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Maneka puts MPs through wringer

- Practise-what-you-preach sermon in Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Aug. 14: Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi today told fellow MPs to put their money where their mouth is.

Wrapping up a discussion that has gone on for several days in the Lok Sabha on atrocities against women, Maneka said it was not a speech that would “change” the “plight” of women.

The minister mocked the MPs, cutting across party lines, for not practising what they preached and pointed to the poor response to her request for help in setting up shelters for rape victims.

“I wrote to each one of you personally, a month ago, asking you to give me your letter and commitment and land for the rape crisis centres. I have received only two replies out of 500-plus. All of you that have spoken, would you like to expedite this really important centre in your own district, have it built and monitor its progress? Have you followed up with your CMs on whether they have given land? I have talked and written to all. I could have the centres ready by the end of the year if you would cooperate,” she said.

Maneka asked her fellow MPs to push for 33 per cent reservation for women in state police forces and said she was yet to get any commitment from chief ministers.

Almost mocking the MPs who spoke on atrocities against women, she quizzed them on their contribution to women’s empowerment.

“How much of your … (local area development) funds have you spent or intend to spend on women in your constituencies?” she asked as the fusillade continued. “Will you pay for toilets or anganwadi centres to make them good women community centres? How many of you will bring in companies to make ITIs (industrial training institutes) or even inspect the ITIs existing in your districts and make sure that they include subjects for women?”

“How many of you have started training programmes for women? How many of you have checked or encouraged martial arts programmes for girls in schools? How many of you have inspected the toilets in their schools to see if they exist…?”

She wasn’t done yet.

“How many of us take in complaints from women and follow them to the end or check on the progress of missing children…? How many of us have put our money into working women’s hostels or looked at ministries that might fund them?” she asked.

She chided state governments for giving priority to income generated from liquor shops and ignoring concerns of the women who complain against them.

“Women complain incessantly about how violence increases by having liquor shops in their villages. It took me all my ability to get one removed to just one kilometre away. The reason is that state government(s) gets a substantial income from them. But has any state government measured the problems that arise from these liquor shops?” she asked.

“Perhaps a study could be done by the police themselves and the states could look at another way to earn money.”

On child labour, Maneka spoke about her NGO, Rugmark, which has rescued and rehabilitated over 16,000 children and, in effect, stopped employment of children in the carpet industry without any help from the government.

“Many of you have child labour issues in organised industry in your areas,” she told the MPs. “What have you done to stop it…?”

By the time she was done at the close of the budget session today, her fellow lawmakers would have learnt something: When Maneka writes, respond.