge about political rights
It was learnt that single women were not registered in panchayats list in their marital as well as natal
villages. They did not have any ration card by their own name. The panchayats pradhan would not
register the name of widows in the Below Poverty Line list. Hence the women would not be able to
reap benefits of various schemes open to the category of BPL families. The single women would not
know about their political rights and there was an initial reluctance on their part to participate in the
politics at village level.
Problem of illiterate women
Single who were illiterate were denied participation in politics at village level, as they were
considered dull and stupid. They were ridiculed saying that if they cannot support themselves then
how they will do anything for others. Also since the women had no political contact they could not
retort to such humiliation.
Denying participation in politics at village level
When the women began to attend the gram sabha meetings they were ridiculed by the villagers who
taunted them.
Lack of information about proper procedure
Single women said that they had none or little knowledge about the procedures that needed to be
followed for various things like getting the ration card, availing the benefits of pension schemes and
other schemes, how to get check the ownership status over land etc. this lack of knowledge made
them handicap as there was also to support from their families.
Emotional impact
The women have reported mainly a sense of low self-esteem, depression and feeling of loneliness
due to their singular status and unpleasant experiences in the marriages. This has had an impact on
their physical health wherein women report low immune system, consistent illness and weakness
felt during work.
Mi/as Story…
My village is Bagposh, gram panchayats Bagposh, tehs/ls Pachchad, Block Saraha, district Sirmour.
l was married on 2751 June 1.998 in gram JubbadKot/1 p.o Nainalikkar, Tehisl Pachchad, Sirmour. We
were three brothers and three sisters in a family. l was the youngest of all. After my marriage my
husband’s behavior was alright for 2-3 months but soon he began to pick fights with me over very
trivial /Issues like /Tl would not talk with anyone he would begin fighting over that. Al times he would
even beat me up. if there was even a slight delay in household chores that l did then he would beat
me up. This went on regularly. For almost a year I kept mum about this but he did not change
himself Then one day l decided to return to my natal home. My health had worsened. l was
pregnant by eight months but he still did not spare me. My parents looked after me very well and got
me treated after which my health has improved. My son too was born in the natal home. After his

birth my husband came to the natal home and pleaded for forgiveness. l returned to my house with
my husband. However as soon as we returned he started over his nasty behavior all over again. l
went back to natal home once again. After 2-4 days he once again came to take me along with him.
lrefused to go with him this time. My father told him that l have asked for a divorce from him.
We went to Naintikkar panchayat there the pradhan too tried very hard to persuade my husband but
he did not listen. When we were on our way from the panchayat he got into a tifi‘ with us at the
market place itselif He kicked me in my stomach and beat my brothers too. This led to a miscarriage
since l was pregnant for three months. Now l have filed a case against him that is ongoing. l want to
get divorced from him that is one of the reasons why l am so actively involved with Ekkal Nari Shakti
Sangathan Movement.
The issues of single women were new for most activists in the movement and at the start of the
movement the outcome was only speculated but there was no clarity over what could be the
intensity of the issue. Also at the start of the movement the activists realized that they were not
always well equipped to handle some problems that emerged in due course. Therefore a need was
felt to have regular trainings, workshops and meetings with the activists across the state in order to
build their capabilities and strengthen their understanding of the issues of single women.
We did like to acknowledge the work of Ms. Sucheta Dhaleta, Ms. Madhu Sarin and Ms. C.P Sujaya
who have attempted to look into various aspects of Social life in Himachal Pradesh. Their work
including their analysis of status of women have helped us to compile our understanding to start and
carry forward the movement of Ekkal Mahila Shakti Sangathan in Himachal Pradesh.

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