New Delhi: The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh has directed every department to start every government programme with a kanya puja, stating that such a move will ensure women empowerment.
The kanya puja is a Hindu ritual that involves the worship of minor girls, considered auspicious, before starting something new.
In a circular issued Wednesday, the state government has directed district magistrates, mayors and department heads to strictly hold a kanya puja before any government event.
In his last tenure as chief minister, Chouhan had directed officials to worship and wash the feet of minor girls before any government event. The practice was discontinued when the Congress government of Kamal Nath took over. The earlier circular, issued by Chouhan government, was never practised but this time, the government has said that the recent orders should be implemented in their entirety.
BJP spokesperson and senior party leader Govind Malu said the gesture would go a long way in sending a message that the government is serious about women empowerment.
“Shivraj is more popular among women than men,” Malu said. “Women tie him rakhi and he constantly cares about women. In every rally of his, there is a remarkable presence of women and that is the reason they have voted for Shivraj in huge numbers.”
“So it is natural to empower women through these symbolic gestures,” he added. “Every chief minister should adopt this practice; women will feel good and secure.”
‘Logistical issues, tokenism’
Government officials, however, flagged logistical issues with the circular.
“The intention is good to send a message to society but who will be responsible for the safety of the girl called for the function,” a senior civil servant in the Madhya Pradesh home department said. “How will the girl be selected? These are issues that will be a challenge for the departments concerned. Symbolism is good but it will be tough to implement across the state.”
The opposition slammed the move, saying the government should focus on the safety of women in the state. “Only kanya puja is not enough for empowerment and safety of women,” former chief minister Kamal Nath tweeted. “30 children have died in Shahdol, which itself tells the story of women safety. They need safety not puja.”
प्रदेश में प्रतिदिन मासूम बच्चियाँ दरिंदगी का शिकार हो रही है।
उन्हें आज सुरक्षा की सबसे ज़्यादा आवश्यकता है।
एक तरफ़ आपकी सरकार यह आदेश निकाल रही है , वही दूसरी तरफ़ शहडोल में एक
माह में 30 मासूम बच्चे मौत की आग़ोश में समा चुके है।
— Office Of Kamal Nath (@OfficeOfKNath) December 25, 2020
A ‘women-friendly CM’
Chouhan has an image of being a women-friendly chief minister. He gave himself the sobriquet mamaji (maternal uncle) after he introduced the Ladli Laxmi Scheme in 2006, through which the state government deposits Rs 1.8 lakh in the name of every new-born girl child. The money, held in the national savings certificate, is handed over to the parents of the girls for education and marriage needs.
Chouhan has also implemented 50 per cent reservation for women in local body polls and 30 per cent reservation in police recruitment. He was the first to introduce a gender budget as a separate budget that is passed separately in the assembly.