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‘My aim is to empower women’

‘My aim is to empower women’
Describe your journey from botany graduate to Lok Sabha MP?

It’s not just botany. There is a law degree too. After botany, I was quite sure that I did not want to get into research and teaching. I wanted something else. So, I picked up law. I have been practicing law for over 25 years now. But there were other causes too. Application of law is central to democracy. Thus, my journey began with certain complicated social and legal issues, where I applied the law to bring justice to the people.
 
What drew you to politics?

One could say destiny. However, it is my desire to become an agent of change and work towards social causes that turned me to politics.
 
You won the prestigious New Delhi constituency with over 4.5 lakh votes as a BJP candidate. Was that the proudest moment of your political career?

No, you have to be humble about it. You have to be humble about what drove the people to cast their votes in this manner. But future success in politics only increases by the commitments you can deliver to your constituency. Here what you can do is delivering on the promises and schemes that the central government has made. At the end of the day, it’s about the people. As an MP, your constituency takes precedence over everything else.
 
You have been associated with commissions for women’s empowerment. What is your view on women’s empowerment?

What can we do further empower them?  After observing many people in my life, I think that a woman’s life is a battle for her dignity and safety. So if society chooses to accord safety-security to a woman, she is powerful enough to make her own way.
 
The Government of India has introduced various schemes on women’s empowerment, notably the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme. Tell us about it.

‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is not a mere slogan, but a message. The message seeks to challenge the prevailing gender bias and attitudes that exist in our society. What can we do to change society’s attitudes? There are many precursors. Precursors come in the form of law, schemes and certain benefits. I think the Government of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done a fantastic job. It takes courage to recognize and challenge the vices of our society. Our Prime Minister has shown that courage. He has accepted it as a wrong and shown the courage to reform.
 
How would you rate the AAP government’s performance? 

The best way to assess it is by asking certain basic questions. What has changed in the past two years? Has the water crisis been resolved? Has the level of education set up changed? Has the pollution level gone down? Are there enough jobs? Basically, has there been any change in the life of the people? No intervention has been made so far.

 There are few changes. But those changes have been triggered by the Centre. The UD brought in plot allotment to regularize unauthorized colonies where no ‘naksha’ is needed to build houses since this is where corruption happens. Many changes have been brought by agencies that are working under the central government. But the agencies working under the state government are non-functional. One of the biggest examples is the ‘Swaraj’ conversation during assembly elections. AAP promised that 20% of its budget will be given to local bodies. Now elections come and go. I got Rs 400+ crores for electricity because there were transformer-related problems last summer. There was no government in Delhi at the time and the city was facing electricity-related problems.

 So the amount was granted by the central government to generate greater power capacity. I also got Rs 900 crores for the Jal Board to regularize water resource management and curb the water crisis. You need larger pipelines to regularize water supply to the entire population. I personally feel that this is needed for Delhi’s growing population. But these sums have not been spent!

In Delhi, one of the big issues is women’s safety. How would you rate the AAP government regarding this issue in last one year? Have they taken any persuasive action to curb the social menace?
Again, a lot of ‘Tamasha’ is happening. There is a Delhi Commission for Women. They have given excellent media bytes, but nothing concrete. A government is not run in front of the camera.
 
Do you think the political parties are serious about the 1/3rd reservation for women in Parliament?

I am opposed to the Reservation Bill, in its current form. I am in favor of amendments in Election. When you talk about women development then it has to be women-led development. This is the crux of the matter. Women –led development means there has to be equal participation of women. The participation of women in nation-building basically from labour to information technology department, everywhere a woman needs to be ensured equal opportunity. If you give an opportunity to women they produce results which no one else can.

You’ve written columns and participated in various TV talk shows. Do you think that the Indian media focuses more on sensationalizing issues than presenting the real facts?

Absolutely! There are all kinds of people in this world. Similarly, not everyone in the media is bad. I believe in freedom of speech and expression. No democracy can exist without this sort of power structure. The voice of the people needs to be heard. The media serves as a useful conduit between the government and the people it governs. 

But unfortunately, people with the help of a few decision makers go on the wrong track. For some, the driving force is money and proximity to power centers. According to me, it is an unfortunate aspect of today’s media. But I do not want to paint the entire media with the same brush. I know there are brave journalists who have gone to jail for exposing the truth. But there are also those who accepted money from Augusta Wasteland! There are few people who sit in the realm of a particular party.
 
You are considered a rising star in your party. Comparisons have been made between you and Prime Minister Modi. How do you see it?
 I am very surprised at such comparisons! Mr. Modi is someone that I look up to and I hope every BJP and non-BJP workers look up to him. Mr. Modi is the tallest leader in terms of capacity and aura. So, one would want to go out following his footsteps. The comparisons drawn are unfair. He is too tall a leader for any such comparisons. But yes I definitely draw a lot of inspiration from him! In fact, party member does. In fact, sometimes the pressure and scrutiny put on him is unfair.
Simontini Bhattacharjee

Simontini Bhattacharjee

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