Invoking Goddess Durga, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday (October 22) affirmed 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 BJP.
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 then 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.
Related news: What a Durga Puja away from pandals means for Bengal
“Whenever the need was felt in India’s history, Bengal has always led the way for India and shown the path. There have been many renowned people who have come from Bengal and have contributed immensely in guiding the nation is the right direction,” NDTV quoted Modi as saying.
After naming various icons from the state, the Prime Minister said, “If I continue to take names of such Bengalis, we will come to the end of the day, but the names shall continue.”
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 Bengal’s 294 assembly constituencies.
Earlier, Prime Minister Modi tweeted in Bangla that he would virtually join the Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata on Thursday.
Taking to Twitter, Modi said, “Durga Puja is an auspicious occasion, which celebrates the victory of good over evil. We pray to Maa Durga to bless us with strength, happiness and good health.”
আগামী কাল বাঙালির প্রিয় দুর্গোৎসবের মহাষষ্ঠী। এই বিশেষ দিনটিতে, আগামী কাল দুপুর ১২টায়, পশ্চিমবঙ্গে আমার সমস্ত ভাই-বোনেদের শারদীয়ার শুভেচ্ছা জানাবো ও পুজোর আনন্দ একসাথে ভাগ করে নেব | সঙ্গে থাকবেন 🙏
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 21, 2020
“Sisters and brothers of West Bengal, Tomorrow, on the auspicious day of Maa Durga Pujo’s Mahashashti, I would join the Divine celebrations via video conferencing and shall also be extending my greetings to everyone. Do join the programme live,” he said.
Assembly polls are likely in West Bengal around April-May next year.
(With inputs from agencies)