Invoking Goddess Durga, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday reaffirmed his government's irrevocable commitment to women's empowerment.
Reaching out to the people of West Bengal during the state's biggest festival, the prime minister said though it was being celebrated on a limited scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the "enthusiasm is still unlimited".
Noting that Goddess Durga was worshipped as a symbol of 'Shakti' (strength), Modi said his government was consistently working for the empowerment of women.
"From opening Jan Dhan accounts for 22 crore women, giving soft loans to them under the Mudra Yojana, to launching Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao initiative, granting permanent commission to women in the armed forces and extending maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, we have taken a number of steps for their empowerment," he told a gathering at Durga Puja celebration organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
He also said anti-rape laws were made more stringent to include death penalty.
"We are alert towards the security of women," he said.
The prime minister's remark came in the backdrop of a string of incidents of rape and murder of women, including the Hathras incident that shocked the nation and triggered outrage against the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh.
The prime minister recalled the contributions of reformers from Bengal like Ram Mohun Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, spiritual leaders Ramkrishna Paramhans and Swami Vivekananda, cultural giant Rabindranath Tagore, and revolutionaries like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Khudiram Bose in shaping India's national identity.
Durga Puja, he said, was the epitome of pluralism and reflected the collective strength of India.
The BJP had made elaborate arrangements for live viewing of the prime minister's virtual address from the national capital.
The event was televised live at over 78,000 polling booths across the state's 294 assembly constituencies.
Assembly polls are likely in West Bengal around April-May next year.