New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the status of women in India has become worse than that in the 18th century despite progress made by society in other areas.

"In our culture, mothers have the highest place. But a lot of bad things have crept into our society. In the 18th century female foeticide had started," he said, addressing the annual general meeting of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO).

Modi said that after independence it seemed that the country would move towards a modern India. “It seemed we will show the world what is a woman's place. But it seems that as we progressed, our society has degenerated,” he said. “Sometimes I feel our situation has become worse than that in the 18th century. In the 21st century, girls are being killed in the womb. Both men and women are equally responsible for that," he said adding that this problem also existed in Gujarat.

Modi slams Guj Governor over women’s reservation

Modi also criticised Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal for not signing a legislation reserving 50 percent of all seats in local bodies to women. Modi was asked by a member of the FICCI's women wing to detail what he would do regarding women's reservation in governance ‘when you come to the centre’,  a remark that led to vigorous clapping.

Modi said the Gujarat Assembly had passed a legislation reserving 50 percent of all seats for women in panchayat, nagar panchayat, nagar palika, mahanagar palika and zila panchayat. "But we could not implement it because our Governor has withheld her signature. It is our misfortune that the bill is stuck although we have a woman governor," he said.

‘Entrepreneurship is in-built in women’

The Gujarat Chief Minister, who was speaking on "Unleashing the entrepreneur within", used several anecdotes and examples to emphasise his points on empowerment of women. He said given the same opportunities the "women go two steps ahead" of men.

Modi gave examples from his state while talking about exemplary achievements of women entrepreneurs. He referred to the huge success of Lijjat papad and how it was started by a group of village women. He said entrepreneurship is in-built in women and if an opportunity is given for this to flourish, it gives results. However, he rued, women are mostly confined to the background.

Things are changing now, he said, with more and more men seeking working wives. Modi referred to female foeticide and said how the sex ratio is skewed due to this practice which continued in some places even now. He emphasized on the dignity of women and giving them respect, which they enjoyed in the past.

Modi attacks Congress

Gujarat Chief Minister took a dig at the Congress while stating that his state needed to see much more economic development. Since assuming office in Gujarat in 2001, he said he had been busy filling up the numerous "pits" left behind by decades of Congress rule in the coastal state.

"So far I have only done the work of filling up the pits. You can imagine what massive pits the Congress created,” he said. 

Modi ridicules Rahul on 'Kalavati'

Talking of women's entrepreneurship, he referred to a Jasubehn, whose pizzas could beat even known international brands, in Gujarat. "But before our friends from the media go there to find out if Jasubehn is like Kalavati, I would like to tell them she died five years back. Her pizzas, however, still have a big market," Modi said.

This was a barb aimed at Rahul Gandhi who had in a speech in Parliament referred to Kalavati, the widow of a poor farmer who had committed suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra a few years ago.

Modi described himself as an ‘ordinary man’

Modi said he had given property rights to women in his state and also provided them stamp duty relief. The Gujarat Chief Minister described himself as an "ordinary man" having all the failings that such a person has. "No human being is complete. In everybody there are some shortcomings. I have all the shortcomings of an ordinary man but the values (sanskar) that I received I have been able to leave some of them behind.... I have not reached the height where I can evaluate myself. It is for you all to do," he said.

Reaching out to the elite audience, Modi said he would welcome their feedback on him through social media including Twitter and Facebook.


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