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Meet Orissa’s moral police

The SWC chairperson feels nothing wrong in entering parks to “convey her safety concerns” to the girls.
Hindustan Times | By Soumyajit Pattnaik, Bhubaneswar
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2008 12:43 AM IST

Moral policing by none other than the chairperson of State Women Commission (SWC) of Orissa, Namita Panda, has sent a chill down the spine of young lovers in state capital Bhubaneswar.

The SWC chairperson feels nothing wrong in entering parks to “convey her safety concerns” to the girls who are often deceived by boyfriends. Panda’s “Operation Park”, which was launched on Friday, would continue for a few more days.

Though Panda is entering the parks accompanied by khaki-clad women, Bhubaneswar Police said it was not a joint operation and they have no role in the SWC drive. Women activists have, however, described Panda’s moves as “fascist”. The SWC chairperson retorted by saying: “Incidents of rape, unwed motherhood and trafficking of girls have been increasing in the state. An initiative was needed to speak to the girls who are often taken for a ride. Moreover, when young couples indulge in obscene behaviour in public, the very purpose of the parks is defeated. There is a need to check social indiscipline by curbing obscene activities in public places.”

Tapashi Praharaj, state president of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), told the Hindustan Times: “Panda’s eviction of lovers from the parks violates human rights and is against all democratic norms. Can she decide who’ll sit in the parks or not? No civilised society can tolerate such fascist activities. The woman who was dragged from a bus in Konark and gangraped was not roaming in any park. Since the SWC has failed to provide security to women of the state, they are indulging in such anti-women activities.”

A lover confronted by Panda said: “She came accompanied by TV cameras. That shows whether she is really interested to revive the moral fabric of the society or publicise her activities.”

Bhubaneswar Deputy Commissioner of Police Amitabh Thakur said: “I don't think when grown-up boys and girls meet in the parks, there is any problem. There is no joint operation with the SWC.”

Panda’s husband Brahmananda Panda is a Biju Janata Dal Member of Parliament from Jagatsinghpur Lok Sabha constituency.

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