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Mains Answer Writing


1.  “Without the participation and contributions of women, the Indian national movement could not have achieved the successes it did.” In this perspective, analyze the role of women in the Indian national movement.


Indian national movement refers to the freedom struggle waged by the people of India against the despotic colonial rule. The role of women in the Indian national movement can be seen from:

  • Revolt of 1857:
    • Rani Laxmibai (Jhansi) became a symbol of resistance against colonial suppression.
    • Begum Hazrat Mahal (Lucknow) fiercely defended the sovereignty of her minor son during the revolt of 1857.
  • Political/national Leadership:
    • Annie Besant became the first woman president of the Indian National Congress (1917, Calcutta). Besant’s Home Rule League provided new energy/direction the freedom struggle.
    • Sarojini Naidu provided vital leadership during the Dharsana salt march. She also presided over the Kanpur session of 1925.
    • Madame Bhikaji Cama hoisted the precursor of national flag in Germany.
    • Rani Gaidinliu fought to drive out the British from Manipur and the surrounding Naga areas.
    • Basanti Devi courted arrest during the Non-Cooperation Movement.
    • Captain Laxmi Sehgal leaded the Rani of Jhansi regiment in the INA.
    • During Quit India Movement: Usha Mehta started underground radio; Aruna Asif Ali hoisted the national flag.
  • Revolutionary activities:
    • Bina Das shot point blank at the Bengal Governor Stanley Jackson.
    • Revolutionaries like Pritilata Waddedar, Kalpana Dutta etc., took part in the Chitagong Armoury raid.
    • Suniti Chaudhary and Santi Ghose assassinated the District Magistrate of Comilla.
  • Social welfare:
    • Sarla Devi Chaudhurani promoted women education through Bharat Stree Mahamandal.
    • Ramabai Ranade founded the Ladies Social Conference to mainstream the issues of women.
    • Pandita Ramabai Saraswati founded Arya Mahila Samaj.
    • Margret cousins formed the All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) to promote the ideas of social justice, integrity etc.

Even though women contributed immensely towards the freedom struggle, their role was limited, as:

  1. Women had to tide against the deep entrenched patriarchy in the society. E.g., social ills like purdah system, taboo associated with widowhood etc.
  2. Women had very low representation in the frontline of the leadership. E.g., It was only in 1917 that congress elected a woman president (Annie Besant).
  3. Lack of educational opportunities translated into a barrier for the women to enter the legislative domain.
  4. The substantial role of women was arguably susceptible to be overshadowed by the dominating presence of their male counterparts. E.g., presence of charismatic male leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru etc.
  5. Despite the call for social reforms, only little actually transpired on the ground. E.g., K C Sen married his daughter to the minor Maharaja of Cooch Bihar; Bal Gangadhar Tilak opposed age of consent bill etc.

Indian national movement laid the foundation for not only India’s political independence but also for a welfare state post-independence. Towards this end, the exemplary contribution of women was second to none.

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