iconimg Saturday, September 05, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 08, 2014
On International Women’s Day on Saturday, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi called for freedom to choose career and partners for women — a section of population that has found scarce space in his poll speeches. At a ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ discussion, Modi beamed across the city on video-conferencing screens from the BJP headquarters on Ashoka Road.

Attacking the UPA government for ignoring the real concerns of women, Modi said: “Not a single penny had been spent for the welfare of women out of Nirbhaya fund set up by the Centre. Women should be given equal preference like men to take decisions, when to marry and when to become parents. Equality in health and education for women should be paramount. Women education should be a mission for the nation.”

People from all walks of life attended the discussion, launched to ‘celebrate’ Modi’s humble beginnings as a tea vendor, at 64 locations in the national Capital. He took direct questions from the audience and spelled out his views on women security, empowerment and their role in democracy.

Expressing his concern over poor literacy rate among women, especially in the villages, Modi said: “One reason for high drop out rate of girls in our country is lack of toilet in schools in rural areas. One of the big problems is discrimination between sons and daughters. Social awarness should be raised to end this discrimination.”

While Modi answered a few select questions, facilitated by party workers, those who could not ask theirs also expressed their thoughts.

“Congress has ruled our country for 60 years and has only built malls and flyovers. They have done nothing for the people living in the slums. I want to ask Modiji if he becomes the Prime Minister, what will he do for the people living in ‘jhuggis’?” asked Monica Singh, a daily-wage labourer who lives in Pragati Maidan janata camp.  She attended Modi’s session at Jangpura extension.

Another homemaker made an interesting point, while listening to Modi during the discussions: “I want Modiji to bring in a law which binds the husbands to share a percentage of their salary with their wives,” said Kavita Rai at Lodi Road, whose husband works in a paramilitary force.

Modi, however, stressed on the progress of homemakers, saying: “There is a nationwide emphasis to make homemakers nation builders. Online education for women should be encouraged and women should also get engaged in legal profession and the police. They would also do much better in research work.” Modi said, underlining women’s role to in the poll process.

Savita Mehta, who runs an NGO and who attended the discussion at Jor Bagh Lane said: “Modi is the only one who can root out the virus of corruption from our country. I would also urge him to seriously look into the matter of women security and education.”