Address by Governor at the inauguration of the Biennial Conference and launch of the Centenary Celebrations of the Maharashtra State Women’s Council in Mumbai
Address by Shri CH Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra at the inauguration of the Biennial Conference and launch of the Centenary Celebrations of the Maharashtra State Women’s Council at the Convocation Hall of University of Mumbai, Fort, Mumbai at 4.45 pm on Tuesday, 3 April 2018
Shri Ratnakar Gaikwad, former Chief Information Commissioner, Dr Smt Snehalata Deshmukh, former Vice Chancellor, University of Mumbai, Smt Smita Venkat, President, Maharashtra State Women’s Council, Smt Leena Gokhale, Vice President, Smt Rekha Joshi, Treasurer, Smt Jaishri Cadambi, immediate Past President, chairpersons and Members of various committees, social workers and volunteers, beneficiaries of various institutions of the Council, well-wishers, donors, ladies and gentlemen,
I am indeed very happy to associate myself with the inauguration of the 48th Biennial Conference of the Maharashtra State Women’s Council.
This is a very special year for the Council. The Council is stepping into its 100th year of existence and service to society. This is a remarkable feat considering the fact that the Council is run entirely by volunteers and social workers. I rejoice with you on this momentous occasion.
Since its establishment in the year 1919, the Maharashtra State Women’s Council – then known as the Bombay Presidency Women’s Council – has provided love, affection and financial, material and emotional support to thousands of marginalised women, orphan children and the elderly. It has offered the much-needed shelter to the battered women and children and helped them reconstruct their lives with new hope and confidence.
The Centenary of Maharashtra State Women’s Council is a tribute to the founding mothers like Lady Dorab J. Tata and others who established the Organization at a time when the condition of women in our society was deplorable.
The Centenary of the Council is also a tribute to all the past Presidents, office bearers and volunteers of the Council and office bearers of its various institutions.
Most importantly, the Centenary of Maharashtra State Women’s Council is also a tribute to the great spirit of philanthropy of Mumbai and Maharashtra. This is perhaps a unique organization. In its century long existence, the Council has been run and headed by women.
I have come here to congratulate you and to tell you that I am proud of you, Maharashtra is proud of you and the Nation is proud of you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
During the last 99 years, Maharashtra State Women’s Council has started or taken under its aegis, institutions such as Asha Sadan Children’s Home, Asha Kiran – Street Children Project, Bapnu Ghar or Father’s Home for women suffering from violence and abuse, Abhilasha Centre in Dharavi, Lotus Home for Senior Women Citizens, etc.
It has also been running initiatives such as Savera centre for special children, Community Study Centre and Library, Foster care project and so on.
These institutions and projects have fulfilled the diverse social and medical needs of marginalized women, children and elders through rescue, rehabilitation and restoration.
To the utmost credit of the Council, many women have been united with their families and most have become financially self-sufficient. Many children have left the portals of Asha Sadan and Asha Kiran as financially independent persons. All these men and women have made significant contributions in the nation building efforts which is really commendable.
During the last ten decades, many things have changed for women for the better; and yet many things have remained unchanged. On the positive side, there has been greater political, economic and social empowerment of women compared to what it must have been when the Council was founded.
Women constitute 48% of the country’s total population as per the 2001 Census. The principle of gender equality has been enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Constitution in fact empowers the State to adopt measures for positive discrimination in favour of women.
Many state governments have passed legislations mandating reservation of 50 per cent of seats in the elected local bodies for women. Thanks to these efforts, more than a million women are getting elected to the Panchayat Bodies of our country every five years.
Since independence, numerous laws have been enacted to further strengthen the Constitutional mandate of equality, safety and dignity of women, – whether it was the legislation relating to the Dowry Prohibition, the Maternity Benefits Act or the Equal Remuneration Act. The enactment of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005 was one more step towards promoting safety for women and, of the whole family.
In a landmark verdict given last year, the Supreme Court struck down the practice of triple talaq, ruling that there was no constitutional protection for triple talaq.
Over the years, these laws have proved helpful in enabling women to fight discrimination and to assert their rightful place in society and family.
However, and having said that, – it is a fact that we have a long way to go in ending discrimination against women. There are deep-rooted biases against women prevailing in the country even today. Female foeticide continues to be practised silently in many parts of the country. Dowry is alive and kicking and so is dowry abuse. Cases of divorce are rising. Jobs are becoming increasingly scarce and insecure, further making women in the unorganised sector more vulnerable to exploitation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thanks to the improvement in the standards of living, the average life expectancy of the people of India has increased to 69 years. Naturally, the grey population of India is increasing.
According to the 2011 census, India has 104 million elderly people having age of 60 and above. It is estimated that India will have 340 million elderly people in the year 2050. Which means, we will have an elderly population which is more than the total population of the United States of America!! With more than 80 per cent of elderly people not receiving pensionary benefits, the situation of elderly people needing social, physical, financial and emotional support is going to aggravate further.
The coming up of nuclear families have rendered elderly people vulnerable to abuse and deprivation. The issue of social and financial security of senior citizens is building into a crisis situation.
We need collective efforts to give a dignified life to our elderly people. At the same time, we need publicly-funded Old Age Homes in every district.
As father and grandfather, I am deeply disturbed to read reports of abuse and violation of small children. Recently some prominent personalities have come forward narrating the horrifying tales of their childhood exploitation by elders and close acquaintances. We need effective implementation of existing laws to punish the perpetrators of crimes against children. At the same time we need to provide counselling and care to children suffering from the trauma of abuse and exploitation. Every child deserves to get safe and secure childhood.
It is really heartening to note that the Maharashtra State Women’s Council is making every effort to educate and help orphan children, street children and other abused children and to facilitate their integration with society.
There is a growing menace of drugs and psychotropic substance to society, especially to children and youths. We need to protect our children and youth from its dangers. Greater vigilance is needed from parents, schools and colleges and law enforcement machinery.
The city of Mumbai has always been known for its Golden Heart. Philanthropists from the city have created various hospitals, infirmaries, old age homes and Dharam Shalas for the benefit of society. We need to rekindle the spirit of philanthropy in the new generation once again.
We often talk of Corporate Social responsibility. Time has come for each one of us to discharge Individual Social Responsibility.
Israel has compulsory military service for its youths. We in India must consider compulsory social service of six months for our university students. Working with organisations like Maharashtra State Women’s Council will enhance their understanding of social issues and in turn make them better citizens of the country.
I congratulate the Maharashtra State Women’s Council on the momentous occasion of the launch of its Centenary Celebrations and wish the Council Godspeed in its future endeavours.
Smt Smita Venkat has taken various initiatives to rejuvenate the organization, improve infrastructure and increase the presence of the Council on the Social Media. I congratulate and applaud her and the entire Council for their good work.
I assure you that the gates of Raj Bhavan shall always remain open for all of you. I wish the delegates fruitful deliberations and wish the Organizers all success for the conduct of the 48th Biennial Conference.
Jai Hind ! Jai Maharashtra !!