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Modi: Iron man to ladies' man with focus on growth

Last updated on: August 4, 2011 10:13 IST

Modi: Iron man to ladies' man with focus on growth

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Aditi Phadnis


Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Young Ficci Ladies Organisation (YFLO) in Delhi recently.

His message to young mothers and professional women entrepreneurs was not that Hindu women are born better Indian citizens than Muslim women. It was that women must be made to feel wanted by society.

For this, they must reject superstition; become economically self-sufficient; they must lay emphasis on values of motherhood (which is the personification of sacrifice); and the state must recognise the aspirations of women and be supportive of them.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com
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In Gujarat, he said, stamp duty was waived if property was registered in the name of women and the mother's name was mandatory in school admission forms.

These were just two important steps among many that the government had taken to worship the ground on which Gujarat's women walked.

It was clear that the women in the hall had begun to feel good about themselves.

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Photographs: Reuters
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A young ingenue in the audience said: "I am sure it would be impossible for other states to fully implement these schemes. But what is possible is that we come to Gujarat to get these benefits. So how can we do that?"

To this Modi smiled and replied, "You can come by train, by flight and if you are so inclined, even by bus. We have good services. Come, you won't want to go back."

This was not a gathering of political people wanting to bait Modi. So nobody asked him why Babu Bajrangi, Bajrang Dal leader, is still out on bail.

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Bajrangi described to Tehelka in a sting operation how he cut open a pregnant Muslim woman during the Gujarat riots (in the interest of fairness it must be said that the state government has moved a plaint in court asking that his bail be cancelled); or about the killings of Ishrat Jahan and Kauser Bi.

These were events that shocked India. But his speech did explain why a large number of women in Gujarat were in Modi's thrall. And it wasn't only about his "chhappan inch ni chhati" (56-inch chest) or his pretty face either.

The Gujarat government has launched something called 'Mission Mangalam'. Visualise a gigantic employment exchange that will maintain a database of skilled (and unskilled) labour.

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com
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This corporation will dovetail with the network of self-help groups but especially, women's SHGs. Thirty-two Indian companies have already bought into the corporation by investing Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion).

The state government-promoted Gujarat Livelihood Promotion Company Ltd will be the convergence platform for livelihood programmes.

So, strategic partnerships with banks, professional institutions, skill-development agencies, industry associations, etc will provide finance, skills and market information to SHGs. Obviously, the biggest chunk of this will go to women.

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Photographs: Reuters
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At the YFLO meeting, Modi explained how this will work. Take cattle rearing and the milk industry. In rural Gujarati households, he said, the task of taking care of cattle falls on the women of the house.

They don't consider it extra work, he said, they view it as part of their housework. But their contribution is mindboggling.

He described how he recently feted at a function, a simple rural unlettered woman who was responsible for selling 72 lakh (7.2 million) litres of milk in FY 2010-11. 72 lakh litres!

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Image: Lions at the Gir National Park in Gujarat.

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So if you are an SHG of women having a large number of goats you can get together, make contact with Mission Mangalam, sign a contract and get consultancy for higher yield, insurance, breeding and so on. All free.

Modi is deeply concerned about the health of tribal women. A simple system has been put in place. If any community leader gets news that a tribal woman is pregnant, she is taken to the nearest doctor.

He sends a text message to the health department, informing them that the woman is under his care. He then does a health assessment, following them up with ultrasound and other tests.

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Special food packets are handed over to the woman. He makes arrangements for the woman to be admitted in hospital for the birth of the child.

When the child is born and its name is registered with the Registrar of births and deaths, Rs 1,800 is automatically credited to his or her account by the state government.

How is this paid for? The Gujarat budget for women and child welfare has gone up from Rs 300 crore (Rs 3 billion) in 2006-07 to Rs 1,281 crore (Rs 12.81 billion) in 2011-12.

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Image: Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata with Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters
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In Modi's scheme of things, anganwadi workers are crucial because it is the anganwadi that is the nodal point of delivery.

All anganwadi centres have cooking gas, electricity, fans, water and toilets. He never misses a chance to mingle with these workers, pat them on the head and give them cash rewards.

Modi told the ladies of YFLO that it had been ordained that women play a big role in administration.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Accordingly the celestial home ministry was manned by Durga and the finance ministry by Lakshmi and so on.

But, he said, "in my state, we have a governor, who, despite being a woman herself, has returned to the government, a Bill seeking to make 50 per cent reservations of seats for women in local bodies mandatory..."and he sighed.

What he did not say was that his government had clubbed the reservation Bill with another making it mandatory for Indians in Gujarat to vote in local body elections.

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Image: A villager looks at decorated camels of Border Security Force (BSF) during the Rann camel safari.
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The Governor, Kamla Beniwal, returned the Bill on the grounds that it could be unconstitutional to force people to vote. But the politician that Modi is, he didn't tell the ladies of YFLO that!

Gujarat has already overtaken Maharashtra in infrastructure, capacity and investment. And putting aside political correctness of the past, industry is flocking to Gujarat.

But Modi is not overly bothered. His constituency -- the women of Gujarat -- is safe.


Image: Narendra Modi.
Photographs: Reuters
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