| Chief minister Nitish Kumar addresses the crowd at Gandhi Maidan at the inauguration of Bihar Divas on Friday. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, March 22: After taking his struggle for the state’s status closer to the country’s power corridor, Nitish Kumar today sought to strike a chord with people at home by pledging to fight for the status of women.
Launching the Bihar Divas celebrations at a function in Gandhi Maidan, the chief minister announced a slew of measures aimed at women’s empowerment.
“We have decided to introduce 50 per cent reservation for women in the cooperative bodies as a follow-up to the quota for them in the local bodies. We will table a legislation to realise the objective in the current session of the legislature itself,” Nitish said.
The chief minister, who began his speech by welcoming the new governor, D.Y. Patil, didn’t forget to harp on his pet subject — that of special status for Bihar.
The battle for special status, Nitish asserted, had reached a “decisive stage” and Bihar wouldn’t relent until the Centre agreed to give what is the “legitimate right to development” for the state.
But Nitish was mindful not to indulge in political rhetoric — the speech steered clear of any reference to political affiliations unlike the Ramlila grounds rally last Sunday, where he laid on the table the price for his support.
The thrust of the chief minister’s speech though was on women’s empowerment, the primary theme for the 101st birth anniversary of the state.
Nitish announced 35 per cent quota for the women in the appointment of nearly 45,000 police personnel to be made in the near future. This is aimed at rationalising the proportion of women in the police force and take the people-police ratio to 1,00,000:125.
The chief minister reiterated his government’s commitment to take up the literacy rate, particularly among the women, minorities and backward classes beyond the national average in the years to follow. “None can deny us of our right to develop,” he said. “The government would set up self-help groups to enable women achieve economic independence in the days to follow.”
In keeping with his tested agenda to fortify his women “constituency”, Nitish also set a target for the education department to train about 40,000 to 50,000 girls in martial arts and ready them to display their skills in judo and karate at Gandhi Maidan on Bihar Divas next year.
“Ladki agar ek chata rashid kare to Majnu dhulak jaye (I wish to see the Majnu falling on his face once a girl slaps on his face),” Nitish said, prompting peals of laughter from the crowd.
But Nitish was all earnestness when he returned to his demand for special status. “The battle for our haq (right) has reached the decisive phase. Once the Centre has promised to revisit the criteria for backwardness of states, and finance minister P. Chidambaram has talked about it in his budget speech, it is time to execute it. We are not begging for alms… rather special status is our right.”
Nitish, while refusing to blame the Congress for any of Bihar’s troubles, sought to point the gun on the regime he replaced in 2005.
“Bihar was discussed for the frequent incidents of mass killing, kidnapping of kids and professionals for ransom and all-pervading reign of terror. Today, the state is discussed for its growth rate and rule of law,” Nitish remarked. “Some people (read political opponents) find it hard to stomach our stupendous feat out of envy.”
Within a week of Nitish addressing his Adhikar Rally at New Delhi without the BJP and his ally warning the JD(U) against boarding the “sinking ship” of the Congress, the NDA put up a united show on the dais at Gandhi Maidan.
Led by deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, the BJP ministers joined their JD(U) counterparts in showcasing the Nitish-led NDA government’s achievements over the years.
Modi recounted how the Centre’s policy of freight equalisation had led to the death of industrial growth in the state.
Nitish said the occasion should be celebrated in a festive spirit. Almost all government departments have put up their stalls, while food courts, cultural troupes and a cinema were there to regale the visitors.