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Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be promoting his Digital India drive across the world but a village in his native district of Mehsana in Gujarat has banned mobile phones for unmarried women.
In a Khap panchayat-like diktat, Suraj village –100 km from the state’s financial capital of Ahmedabad – decided to fine women Rs 2,100 for using or possessing a mobile phone. The informer gets Rs 200 as reward.
“Why do girls need cell phone? Internet is a waste of time and money for a middle-class community like us. Girls should better utilise their time for study and other works,” said Suraj village sarpnach Devshi Vankar.
The only exception to the rule is if a relative wants to talk to a girl, her parents can pass on their phones for conversation.
Vankar said the “entire population of 2,500”, comprising various castes, “welcomed the decision”.
Suraj village imposed the ban on February 12 but it may spread to other parts of north Gujarat as the politically influential Thakor community initiated a drive to extend the restriction, with support of other OBC communities such as the Rabari and Vankar.
The motivation of the mobile phone ban for women can be traced to an alcohol de-addiction drive by the Thakors mainly aimed at men.
As the drive progressed, the community came out with rules and regulations for women’s lifestyle. Community leaders felt just like liquor, the use of cell phones by unmarried women created a nuisance in society.
In January, Ludar in Banaskantha district was the first village to implement such a ban. The community vowed to intensify the drive against alcohol de-addiction as well as cell phones by passing resolutions during meetings being organised in rural parts of the state’s northern belt.’
“Alcohol consumption by men and cell phone use by women create a lot of disturbance in society. Young girls get misguided. It can break families and ruin relationship,” said Raikarnji Thakor, a community leader from north Gujarat.
“It (the ban) is the villagers’ idea only,” he added.