Women rights activists on Monday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the actual implementation of schemes for women on the ground, after he hailed 'nari shakti' in his Independence Day speech.
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 75th Independence Day, Prime Minister Modi urged people to pledge not to do anything that lowers the dignity of women, adding that a mentality to insult them in speeches and behaviour has crept in.
Modi said respect for women is an important pillar for India's growth and stressed the need to extend support to 'Nari Shakti.'
Activists raise issues of implementation
Activists sought to corral Prime Minister Modi on the implementation of schemes for women on the ground.
Akancha Srivastava, social activist and the founder of Akancha Srivastava Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works towards cyber safety knowledge, said the first and foremost issue is women safety and education.
"Access to education for girls has been very very disproportionate so I would like to see what are those policy changes. If we look at two, three tier towns there are many towns where girls still don't have access to washrooms in schools because of the mindset that girls are not considered to be somebody who would take their education seriously," she told PTI.
She asked where are the practical safety measures which were to be implemented with the Nirbhaya fund.
"I am glad we are speaking about it but till there is no suraksha and shiksha there could be no shakti. Even if there are measures they need to be scaled up 100 times. A little bit of a gap is there in implementation - there are all things in place, policies, funds and a genuine intention but I want to see execution," she said.
'Need to mentality change towards women'
All India Progressive Women's Association member Kavita Krishnan said it is always welcome when an elected representative speaks of the need to change the mentality towards women in everyday life.
"My concern is that this kind of "advice" ('upadesh') is usually too general, never specific. So it rings hollow because there is silence on Modi's own supporters who auction Muslim women online, on Hindu-supremacist Yati Narsinhanand who has called for the rape of Muslim women and referred to women in BJP as sluts, and on those whom Modi himself follows on Twitter who attack women like me in the vilest language," she said.
Krishnan pointed out that in the last budget, the gender budget decreased from 0.71 per cent of the GDP of the revised estimates for 2021-22 to 0.66 per cent in the budgetary estimates of 2022-2023.
"Modi speaks of Nari Shakti but in the Union Budget 2022-23, the budget allocated for Mission Shakti (Mission for Protection and Empowerment for Women) was increased to a mere Rs 3,184 crore from Rs 3,109 crore in 2021-22! The combined budget for Mission Shakti, Mission Samarthya and Mission Vatsalya was below 1 per cent of the total expenditure," she said.
She charged that the prime minister has been silent on BJP state governments which have been stopping women and girls from attending schools and colleges for wearing hijab.
'Government has to give equal opportunities to women'
Yogita Bhayana, a women's rights activist who heads 'People Against Rape in India', said, "'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' was also spoken about from the ramparts of Red Fort but we hear about atrocities against women everyday."
"As a prime minister, it is good that he is giving this message loud and clear but for it to be converted on ground, efforts have to be put in. Policies have to change and utilisation of funds towards women have to be made...in his own party and the government has to give equal opportunities to women," she said.
"Message is important, but its implementation is even more important," she stressed.
"I don't see any vision of the Women and Child Development ministry. It has been made so low key. We have to work towards it. NGOs' roles have been cut and the government is not supporting them...to empower women deliberations used to take place a lot earlier even now that have also reduced," Bhayana said.
"They have to come up with a roadmap. You tell people to change their mindset. Laws like 498 A are being diluted how women will be empowered. Implementation has to be made strong," she told PTI.
Section 498A states that whoever, the husband or a relative of the husband, subjects a woman to cruelty (for property or dowry) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years. Such an offence is cognisable and non-bailable under the law.
The Supreme Court had observed that there was a need to reduce the growing instances of abuse of the said provision as innocent family members, including senior citizens, were often harassed under Section 498A.