Congress lists massive failures of Ministry of Women and Child Development

The party says a new era of women's safety, prosperity, and development will begin when its government "takes charge in June"

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi on 22 March (photo: PTI)
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi on 22 March (photo: PTI)


The Congress on Monday, 25 March, listed "massive failures" of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) in the last 10 years and asserted that a new era of women's safety, prosperity, and development will begin when its government "takes charge in June".

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh said the formation of a Congress-led government in June 2024 will end the "10 years of anyaay-kaal for women".

He alleged the BJP government's slogans of 'nari shakti' remain empty words without real action.

For 10 years, the WCD ministry has seen only "incompetence, apathy, and an anti-women mindset," Ramesh said.

"While minister Smriti Irani herself remains silent as women across India are assaulted, waking up only for crimes in Opposition-ruled states, her ministry diverts funds away from necessary schemes and hardworking women," he claimed.

Ramesh alleged that the five "massive failures" of the ministry are: "crimes against women and children have doubled; shrinking budget & underutilisation of funds; low pay and ill-treatment of ASHA and anganwadi workers; rise in anaemia among women and children; unemployment & lost income among women".

On crimes against women and children, he said, "Around 35 lakhs cases of crime against women have been reported under the Modi Sarkaar, between 2014 and 2022 (NCRB data). Crime against women has almost doubled in the last 10 years - from 2.4 lakh crimes in 2012 to 4.5 lakh in 2022."

He said the number of POCSO incidents has also almost doubled in five years, from 32,600 incidents in 2017 to 63,400 incidents in 2022.

Ramesh said that in 2013, the UPA government had set up the "non-lapsable Nirbhaya Fund" to implement initiatives that ensure safety of women.

However, under the Modi government, the ministry has failed to utilise the funds, with only 33 per cent utilised until 2022, he said.

Ramesh said the BJP has "brutally suppressed" women wrestlers who were protesting alleged sexual harassment by MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.

"They freed the convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano - even the Supreme Court stepped in to call it blatantly 'illegal'," he said.

"From Kathua to Hathras, the BJP has made India unsafe for women. What more can we expect from the party of Kuldeep Sengar, the convicted rapist of Unnao?" he said.

"Most concerning, while every day a new report of rape and assault comes from Manipur, the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and the Minister for WCD have remained completely inertial," Ramesh said.

"If she cannot even speak up on these issues, what exactly is the Minister of Women and Child Development doing?" Ramesh said.

The Modi government has been quietly cutting the budget for the WCD Ministry, he alleged.

The Congress leader said that women who are at the frontlines of India's community health system, like ASHA, anganwadi, and mid-day meal (MDM) workers, faced the worst effects of the BJP's "incompetent and failed" management of the Covid crisis.

Despite their outstanding work during the pandemic and before, the government has completely neglected these women, he alleged.

"ASHA and anganwadi workers remain underpaid and overworked, and have gone on nationwide protests to demand wage increases," he said.

The Congress' 'Shakti ka Samaan' guarantee, however, will double the central contribution to their wages, ensuring they receive the respect they deserve, he said.

On the issue of rise in anaemia among women and children, Ramesh said the most "striking failure" of the ministry is the reversal of progress on anaemia.

The BJP has created an increasingly male-dominated and hostile environment for working women, he added.

"In 2022-23, the female labour participation rate was a mere 8.8%, indicating that over 90% of working-age women did not even look for a job. This is the lowest in almost 8 years!" he said.

Ramesh said due to "neglect and incompetence" of the present minister, the last 10 years have been a disaster for women and children in India.

Listing the five guarantees of Congress on the matter, Ramesh said that under the 'Mahalakshmi' guarantee, Rs 1 lakh per annum direct cash transfer would be made to one woman from each of India's poorest families.

Also, 50 per cent of all new recruitment to the central government positions will be reserved for women, if the Congress comes to power, he said.

The central government's contribution to the monthly pay of ASHA, anganwadi, and Mid-Day Meal workers will be doubled, he said.

"No more will the women who lead the fight to improve public health, nutrition, and education be underpaid and exploited!" he said.

"We will appoint an Adhikaar Maitri in every panchayat to serve as a paralegal to educate women and assist them in the enforcement of their legal rights," he said.

The Congress party has already introduced legislation to address crimes against women, such as domestic violence, dowry, and sexual violence, Ramesh said.

"Now, we will help women access the resources they require to assert their rights," he added.

The Congress has also promised to set up 'Savitribai Phule Hostels', under which the central government will double the number of working women's hostels in the country, with at least one hostel in each district.

"The Congress-led government that takes charge in June 2024 will end the 10 years of anyay-kaal for women, and begin a new era of women's safety, prosperity, and development in India," Ramesh said.

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