State Level Stakeholder consultation
GENDER IN ENERGY POLICY AND SCHEMES AT PLANNING & IMPLEMENTATION LEVEL
(Bhubhaneshwar, Odisha – November 5, 2015)
The participants articulated the relevance of the research study focusing on gender aspects of energy policy formulation, implementation and practice. It was reiterated that there are no state level policies on energy and what each states follow is the general guidelines given by the Central Government. Most of the centrally designed policies do not connect with the actual situations on the ground. These are designed with a blanket approach without sufficiently accounting for the diversity within, and across states. This is not only with policy formulation at macro level; implementation at meso level also does not take into account the diversity of the stakeholders. A case in point is the Civil Supplies Department’s policy of supply of kerosene. Kerosene is provided only to those card holders who do not have LPG connection. This deprives kerosene access to even rural households that do not have electricity access, in the event of having LPG connection. This forces such households to depend on black market for kerosene for meeting their energy needs for lighting. Another issue is the rigidity in definition of households for access to entitlements including energy. Subsidized LPG connections are given only to those with a ration card as proof of residence. In households with members migrating out for job to other places it makes it difficult for individual members to access clean and subsidized energy.
Lack of interdepartmental convergence was articulated both as a boon and a bane by the participants. Some of the participants felt that the lack of interdepartmental convergence increases the transaction time and cost in accessing entitlements by households, duplication of schemes and also elite capture of entitlements. Some others felt that lack of interdepartmental convergence is a boon, as it helps the households to access more of the same entitlement from different sources. The Orissa Renewable Energy Department was said to be putting less than the required effort in making renewable energy accessible to the needy households. Tools of analysis like stakeholder matrix and actor-network linkage were suggested for macro and meso analysis, and to capture the perception of the micro about the existing macro policies and meso level efforts. It was suggested to use anthropological and timeline approach to track changes in the macro and meso levels.
On aspects related to the political economy of gender and energy access, the questions raised were about ‘about decision making power of women’ ‘what gives women agency,’ and ‘skill building that is required for sustainability of interventions aimed at building women’s agency and energy access.’ Those women who are demanding LPG are mostly with higher demand on their time for productive purposes. These are women who participate in and contribute to the economy. Access to and control over resources was felt to be a prerequisite to build women’s agency. So women’s access to and use of entitlements including energy should be viewed in the political context of ownership and control over resources at the household level. Opinions like much of India are driven by local moral economy and not a political economy was also voiced as reasons for women having agency not actually exercising it, even at the household level. Counter opinions like, moral authority itself gets build on material grounds, reiterated the role of patriarchy in building these moral economies.
The need for considering the local, legal, and social norms and customs while talking about entitlement and resource access to women to engage effectively in productive activities was articulated by all the participants. The need for critical evaluation and changing of existing tenancy and land related laws and inheritance in favour of creating an enabling environment to provide women land rights were also stressed. Control over resources was felt to be crucial not only for building household level decision making capacities but also for sustenance of community based initiatives. Failure of community bio-gasifiers as an effective model for rural household energy access is to be viewed in this context. In the absence of a strong aggregator collective actions are bound to fail over a period of time.
The success story of women Self Help Group (SHG) led LPG dealership and its replicability in other areas were also discussed. It was articulated that in most of the government or NGO led programmes, the last line of implementers end up to be invariably SHGs. Issues like the capability of the women to sustain these entrepreneurships after withdrawal of handholding agencies and the demand on women’s time by such activities were also points of discussion. It was suggested to undertake a Gender Impact Assessment of potential infrastructural programmes aimed at energy access.
When talking about impact of use of inefficient energy and health impacts on women and children, in addition to the type and quantity of domestic fuel used, it was suggested to look at aspects like ventilation and illumination inside the house. Poor ventilation and lighting inside kitchen was said to compound the health impact of inefficient fuel use. A study done by the Centre for Women in Agriculture, Bhubhaneshwar reports that most of the kitchen in rural areas of Odisha has less than 50 lux illumination inside their kitchen and are very poorly ventilated.
Others: It was observed that most of the households in India use multiple fuels. Factors that drive this are the relative price of fuels, cultural practices, and traditional cooking practices.