Akhilesh Yadav and Ruchira Gupta at lunch on Wednesday at her New Alipore residence. (Rashbehari Das)
Akhilesh Yadav did in five minutes what Ruchira Gupta has been hoping Mamata Banerjee will do for months — take the first step to tackle trafficking in the state.
When the 39-year-old chief minister of Uttar Pradesh met the founder president of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, a grassroots movement to end sex trafficking, over lunch at her New Alipore home on Wednesday, a social call soon turned into an expression of intent.
“What can we do (for the cause) and when would you like to come and meet us? What about the first week of October?” asked Akhilesh in swift response to Ruchira’s query about setting up a chapter of Apne Aap in UP.
“Can we make it the last week of October,” said Ruchira, and Akhilesh immediately fixed a date.
If all it took for the crusader to set up a date with UP was a five-minute chat before tucking into an eight-course Marwari lunch, her longstanding plans to meet the Bengal chief minister and intensify her anti-trafficking activity in Bengal have come to naught.
“I’m having trouble doing it in my state. I have left several messages with one of Mamata Banerjee’s secretaries and they keep saying they would call back but they never do. I have advised countries all over the world on how trafficking can be tackled and helped them develop action plans,” Ruchira told Metro after meeting Akhilesh.
“I can definitely give our chief minister ideas about how to develop a blueprint and also how the biggest red-light area in India, Sonagachhi, can be eradicated. But for that I need to sit with her. It needs government support,” said Ruchira, who has advised the UN as well as the US, Swedish, Iceland and South African governments, apart from Mumbai and Bihar.
Bengal’s trafficking record has, of course, drawn world attention, led by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton who during her Calcutta visit had interacted with trafficking victims being rehabilitated by the likes of Apne Aap.
“Mamata Banerjee is a woman chief minister and I hope she would just take a step forward to dialogue with people like us,” said Ruchira, a Calcuttan who started off with The Telegraph before making a mark internationally as a trafficking crusader.
But what made Akhilesh and father Mulayam Singh Yadav drop by for lunch at the Gupta home? “My uncle, Bal Krishna Gupta, actually propounded the ideologies of the Socialist Party,” said Ruchira. “Mulayam Singh had phoned my dad to say he would be in Calcutta and would like to come over with Akhilesh.”
For Ruchira, a changemaker in a hurry, it helps if policy-makers are quick on the uptake. “For a young person like Akhilesh, who is thinking about what new India should stand for, I knew he would get it when I spoke about women’s empowerment,” said Ruchira.
If only Akhilesh could have carried her missive to his “Didi” at Writers’ Buildings later in the day.
And what keeps the young CM in a hurry going? A combination of Masterchef and mishti doi, maybe. “At the end of the day I like to watch television. I enjoy watching food shows, like Masterchef,” smiled Akhilesh, after polishing off some mishti doi. “Yes, I love mishti doi.”