HomeIndia NewsSocial worker Ila Bhatt died at the age of 89, was honored...

Social worker Ila Bhatt died at the age of 89, was honored with Padma Bhushan, Roman Magsaysay Award

Highlights

Seva Sansthan founder Ila Bhatta dies at 89
In 2010, he was honored with the ‘Global Fairness’ Award
Was also a member of ‘The Elders’, a group of global leaders

Ahmedabad. Padma Bhushan and Magsaysay awardee Ila Bhatt passed away on Wednesday at the age of 89. Seeing the suffering of self-employed poor women, she founded the ‘Self Employed Women’s Association’ (‘Seva’) in 1972. Within three years of its establishment, the number of ‘Seva’ members had grown to 7,000. Then the government registered it as a trade union. However, many difficulties arose in this. By December 1995, the number of its members had increased to about 220,000 and it became the largest single association in India.

The ‘Sewa’ members through their organization and solidarity gained the power to negotiate with employers on their own terms and arrange health, maternity benefits etc. schemes for the members. The ‘Service’ members established dozens of cooperatives of various trade groups, with the aim of sharing skills and expertise, developing new equipment, designs and techniques, and forging a niche in the wholesale procurement and joint market. These cooperatives have an average of more than 1,000 members.

Work done for self-employed poor women

Bhatt was born in 1933. She first became a lawyer, then a social worker, and in 1968 she became the head of the women’s section of the Textile Labor Union in Ahmedabad. While in this position, she came across the plight of self-employed poor women in the city and elsewhere in Asia. These women included weavers, cigarette roller makers, fruit, fish and vegetable sellers, wood and waste pickers and road construction workers. These women had to pay exorbitant rents for their shops and/or the tools used in their work. Along with this, moneylenders, employers and officials also regularly exploited or harassed them.

Ahmedabad In India, 97 percent of these women lived in slums. 93 percent were illiterate, most women were in debt and had to take some or all of their children with them to work. To deal with this situation, Bhatt established ‘Seva’ in 1972. The union established its bank in 1974. The establishment of the bank saved thousands of women and their personal property from moneylenders. This gave them the opportunity to accumulate land, small property and means of production. The repayment rate of this bank is 96 percent, which is quite impressive.

Also read: Lessons From Morbi Accident! Now only so many people will get entry on Ahmedabad’s Atal Bridge

Honored with ‘Global Fairness’ Award

This organization is affiliated to ‘International Union of Food and Tobacco Workers’ and ‘International Federation of Plantation, Agriculture and Allied Workers’. Bhatt was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1986 to 1989. She was also a member of the Planning Commission from 1989 to 1991. She was also a member of “The Elders”, a group of global leaders founded by the late President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. In 2010, Bhatt was awarded the ‘Nivano’ Peace Prize and the first ‘Global Fairness’ Award. In 2011, Harvard University honored him with the Radcliffe Institute Medal for his work. Also in 2011, Bhatt was appointed to the board of the Reserve Bank of India. In the same year, he was selected for the Indira Gandhi Award.

‘Seva’ contributed to the passage of the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihoods and Regulation of Street Vending) Act in Parliament in September 2013. This law regulates street vending and licenses vendors to operate them. It also prevents arbitrary evictions of vendors and controls fines, thereby reducing the chances of them being harassed by corrupt officials. This law is considered a historic step towards securing the livelihood of the urban poor of the country.

Tags: padam shri, Woman

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