KOCHI:When politician Margaret Alva brought out her book, ‘Courage and Commitment’, last year, she was pained by the unnecessary controversy it had created.
The former four-time governor and Union Minister, whose book courted controversy after it detailed a lack of trust between former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and party president Sonia Gandhi, today, however has no regrets about her revelations.
“I just recollected certain facts about what was happening in the inner circles of the Congress party. Even Sonia has acknowledged that it is my story and I had the right to write my mind,” she says. Margaret’s book will be launched in Kerala on Thursday.
Alva, who is also known for her powerful statements on women issues, says that it is time leaders stop cashing in on women atrocities and try to score political points. “No political party can play holier than thou. Everyone is equally responsible,” says Margaret, referring to the recent abuse of a female Mollywood star in Kerala. She said that it was time women spoke firmly about their rights. “When India’s sole women’s bank closed down, mine was the lone voice fighting for its revival. We need to ensure that women-friendly policies continue to be designed,” said Margaret, who was in Kochi to attend the Women’s Conclave organised by the Kerala Management Association.
Margaret says that the Nirbhaya centres, introduced by the Congress-led government, to ensure that victims don’t have to run from one corner of her constituency to another is not doing well.
“The aim was to ensure that doctors, NGOs, police and a social worker were all in the same place. We had also suggested that clothes be made availalbe to the rape victim who approached the police station directly. However, the project has fallen through in many states due to the lack of funding,” she added.
Speaking about the women reservation bill, which is still pending in the Lok Sabha, Margaret, who advocated the bill, says that it is surprising that the bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha, is still pending in the Lok Sabha, where the BJP has a majority. “They should explain why they are sitting on the bill,” she added.
She is not quiet about her criticisms against the Modi government’s various initiatives, including the heavy budget cuts to projects like the Integrated Child Development Society (ICDS). “It is the naked truth that in a country where four out of 10 stunted children are Indians, the government decided to bring down funds catering for the children’s well-being,” said Margaret, while adding that the demonetisation issue has affected women, especially rural folks, across the country.
“These women manage with whatever money they have in their homes, because they don’t want their husbands to take it from them. The demonetisation drive has affected them badly,” she adds.
Margaret is also critical about how the youth in the country have been rendered voiceless. “I may not agree with all their views, but that is democracy when you must let them speak,” she says.
From club singer to the Padma Shri: Usha Uthup looks back
Age is only a number for Usha Uthup. The singer, who will turn 70, this year, mesmerised the audience at the KMA Women Leadership seminar held in Kochi on Wednesday, with her rendition of the Hindi song, ‘Bindiya Chamkegi’. And for all that she has become today, she says, she is very proud of her middle-class background and would not forfeit it for anything else.
“ I went to school in Mumbai with only two pairs of uniforms and two shoes. It was this upbringing, which made me stick to sarees even while singing at night clubs,” she says. “But you need to change with the times. I adapted, too, but kept certain values intact.”
One of her greatest achievements, was winning the Padma Shri award in 2011. “It was the love of the people that took me so far,” she says. “I am so proud to say that a club singer went on to become one of the highest civilian awards in the country.”