The much-hyped ‘Mahila Sammelans’ organised across the State with an avowed aim of ‘empowering’ women was a costly affair. Each of the 20 sammelans, attended personally by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saw the State government spending more than Rs 5.5 crore on the scheme.

Women activists are crying foul over what they call was ‘unnecessary’ expenditure, which could have been channeled to set up offices for the better implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) passed a year ago, which is yet due on the government.

The State government spent all these money over hiring vehicles for the purpose of bringing female crowd to the venue from distant areas, supplying food packets, and arranging posters and publicity of the programmes.

The figure detailing the expenditure was obtained through an application filed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act by Tripti Shah, a human rights and feminine activist based in Vadodara.
In the last one year, the State government organised 20 sammelans across 16 districts, starting on March 8, which is celebrated as International Women’s Day.

The sammelans ran in parts for over a year and saw not much activity except for the government selling its schemes to the crowd and the chief minister himself promoting the project and doling out schemes like widow pension and easy loans for women, schemes that could have been the part of the scheme.

“The State government spent money enough to set up the offices of Protection Officers to oversee the implementation of the PWDVA that was implemented one year ago on October 26, 2006. The sum of Rs 5.5 crore that was spent on the sammelans could have funded offices of the Protection Officers (POs) for five years in all these districts, which is severely lacking in the State, leading to a poor implementation of the Act,’’ said Shah.

In the current arrangement, the State government has asked the Social Welfare Officers in each district to act as Protection Officers.

“The Social Welfare Officers double up as Protection Officers. These officers are already overburdened as they are responsible for the implementation of dozens of social welfare schemes and PWDVA. This itself shows the State government is not much concerned about the mahila welfare in the State,’’ Shah said.

Ahmedabad, October 29, 2007
Express news service