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After rebuking girl requesting cheap sanitary pads, Bihar female IAS officer alleges ‘defamation’

Harjot Kaur Bamhrah, chairman & MD of Women & Child Development Corp, has written to Press Council of India demanding action against local newspaper for 'false, malicious' report.

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Patna: Harjot Kaur Bamhrah, a Bihar 1992 batch IAS officer and chairman and managing director of the state’s Women and Child Development Corporation, has been getting flak over her response to a school girl’s request for sanitary pads at reduced prices of Rs 20-30.

In a video that has since gone viral, Bamhrah is heard asking the girl, “Tomorrow you will ask if the government can give jeans too. And some beautiful shoes? Eventually, when it comes to family planning, you will expect the government to give you condoms, too. Why do you need to take everything for free?”

This response, ironically, came during a workshop titled ‘Sashakt Beti, Samriddh Bihar’ (Strong Daughters, Prosperous Bihar), held in Patna Tuesday. The event was organised by the Bihar Women and Child Development Corporation in partnership with UNICEF.

Bamhrah has since not only claimed that her remarks weren’t meant to demean the girls, but also alleged defamation. She Wednesday wrote to the Press Council of India demanding action against a local Hindi newspaper. “The report was false and malicious and aimed at defaming me. I am a woman myself and have been serving as an administrative officer for the past 30 years. I have been at the forefront when it comes to rights of girl children”, she wrote in the letter, which ThePrint has accessed.

The video of the IAS officer calling the girl’s request “stupid”, snapping at her to “become Pakistan (sic)” and to be “emancipated enough to be able to buy things for herself” has drawn sharp reactions.

“It was insensitive and unbecoming of an officer to make such remarks,” Madan Sahni, Bihar’s Social Welfare Minister said to ThePrint. “Ironically, the programme was being held to make girls from downtrodden classes studying in classes 9 and 10 more aware. We have taken cognizance of the event.”

However, he did not specify what action will be taken against Bamhrah.

Meanwhile, women’s organisations in the state, too, have expressed their displeasure over the incident.

“We condemn the behaviour of the lady IAS officer and will hold a meeting on it. It was not only insensitive but also cruel. The girl was asking a genuine question, but the lady IAS officer humiliated her. I am appalled by the fact that such a sensitive post, which deals with distressed girl children and women, is headed by such an insensitive person”, said Nivedita Jha, President of Bihar Mahila Samaj.

Also read: ‘If a girl is alone, she’s not so believable’: Bihar’s mahila thanas are no place for women

A career of controversies

This is not the first time that reports of controversies involving Bamhrah have emerged. As the district magistrate of Begusarai in the 1990s, she had reportedly thrown a powerful MP, the late Rajo Singh, out of her office for raising his voice.

In 2010, Bamhrah, then managing director of milk production body Bihar State Milk Co-Operative Federation, had left Giriraj Singh, then animal husbandry minister of Bihar, angry and humiliated by increasing the prices of milk just a day after the minister had announced that prices won’t go up.

“She can be short-tempered and foul-mouthed, but at the same time she has a reputation of being honest and hard-working,” a senior IAS officer, who wished to not be named, told ThePrint.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: ‘My career will be finished’—The story of Bihar’s first IPS woman officer


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