JAIPUR: Stressing on the importance of women empowerment for nation-building, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday said the custom of 'ghoonghat' must be eradicated at the earliest.
Expressing displeasure at the practice of covering women's faces with a 'ghoonghat' or veil in some rural areas, Gehlot said the custom belongs to a bygone era.
"Time has changed now but the practice of 'ghoonghat' is still there in villages.
"What is right in confining a woman to 'ghoonghat'? Women cannot progress till the 'ghoonghat' exists," he said at a programme on women empowerment in Jaipur organised by an NGO.
Gehlot said women will be able to come forward and play a constructive role in nation-building only when they are not forced to cover their faces.
"Women are empowered. They have the capacity to bring changes in society and their role is very crucial," he said.
"You (women) move forward with strength, the state government is with you," he said.
Gehlot also emphasized the importance of completely eradicating the practice of child marriages, saying it destroys the lives of children.
The chief minister said his government is serious about crime against women and therefore decided earlier this year to depute a senior police officer at the district level to monitor cases of crime against women.
"The officer will look after all such cases and will ensure that justice is done," he said.
Gehlot also said that while the state government has been providing self-defence training to school girls, he has now directed officials to extend the programme to all girls willing to join it.
He also highlighted schemes and programmes of his government and launched a book based on women's struggles.
State Women and Child Development Minister Mamta Bhupesh was present at the event.
Talking to reporters later, Gehlot praised former prime minister Indira Gandhi as a great leader and cited the Green Revolution and bifurcation of Pakistan among her achievements.
"Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to say that she was 'Durga'," he said.
The chief minister also tried to take a political potshot at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming he has not mentioned Gandhi "even once in five-six years".
"She was a woman who raised the honour of women all over the world. But the prime minister is hesitant in taking her name," he said.
Replying to a question on the coming civic body polls, Gehlot asserted, "We will win the elections."