Chandigarh, March 8 (Sky News Bureau)
On a day when the state government announced free rides for women in government buses, Punjab on Monday celebrated the International Women’s day with a host of announcements and launch of a slew of projects aimed at empowering women, with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh expressing the hope that India will also soon see women taking on new challenges in defence forces combat units.
While virtually launching several women-centric projects in collaboration with UN and other specialised global agencies and special Saanjh Shakti police helpdesks and helpline for women, the Chief Minister underlined his government’s commitment to the welfare of women, with more opportunities to enable their growth and development.
Pointing to women now occupying positions of eminence across the globe in the new transforming world, the Chief Minister cited the examples of PepsiCo chairperson, which is headed by an India-born woman, and the women pilots flying not just airplanes but even Rafale fighter jets. He recalled that a Hoshiarpur girl, Tania Shergill, had become the first Indian woman Parade Adjutant at the Republic Day parade 2020. It was a matter of time that India will see women in combat units of the defence forces too, as in Israel and some other countries, he added.
He expressed satisfaction at the fact that girls have been consistently outperforming boys in examinations, supplementing incomes of poor families through self-help groups, and even serving the nation in the defence forces, while performing their everyday role as a mother, wife, sister and daughter. He called upon the people of Punjab, especially the students, to work towards ensuring equity, justice and equality for women as, with the empowerment of women, no society or household could truly progress. He pointed out that the state government had already provided 33% reservation in government jobs and 50% reservation in elections to Panchayats and Municipal Bodies.
Referring to the schemes launched today, the Chief Minister said these out-of-the-box initiatives would be instrumental in ensuring further protection from crimes against women and safeguard their rights in letter and in spirit. Efforts are also afoot to introduce gender sensitization curriculum in school syllabus and impart skill training to women to improve their employability, capacity building and eliminating Anaemia, he said.
Apart from announcing projects with UN Women, UNDP, UN Population Fund, J-PAL and FUEL, the Chief Minister launched Sanjh Shakti Helpdesks at all the 382 police stations and 181 Sanjh Shakti Helpline to be run by the Punjab Police for responding to grievances and complaints of women, as well as children and the elderly. He also announced appoiontment letters for 2407 Master Cadre women teachers of the School Education department.
Speaking on the occasion, Social Security, Women & Child Development Minister Aruna Chaudhary said that women had always played a vanguard role in every field, be it civil services, sports, defence services, higher technical and medical education etc. She pointed out that growing awareness amongst the people about equality of girls and boys had led to considerable improvement in the sex ratio at birth from 890 girls per 1000 boys in 2013-14 to 920 in 2019-20. She also expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister for hiking the Shagun scheme grant from Rs.21000 to Rs.51000 and old age pension from Rs.750 to Rs.1500 per month in the budget for the year 2021-22.
While lauding the state government’s decision to allow free traveling to women in government buses, PPCC president Sunil Jakhar suggested that at least 50% seats should be reserved in these buses for girls to save them from harassment and eve-teasing. He appreciated the initiative of Sanjh Shakti Helpdesk and 181 Helpline to restore the confidence of women in the law and order machinery with the aim to ensure their security and safety. He recommended that the Punjab government should honour Jyoti, the 15 year old girl who cycled 1200 kms with her disabled father from Gurugram to Darbhanga, as a role model of women empowerment.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan appreciated the concerted efforts taken by Social Security, Women & Child Development department under the visionary leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh in ensuring the overall welfare and development of women in the society.In her welcome address, Principal Secretary Social Security, Women & Child Development Raji P Srivastava emphasized the need to sensitise women about their rights.
While the main virtual event was held at Punjab Bhawan here, simultaneous programmes were held at district headquarters and block levels across the state. Apart from this, a large audience comprising students from 158 colleges, 14 private university campuses, Punjabi University Patiala, Panjab University Chandigarh, GNDU Amritsar, PAU Ludhiana campuses besides urban/rural residents from 1150 villages and towns logged in to celebrate the mega event.