Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has allegedly advised protesting nurses not to stage a hunger strike under the hot sun as it could darken their complexion and affect their marital prospects, joining a growing list of ministers from the state who have drawn criticism for their public comments.
Anusha Sawant, one of the protesting nurses, said: "When we met the chief minister over our demands at Ponda (on Tuesday), he said the girls should not sit on hunger strike in hot sun as their complexion will become dark and they will not find a good bridegroom.
"The comment was unwarranted. We expect the CM to meet our demands if he is really worried about us," Sawant said.
Parsekar was not available for a reaction but an official in his office said: "We have no idea whether any statement was made but we don't think he would say something like that."
Nurses and others workers attached to a government-approved ambulance service run by a private firm are on hunger strike for the past few days.
They claimed the firm operates only 13 ambulances though it is being paid for 33. After their representatives met Parsekar twice, the nurses decided to confront him at every public function he attends.
"We also want to create awareness about the fraud committed by the company in connivance with government officials," said Hridaynath Shirodkar, the working president of Goa unit of Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, which is affiliated to the Rashtriyaswayam Sevak Sangh.
In January, Goa's sports and youth affairs minister Ramesh Tawadkar attracted criticism and scorn from rights activists and opposition political parties when he said the state government was planning to set up centres to treat LGBT youngsters and make them "normal".
"We will make them normal…Like Alcoholics Anonymous centres, we will have centres. We will train them and give them medicines too," he had said.
Tawadkar did a U-turn after he was rapped for his "ignorance" by the chief minister, saying he was misquoted on the issue.
In July last year, Goa minister Sudin Dhavalikar sparked a controversy by calling for a ban on young girls wearing short skirts to nightclubs. "Young girls wearing short skirts in nightclubs are a threat to the Goan culture," Dhavalikar told reporters.
Last month, Goa's assembly was informed by art and culture minister Dayanand Mandrekar that his department has barred its employees from wearing sleeveless clothes, jeans, T-shirts and multi-pocketed pants to office to "maintain decorum".
Beyond Goa, other politicians too have been criticised for their controversial remarks about women.
Last month, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav had commented on the complexion of women from south India, drawing flak from activists and parliamentarians.
During a debate in parliament on the insurance bill, Yadav had said, "Here people are awed by fair skin. Matrimonial ads also ask for fair skinned brides. The proposal to raise foreign investment is a symptom of this obsession."
Despite DMK member Kanimozhi's objection to his comments, Yadav added: "In the entire country there are more saanvle (dark skinned) men. The women of south are beautiful, their bodies...their skin ...We don't see it here. They know dance."
When the issue was later raised in the House by HRD minister Smriti Irani, Kanimozhi and some others, Yadav remained defiant and unapologetic. But he later expressed regret over his comments against Irani.