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The Rediff Interview/NCW member Nirmala Venkatesh

'Banning pubs is not the solution'

February 04, 2009

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National Commission for Women member Nirmala Venkatesh's report on the assault on women at a Mangalore pub, in which she blamed the pub owner for the incident, has been subject to severe criticism.

In this interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Venkatesh maintains she did the right thing and adds that Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development Renuka Chaudhary had no right to question her actions.

The Shri Ram Sene was clearly the culprit, but you decided to shift the focus by stating that it was the pub owner who should have done more to prevent this incident. What justification is that?

I have just pointed out the shortcomings at the pub and I stand by my statement. Even in the report which I have submitted I have mentioned that the pub owner did not provide security to the girls. What is wrong in what I said?

What action has been taken on your report?

The report is with the National Commission for Women. Let us see what they do.

Clearly Renuka Chaudhary did not like what you have done. She said she will summon you and ask for an explanation.

Nobody can summon me. The NCW is a quasi-judicial body and enjoys autonomy. This means we cannot be summoned even by the ministry. Have I made that clear?

But clearly you owe an explanation. Chaudhary is unhappy. Even NCW chief Girija Vyas too expressed reservations about your report.

Stop blaming me. Whoever is saying things against me does not know the law. Regarding Girija Vyas, she had no idea at that time that the girls who were assaulted were not coming forward to depose. I have explained that to her.

What do you expect me to do when there is no formal complaint by these girls? Even the mediapersons who have shot (video of) the incident refused to depose before me.

So you did not make an effort to meet the girls considering the fact that this entire issue revolved around them.

Of course, I did. We have made several requests and hunted high and low. But none are prepared to come and make a statement. My information is that these girls, who are daughters of big businessmen, are absconding since the incident.

Are you giving the Sene a clean chit in this incident? You seem to be more focused on the pub owner.

Of course, not. Those who are involved in this incident need to be dealt with severely. A molester has to be dealt with an iron fist and needs to be imprisoned. We don't have strong laws to deal with molesters. It is still a bailable offence and we are approaching the Supreme Court and will seek its intervention.

What is your take on pub culture?

Pub culture? What is that? Don't [Images] call it pub culture. Going to a pub is a habit and it can never be part of a culture. Like some people like gambling, some like hanging out in pubs.

Do you think banning pubs will help?

No. Banning pubs is not the solution. Let the law enforcing agencies ensure that it runs as per the norms. In this case, Amnesia (the Mangalore pub where the attack took place) violated the norms. We have pointed out that the safety of a girl is of utmost importance and the pub failed to provide security. The pub lacked the required staff strength to provide safety for women.

Now that the minister has summoned you, what are you planning on telling her?

Haven't I made it clear that no one can summon me? The minister has no right to challenge my actions and if she wants to go ahead, then I will write to the President against her.


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