In the series on the performance of various ministers in the Modi government, let’s take a look at Maneka Gandhi, Minister for Woman and Child Development.
Maneka Gandhi is the widow of Sanjay Gandhi, elder son of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Sanjay Gandhi died when she was just 23, and her son Varun was just about 100 days old. After the death of Sanjay Gandhi, she had a fallout with Indira Gandhi, and was eventually forced out of Prime Minister’s residence. She contested 1984 Lok Sabha elections against Rajiv Gandhi, but lost. After that, she joined VP Singh’s Janata Dal, and contested 1989 Lok Sabha elections from Pilibhit Constituency and won. She joined the government as Minister of State for Environment. Thereafter she has continuously been elected as Lok Sabha member from Pilibhit, except for 2009 elections, when she won Aonla Constituency, and Pilibhit was represented by her son Varun Gandhi. She joined BJP ahead of 2004 general elections. She contested 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections as an independent candidate, however, supported NDA government and handled various ministerial portfolios. After 2014 elections, she was given Women and Child Development ministry. She is a well-known environment and child rights activist.
Here are her achievements as WCD minister.
Making adoption procedure completely online through CARA – Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA) is the nodal agency under WCD ministry for adoptions. In her tenure, Maneka Gandhi has completely made the adoption procedure online through CARA. Parents willing to adopt children, have to register themselves on the website of CARA, filling complete personal details. After filling the details, they are given a waitlist number. After registering, social workers associated with the ministry make a personal visit to applicants. They verify and cross-check all the details given by the prospective parents. After their positive report, the status of the parent is logged under verified. Post verification, as waitlist moves ahead with the adoptions, parents are able to adopt the children. This has greatly reduced malpractices happening in adoptions by unscrupulous people and NGOs.
Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Abhiyan – Alarmed at critical fall in child sex ratio in 2011 census, the government launched Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Abhiyan to increase the number of girl child. Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao is an umbrella scheme, where the government has undertaken a number of schemes. The overall goal of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme is to celebrate the girl child, and enable her education. The objectives of the scheme are to prevent gender-biased sex-selective elimination, ensuring survival, protection and education of the girl child. Under this scheme, there are two major components like mass communication campaign to create awareness, and multi-pronged action in 100 districts with low child sex ratio. Communication campaign aims at ensuring girls are born, nurtured and educated without discrimination to become empowered citizens. The campaign interlinks national, state and district level interventions with community-level action in 100 districts, bringing together different stakeholders for accelerated impact. Fruits of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao are clearly seen in the state of Haryana, which was infamous for female feticide and low sex ratio, it now stands improved at 924 girls per 1000 boys as of December 2018 from an abysmal low of 832 in 2012.
Amendment to POCSO act and IPC to make stringent punishments for rape – The government has approved amendments to the POCSO Act, and introduced stringent measures to check the circulation of child pornography, and administration of hormones to children to attain early sexual maturity. It has done so to catch up with the offenders as existing laws were proving futile to stop this menace. Government has also amended the Indian Penal Code to punish child rapist with death, and ensuring speedy trial in cases where the victim is minor in fast track courts. This law is expected to discourage the trend of child sexual abuse by acting as a deterrent, due to strong penal provisions incorporated in the act.
Increase in maternity leave for women – Government amended Maternity Benefit Act in 2017, and increased the maternity leave available to working women from existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks to the much respite of women, for them being able to care for their newly born.
The author is journalism pass out from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. After dangerously flirting with the idea of left during his IIMC days, due to the proximity of the IIMC with JNU, a den of radical leftists, he became firmly aligned to right after realizing the futility of the left. He tweets at @kpophale.