Rajya Sabha

August 13, 2014

Derek O’Brien speaks on the working of the Ministry of Women and Child Development | Transcript

“Sir, I am a student of class XI at Garden Reach N. Das Girls’ High School; my father is a tailor. Last few years I have been receiving Rs 500 every year and when I turn 18 years old, two years from now, I will receive Rs 25,000.”

Sir, this is the story of one of 12 lakh girls who are between the age of thirteen and eighteen and have registered themselves in Bengal for a scheme called Kanyashree. Kanyashree is a successful scheme because

a) It stops girls from dropping out of school

b) It delays marriage and

c) It puts the money (Rs 500 – Rs 25000) to the bank account

The success of the pilot project is impressive and now with twelve lakh girls registered, the United Nations are partnering with the West Bengal government for the implementation of Kanyashree scheme. Tomorrow, August 14, 2014 is the first Kanyashree Dibas which will be celebrated in Bengal. The reason I share this story is because Beti Bachao Beti Padao scheme is a similar sounding scheme. We have no issue with that. We have given you one example for Bengal. There are others, for example, Swabalamban where the residents of the Government or NGO homes are being recruited into ICDS projects and another scheme Sukanya where the trafficking welfare homes for victims of torture go to the state research centre. These are some examples and I believe that these examples are not only in Bengal but in Maharashtra, in Tamil Nadu, in Kerala and everywhere in the country. So the first focus of the Ministry should be to examine those schemes which have been piloted, which have been rolled out, which have been successful on the ground. Changing the name doesn’t matter but use these schemes which the states have used. You have spoken a lot about the cooperative federalism; this is one very good example of ready-made cooperative federalism at work.

Sir, the first point I wish to make today is about implementation of existing laws. I only want to bring to your notice two examples because I think we have enough laws but no action. The first example is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. Now, there are not enough Protection Officers who are needed to be placed under this Act. You have to have Protection Officers. Six states have already got protections officers; twenty states do not have Protection Officers. I’m very proud that Bengal is one of the six. The broader picture here is that please do not let the Districts Magistrates in here because the Districts Magistrates have other roles. Use the Protection Officers who will be full time officers to implement a very good law.

The second point is about the problem of implementation of – the Minister seriously needs to look at this – Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act and the sexual harassment in the work place. These are good laws but the Ministry must look into the implementation.

The third point, which in fact the speaker from BJP touched upon, is the budgetary allocation. In 2013-14 the budgetary allocation originally is Rs 215 crore and in the revised estimate it came down to Rs 480 crore. The point that I’m trying to make is due to the delay in the release of funds, the expenditure gets stuck and the action doesn’t really happen as per the Annual Action Plan. So the money is there, the revised budget estimate has come but eventually that figure is sometimes is one third of the original allocation.

The fourth point I am going to make is linked with the third point. I would like to talk about the convergence of different schemes. The basic concept of National Mission for Empowerment of Women was that you converge a lot of women-centric schemes so they become like a whole, so you don’t go piecemeal. Fund utilization there in 2010-11 was zero. Now let me give you last one year’s figures. Revised allocation for 2012-13 was Rs 22 crore, got Rs 10 crore, and utilized Rs 8 crore. Sir, here I would request the minister, through you, to look at the recommendations of the Standing Committee on National Mission for Empowerment of Women so that this synergy can happen in a good way. And one simple way to make this synergy happen is to initiate, we suggest from the Trinamool Congress, pilot convergence schemes (choose one or two schemes) to see how this works so you can have proper schemes rolled out in the future.

Sir, the fifth point: the biggest crime in the world is not bloodshed, it’s not bigotry. The most disgraceful, unforgiving, shameful, tragic crime is the crime of silence. We don’t believe rapes happen overnight. The crime of silence which I am referring to is in an urban situation or in a rural situation. Let me give you the urban situation. That’s where, if I may use the term, the first mini-rape takes place: in a bus, in a train, where a man tries to touch a woman badly in the morning. He does it five days in a row on the bus while going to office. Nobody objects. The lady is so scared, and nobody in the bus knows. She thinks if she brings it up in the bus no one will support her. So what does the man do? He moves on to stage two. Now he tries something on the way back to work the next day. Like this it carries on and on. It can happen to a woman, it can happen to a child. I was molested in a bus when I was 11 years old. I’ve spoken about this on national television, and I want to talk about this today. When I was travelling back in short pants and somebody at the back did something to me, and I had sperm on my shorts. And I was too scared, coming from a progressive family, to go and tell my parents that. This is the crime, the tragic crime of silence. So if we really want to make a change we need to look at this right at the bottom of the pyramid. We need to get the message out that if someone in the urban situation is hurt in a bus, if she screams, everyone needs to feel strong enough to come and support her.

In a rural situation it’s very different. When a woman goes to the toilet, she can be violated; a lot has been spoken about this. I’ve seen this in front of my eyes in 2008, in the great Singur agitation. Tapasi Malik, who is today considered a martyr in Bengal for the cause she stood up for, lost her life. Why? Because she went at 4.30 in the morning, before dawn, to an open toilet. Sir, what we do in the bus, or if we close all the toilets we are not going to solve this problem, which is a much bigger problem, Sir. And I must make a slight digression here with your permission, Sir. I notice that in the Rajya Sabha, there are 29 people speaking on this subject, of which 13 are ladies, 16 are men. I think this is good because men need to speak more on this subject, because they are the cause of all these problems. In the Lok Sabha, I am told, 80% of the people who spoke, with all due respect to them, were ladies and 20% were men.

I want to come back to this other big point about where do we address this point. We have to address this at four levels, at four places. Because otherwise, these arguments become too complicated and we don’t really realise where they start and where they finish. The four levels are S, H, I, P – school, home, institution, public place. If we look at everything and put it under these four heads, we would have been going in the right direction.

Sir, not a very interesting, and a very sad statistic: we in India have killed more female fetuses in the last 10 years than the population of Greece and Sweden put together. Now, there are enough laws in place, but in the last 20 years only 143 people have been convicted. The law is there but we need to get this law to work in a more useful manner. And here I have two suggestions, both related to the Women and Child Development Ministry working closely in conjunction with two other ministries. For female feticide, it is very important that the Women and Child Welfare Department works along with the Health Department. I’m told, in one or two states, not mine though, have a software where, when the ultra-sonography is done, it gets registered as a female, so a doctor can’t tinker around. The second one is, where I suggest you work closely with the HRD Department so we will not have repeats of what happened in Bangalore or what is happening across the country. This is a subject close to my heart, where in schools children are being abused. For example, if a ministry wants to send out an advisory to schools, have female security guards in a girls’ school. Who does this? Will Women and Child do this, or will the HRD ministry do this? So this is my last suggestion, to bring in co-ordination, make the co-ordination better.

Sir, to sum up, I’m leaving you behind with five or six thoughts. One, use the ideas which have been used by theStates, study those ideas, implement them at the national level. Two, ensure that laws are implemented better. I’ll give you the example of the Protection Officer. Three, closer co-ordination between the HRD ministry, the Health ministry and the Women and Child Developmentministry. Four, the point I made about budgetary convergence and budgetary allocation. Five, the tragic crime of silence. With those words, Sir, I wish to end so that more Halima Khatoons can live happier lives across our nation.

Thank you, Sir.