Perhaps as a salve to the outraged sentiments of women across Maharashtra, the state government and the police have taken every care to celebrate International Women’s Day in a big way today. Besides organising an oath-taking ceremony at all government offices, its allied offices and education institutions, a number of other programmes have also been lined up. But the fact that they have issued directives at the eleventh hour - giving establishments just a day to prepare makes one wonder about the sincerity of the initiative.
While a special event has been planned at Pune where Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan will be submitted a draft of the state policy for women, people at state offices, corporations, public undertakings, and state-run educational institutions will be pledging to maintain dignity and honour of women. While the chief secretary’s order was issued on March 4, four days ahead of International Women’s Day, the government directive listing all the events to be hosted on the occasion was issued only on March 6 giving authorities just a day to work on the arrangements.
The oath has been suggested by the government through a circular signed by Chief Secretary J K Banthia. The circular also asks the government offices at state, regional, district and taluka level to organise Women’s Day programmes where local leaders such as MLAs and MLCs should be invited. Divisional commissioners, district collectors, tahsildars have been asked to give speeches and organise events spreading the word about state-sponsored schemes for women, or honouring prominent personalities in the field of women’s welfare.
They have also been briefed to organise health camps, stage street plays, rallies, put up posters and banners, organise sporting activities and debate competitions. The circular also says that various committees should be set up for celebrations. But they have been given all but one day to prepare for these elaborate programmes.
Reacting to the last minute circular, a government official said it was surprising that it was issued just a day before the events were to be held, giving field offices little time to work on the directives. He said it was virtually impossible to invite prominent personalities at such a short notice. Yet, any failure to organise the activities may invite the wrath of seniors.
Officials from the Women and Child Development department pleaded helplessness, saying that they were so busy preparing for the Pune event that they could only issue the circular on Wednesday. Taking a cue from the lokshahi din initiative organised specially to address grievances of people, the government has decided to organise a Mahila lokshahi din exclusively for women once a month. It will be organised at Mantralaya and the divisional commissioner’s office on every second Monday of the month, at the district collectors’ offices every third Monday, and at the Taluka level every fourth Monday.
The city’s police force has also organised an exchange programme between women and the police at the Gateway of India, which will be graced by Bombay High Court Chief Justice Mohit Shah, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Home Minister R R Patil and his deputy Satej Patil. The city police have prepared campaign materials, booklets and pamphlets, which will be published during the event. A short film has also been produced on women’s safety, which will be screened on television and other media.
As a part of its campaign to provide more protection to women, the city police have been asked to address grievances of women with utmost courtesy and sensitivity, said an official working in Home Minister R R Patil’s office. Instructions have been given to engage only female police officials to take statements of female complainants. Deputy police commissioners have been asked to monitor progress on cases of violence against women, to avoid delay.
Take an oath
A circular, signed by Chief Secretary J K Banthia, urges government establishments to take the following oath: ‘I, at home, workplace and in our society will not discriminate between boys and girls, and will also resist any kind of physical or mental atrocities. I will not indulge in any act that will harm the dignity of girls and women. I will respect their rights and honour.’