English Release 9-March 2014
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Prime Minister's Office31-August, 2006 16:52 IST
|PM addresses the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Lady Shri Ram College|
|The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, participated in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Lady Shri Ram College here today. The PM hoped that, “we could all join hands and work together to make our homes a happier place for the girl child and our women folk. Make our cities a safer and more secure place for girls at college and women at work.” |
Speaking at the occasion, the Prime Minister emphasized on the need for a new social reform movement for gender equality and the empowerment of our women, “a movement that changes society’s attitude towards women.”
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address:
“I am delighted to be here at your Golden Jubilee celebrations for more than one reason, not only because yours is an institution with unmatched commitment to the pursuit of excellence and social responsibility in education but also because I am basically a teacher. I have strayed into politics by sheer accident. And it always pleases me to come back to academic institutions which have done so well and to see so many young bright faces that thrill my heart because I see in them the future of our country. Fifty years is a long period in history of any institution. That you have traveled this long distance with such great commitment, with such great devotion to the academic values is a tribute to founding fathers of your institution. I, therefore, begin by paying tribute to the memory of Late Sir Shri Ram and his generation of patriotic Indians who had the vision to create this great institution of learning and women’s empowerment. I also compliment Dr Bharat Ram and his associates for building on the vision of the founding fathers to create an institution of learning committed to the emancipation of our women. I also compliment my esteemed friend Dr. Bharat Ram and his associates for building on the vision of the founding father to create an institution par excellence. I compliment the successive generations of management, staff and students who have kept the flag of Lady Sriram College flying high. If I remember correctly, for the brief period that I was in the University of Delhi, University had nominated me on the governing body of this college and I also recall having participated in the selection of some teachers in Economics.
I have been told that yours is the only all-women’s college to be listed among the top ten colleges in India. This is creditable but you have to aspire to do more and I endorse the vision of your Principal that Lady Sriram College must aspire to become a full-fledged University devoted to the education of Women. I am sure the inspiring leadership of Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath and the students’ excellence and hard work has a lot to do with what you are today. I wish you well in years to come.
One of the significant hallmarks of our freedom movement was the emphasis on the emancipation of our women. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the earliest political leaders anywhere in the world to encourage women to play an active role in public affairs. Gandhiji said once, “To call women the weaker sex is a libel. It is man's injustice to women. The wife is not the husband's slave but his companion and his help-mate and an equal partner in all his joys and sorrows – as free as the husband to choose her own path.”
To choose one’s own path, however, we require the skills and the capabilities to do so. Education is an important means to that end. I am greatly impressed by the boldness of the Mission Statement of your College. It says that Lady Shri Ram College seeks to - Empower Women to Assume Leadership; Develop Critical Thinkers and Concerned Citizens; Contribute New Perspectives to the World of Knowledge; Enhance Access and Inclusivity in Quality Education; Sustain Democratic Spaces for Creative Explorations; and, Provide a Context of Learning that Enhances Professionalism, Humanism and Social Responsibility.
You have an equally impressive vision which wants to nurture women who would be world citizens, while taking pride in their culture and heritage with a sensitivity and a sensibility that celebrates diversity; women who recognize challenges as opportunities; women with professional competence and an ability to assume positions of creative leadership; women who can reconcile excellence with humanity and equity.
These are indeed lofty ideals. They are also very modern and progressive ideas. I sincerely hope each one of you imbibes these values as you graduate from these hallowed portals of learning.
While it is true that the emancipation and empowerment of our women was one of the important guiding principles of our national movement for freedom, I recognize the fact that we have a long way to go in fully realizing this idea. It has been the sincere endeavour of our Government to take this process forward. I am sure you are all familiar with the many changes in policy we have brought about to empower women. We have put in place new legislation to protect women against domestic violence and from sexual harassment at the workplace; to permit flexibility in working hours for women; to further curb the barbaric practice of Sati; to give Hindu women inheritance rights in co-parcenary property.
