A perfect Manifesto is a key for the political party to become the ruling party. Some political parties are promising an unprecedented monthly payment to all homemakers in a bid to win state elections.
The work, the homemaker does is priceless but if the promise made is enacted, the stipends would be some of the first in the world to specifically address women’s unpaid labour, which economists estimate accounts for up to 39 percent of global gross domestic product and is often absent from official statistics.
They will also be a significant cultural shift in a country where women are overburdened with domestic responsibilities and their labour participation is among the lowest on the planet which is worsened by COVID-19.
The virus outbreak in India, which has engulfed hospitals in major cities, has disproportionately affected women. Since a nationwide lockdown last year, many people have reported a significant or complete loss of income, and housework has increased significantly as unemployed male migrants have returned home.
Three of the five states that will count ballots on Sunday are likely to use the stipends. Down south in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, both the ruling coalition and opposition candidates have pledged monthly income support to housewives. This includes the country's largest opposition Congress party, which has promised 2,000 rupees ($27) per month for homemakers in Assam and Kerala, respectively.
Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal and one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most outspoken political opponents, has promised monthly income support of up to 1,000 rupees to female heads of 16 million households.
Banerjee's Trinamool Congress presented itself as a democratic alternative to Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party after coming to power in 2011 by introducing a series of gender equality and social justice initiatives. While the BJP does not have a similar policy for housewives, it does have a number of programmes aimed at women, including free education for girls and quotas for government employment.
“The needle is slow to move on sticky social and cultural norms, but small positive steps can engender further change,” said Nalini Gulati, an economist at the London-based think tank International Growth Centre, and the managing editor of the research platform Ideas for India.
“Monthly income support by state governments — if implemented effectively — will put money in the hands of those who have been cash-strapped during the pandemic and address their unmet consumption needs,” she said. “This can also contribute towards creating demand in the economy as a whole.”