WHILE IT is blamed for allegedly failing to ensure safety of women in Bengal, the ruling Trinamool Congress — with its schemes to empower women — is banking majorly on these to ensure its win in the Assembly polls. The seeming discord between the two isn’t that surprising, maintained Women and Child Development Minister Shashi Panja.
“Crimes against women — molestation, eveteasing and rape — are not political crimes. They are a part of a larger problem in our society… how we view women and the role they play. This is a social problem and isn’t unique to Bengal. It is unfortunate that the Opposition has linked it to the political system in place. Conviction rates for such crimes in the state is actually higher now than it was in the past,” she said.
“But more importantly, we are focusing on schemes that will empower and protect vulnerable young women — which can be the only long term solution,” Panja added.
In particular, Kanyashree Prakalpa incentivizes the education of girls belonging to economically backward families up to the age of 18. “Here, while education is incentivized for a longer period of time, marriage is discouraged until, at least, the age of 18. This helps the girls not only to deal with a myriad of health issues like early pregnancies, child mortality and malnutrition, but also creates a framework to protect them,” said the Shyampukur MLA.
She added: “On one hand, in case a child marriage takes place, the scheme’s cash benefits will no longer be applicable to the concerned family, At the same time, this prevents cases of trafficking where a poor family gets its daughter married to the man, who is also her trafficker.”
The Opposition’s charges against Trinamool have centred around cases of rape and molestation such as the Park Street gangrape in 2012, Kamduni rape in 2013 and another in Madhyamgram in 2013. Opposition leaders, across party lines, have alleged that Trinamool workers have become the architects of such crimes by engaging in sexual harassment, while the police watches mutely. While TMC has denied the allegations, this has done little to stem the Opposition’s attacks.
“This is not the kind of behaviour that the party endorses. In many of these crime cases, the guilty have been brought to justice. But this is not the same thing as saying that there isn’t a problem. But to drag the party in and make it seem like this is Trinamool stand on the matter is unfortunate,” said Panja.