Our laws have been amended to prohibit arrest of women after sunset and before sunrise and to empower women in dealing with rape cases. We have introduced gender budgeting in over 40 Ministries to assess the impact of public spending on the welfare of our women. Apart from these legislative measures, we have also effected a sharp increase in funding for girls’ education and for creation of hostel facilities, especially in rural areas. And, I sincerely hope that in the next session of Parliament we will be able to bring forward legislation to reserve seats in our Parliament and State Legislatures for our women. Such reservation at the gram panchayat levels has demonstrated its efficacy in empowering women across the country.
These are all legislative and administrative initiatives to empower our women. These are necessary and important, but surely not enough. What we need in our country is a fundamental change in mindsets. We need a new social reform movement for gender equality and the empowerment of our women. A movement that changes society’s attitude towards women.
We have to vastly improve female literacy. We have to increase enrollment of girls at school. We have to increase women’s participation in the work force. We have to ensure equality of pay and provide supporting structures for mothers in work places. We have to make our cities safe for girls and women of all ages. We have to make public places, public transport, our roads and parks, our offices and homes, safe for our women. I am deeply distressed by the rising crime against women. What is most distressing is the casual approach that so many educated people take to the harassment of women. Governments cannot change social attitudes. People can and must and we need a massive national movement to lay emphasis on these values.
The worst manifestation of gender discrimination is female foeticide. How can we call ourselves a civilized society if we can tolerate such a barbaric crime? This is not committed by the illiterate and the impoverished. It is being committed, very often, in this very city, perhaps in this very neighbourhood. It is in the more developed districts and regions of our country that we find a higher incidence of this ghastly crime. This is both shocking and demeaning.
What we are witnessing in our country is truly paradoxical. On the one hand, we do see women becoming more empowered and capable. We do see greater participation of women in all walks of life. However, on the other hand, we see rising crimes against women. Our families worry about the lack of security for women. We worry about the safety of our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters. I hope we can all join hands and work together to make our homes a happier place for the girl child and our women folk. Make our cities a safer and more secure place for girls at college and women at work.
I believe that many of you have many questions in your mind and would like me to answer them. I have read through a long list of questions that you have sent me. I will be answering a few after my talk. But, let me take them all together and say this in response that I am truly impressed by your range of concerns. I feel heartened to see the kind of issues that worry you. You are all asking the right questions. I hope your journey through life will help you find the right answers to these questions.
As I said earlier this fortnight in my Independence Day address, we have many reasons to be hopeful about our future. Our march of progress as a democratic republic has been an impressive one. Nowhere else you find a country of a billion people of our diversity, of our complexity, seeking a social and economic salvation in the framework of an open society, open economy committed to respect for all fundamental human freedoms and committed to the rule of law. Our progress therefore is something we can take pride in. But there is much more we have to do to realize our chosen destiny. I quoted what Pandit Nehru said in the early hours of the 15th of August 1947. He asked us all whether we were brave enough and wise enough to face the challenge of the future. When I see your young faces, I know that we are brave enough to face the challenges before our nation. But, we must also ensure that we are also wise enough in our response to the challenges we face as a nation.
Ours is a young nation, but an ancient civilization. The world has knocked at our doors for centuries in search of wisdom, knowledge and prosperity. Today, as a young nation we must reach deep into our cultural and social inheritance and draw on our wisdom in responding to the challenges of the day, and of the future.
I sincerely hope the education you have received in this great institution will help you in your journey of life. I hope it will make you better, more creative and more productive citizens. I hope it will make you better human beings. I wish your college many more years of service in the cause of our nation. I wish each one of you a life-time of creativity and a life of adventure and enterprise. I hope you will all live your lives as happy children of our great country. Your college has served the country with great distinction for past 50 years. But I venture to think and I pray that the best is yet to come. May your path be blessed.”
(Release ID :20402)