After row, Bihar IAS officer issues apology for her ‘condom’ remark
CM Nitish Kumar, when pressed for a response, said, “I have ordered an inquiry into the issue about which I learnt through newspapers. We are committed to providing all assistance to the women in the state. If the IAS officer’s behaviour is found to be against that spirit, action will be taken.”
Days after a senior woman IAS officer’s “condom” jibe at school girls triggered widespread outrage in Bihar, the officer on Thursday tendered an unconditional apology, even as chief minister Nitish Kumar hinted at action against her.
At a state-level workshop organised by the state’s social welfare department in collaboration with UNICEF in Patna on Tuesday, IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer Harjot K Bhamra, currently an additional chief secretary heading the state’s women and child development commission, rebuked the school girls when they requested that the government consider providing them subsidised sanitary napkins.
“There is no limit to such freebies. The government is already giving you a lot. Today, you want a packet of napkins for free. Tomorrow, you may want jeans and shoes and, later, when the stage comes for family planning, you may demand free condoms as well,” Bhamra said.When the girls responded. Bhamra asked them to go to “Pakistan”.
A video clip of the September 27 function has since been circulating on social media.
“I express regret if my words hurt any girl’s sentiments. I didn’t intend to humiliate anyone or hurt anyone’s sentiments. The entire event was dedicated to create awareness among adolescent girls about the government provisions for them. We wanted to motivate them to become self-dependent and confident enough to take their own decisions about life and career. It was during this discussion I asked girls to stop asking things for free,” Bhamra said in a signed statement on Thursday evening. “My intentions were not wrong,” she said.
She did not explain her comment on condoms or Pakistan.
CM Nitish Kumar, when pressed for a response on Thursday, said, “I have ordered an inquiry into the issue about which I learnt through newspapers. We are committed to providing all assistance to the women in the state. If the IAS officer’s behaviour is found to be against that spirit, action will be taken.”
The National Commission for Women (NCW) also took cognizance of the matter on Thursday and sought an explanation from Bhamra.
The workshop where Bhamra made the comment was, in fact, an awareness programme, “Sashakt Beti, Samriddha Bihar” for adolescent girls. During the session the guests discussed several government plans and provisions for adolescent girls, including separate toilets on school premises, installation of sanitary pad vending machines at schools and ₹300 given by the government to the adolescent girls for purchasing sanitary napkins. It was during this interactive session that a girl asked whether the government could organize discounted napkins.
Bhamra responded by saying, “So much dependence on the government is not good. You might further ask for jeans, shoes and condoms.”
When another girl mentioned how leaders turn up asking for votes during elections, the officer shot back, “Do you vote in lieu of any money or services?”
Going further, Bhamra said they could “go to Pakistan” .
Social welfare minister Madan Sahni said that the officer should have maintained some balance while responding to the queries. “All the things that the girls were demanding are already being given by the government. The provisions for separate toilets for girls and sanitary pad vending machines are also being implemented,” he said.
Women activists called the officer’s behaviour “insensitive”.
“It was very insensitive on the IAS officer’s part.She should not have advised the girl to go to Pakistan. Some people have already been using these words for vested interests,” Meena Tiwari, national general secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) said.