Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asserted that he was committed to women’s empowerment. addressing the women’s wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) - FICCI Ladies Organisation - here.
If many were seeing in the event a riposte to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s event at the CII last week, it was only to be expected - during his hour-long interaction, in which a number of entrepreneurs, including FICCI president Naina Lal Kidwai, were present, the women members repeatedly cheered him.
Modi said “Jasuben’s pizzas” - improvised pizzas offered in a chain pioneered by a Gujarati woman-next-door - were a big draw in Ahmedabad and often gave global pizza chains a run for their money.
Taking a subtle dig at Rahul Gandhi, a smiling Modi then said: “Now the media will think that Jasuben is like Kalawati and search for her. So, let me say that she passed away five years ago in Pune”. The audience was in splits, as the pun was not lost on anyone.
In a speech in the Lok Sabha in 2008, Rahul had referred to a farmer’s widow named Kalawati as he talked about the plight of her debt-ravaged family in a Maharashtra village. Later, she had accused him of failing to assist her.
Modi also referred to more institutionalised forms of entrepreneurship like the group running Lijjat Papad and suggested that the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry study their history and management.
Observing that 50 per cent women alone could do a lot to bring economic development in the country, Modi cited examples of women in tribal areas and the dairy movement which made Amul an internationally known brand.
Stressing that “empowerment of women” was a must for unleashing their entrepreneurial energies, Modi said property rights, in addition to reservation in public sphere, were one way to empower them.
He cited how his own government’s policy to give 2001 earthquake victims houses in the name of the women of a family had ensured their financial independence, which, in turn, helped them in having their say in decision making.
He also revealed that the state government had sanctioned special grants to villages where all the elected Panchayat members were women. “The number of such villages has crossed the 300 mark in the state,” he said.
The Chief Minister also referred to female foeticide and said how the sex ratio is skewed due to this practice which continued in some places even now. He also suggested to the industry chamber to create a dedicated web site to share success stories in women’s empowerment.