As for the political context, the PM’s reference to woman power comes at a time of the Congress party demanding his government ensure the passage of the long-pending Bill to reserve a third of Parliament and legislative assembly seats for women.
While former Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi had written to Modi on the subject a few months earlier, current chief Rahul Gandhi has also appealed to the PM to ensure its passage. The Budget session of Parliament begins on Monday.
In reference to his government’s slogan of Beti bachao, beti padhao (save and educate the girl child), the PM said respecting women has been a tradition in India. He pointed that Lopamudra, Gargi and Maitreyi contributed verses to the Vedas, and quoted Skanda Purana which said that a daughter is the equivalent of 10 sons.
Modi said women have been recognized as ‘shakti’, and spoke of the contribution of Akka Mahadevi, Meerabai, or the governance of Ahilyabai Holkar, the valour of Rani Laxmibai, and quoted a letter that lauded “the courageous Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman” for flying in a Sukhoi 30 fighter jet recently.
The PM lauded women achievers, like the all women crew of INSV Tarini currently circumnavigating the globe, the three women fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force, the all women crew of Air India flight that flew from New Delhi to San Francisco and back.
Modi said a few days back President Ram Nath Kovind invited some pioneering women in their respective fields, the first female Merchant Navy captain, the first women bus driver, and several other such “first ladies”. The said the Matunga railway station in Mumbai is the first station in India run by an all women staff, and highlighted the stunts by the all women biker contingent of the Border Security Force at the Republic Day parade.
Speaking about India’s cultural legacy of “self-correction”, the PM lauded the Bihar government for its recent campaign against child marriage and dowry system.
On affordable healthcare, Modi said over 3,000 ‘prime minister Jan Aushadhi Kendra’ have been opened to supply medicines at affordable rates. Modi said the objective behind the scheme is contribute to people’s ease of living, and medicines at these centres are 50 per cent to 90 per cent cheaper than branded drugs available in the market.
The PM also spoke of how this year’s Padma awards have been conferred on unsung heroes. He said his government has changed the methodology to award Padma awards that previous governments had followed. “You may have noticed that many ordinary people not visible in big cities, in newspapers or on television are being awarded with Padma citations,” he said.