Maneka Gandhi takes charge as women and child development minister in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, May 28: Maneka Gandhi signed in today as women and child development minister raising concern over falling adoption rates and announcing a Facebook initiative for queries related to her ministry and for complaints of violence and abuse.
The seven-time MP met officials for over an hour and is believed to have told them that the adoption numbers needed to be increased.
“She felt there should be a system in place where children are placed with families rather than in welfare homes. She suggested a sponsorship scheme in which families taking in such children could be paid money to look after the kids till they move to their adoptive parents. She felt a home is better than a shelter,” said a senior official present at the meeting.
Internationally, such a system is known as a foster care programme under which foster parents rear children with financial assistance from the government.
The minister’s concerns on adoption of children are not misplaced. According to government data, adoptions fell over 31 per cent from 5,693 in 2010 to 3,924 in 2013-14; inter-country adoptions have come down just as sharply, from 628 to 430, during the period.
Maneka, who was environment minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, is also the chairperson of Rugmark, an organisation which works to rehabilitate child labourers in carpet-making units.
But the standout feature of Maneka’s first day in office today appeared to her Facebook initiative. “The ministry will set up an interactive complaints redressal page on Facebook for issues concerning women and children such as adoption, sexual offences and other atrocities,” Maneka said.
Through the Facebook page, the ministry will interact with those who have filed complaints or raised issues that need attention.
Maneka also announced an email-based helpline for women and said she would personally monitor it.
Maneka is the first cabinet-rank minister to hold the women and child development ministry since its conversion from a department in 2006. She has been allotted a suite, unlike her Congress predecessor Krishna Tirath who only had a room to herself.
Maneka seemed pleasantly surprised at the facilities. “Is this office a permanent one?” she asked the officials who showed her around. On being told it was, she didn’t ask for any changes.
The suite comprises a meeting room, a lounge, an anteroom and three other rooms for the minister’s personal staff. During Tirath’s tenure, visitors had to wait in the corridor before being called in. Maneka has a waiting room large enough for around 30 people.