In Odisha the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has chalked out a novel and constructive programme to celebrate international women’s day and 104th birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik who pioneered reservation of 33 per cent seats for women in Panchayats in our country. It has been decided by the top leadership of the BJD that both these events shall be celebrated by organizing women’s rallies with minimum participation of three to five thousand women in each MLA constituency and honoring minimum of ten women of the constituency for their outstanding contributions to the cause of women’s empowerment. As part of the celebrations it is also planned for conducting blood donation camps within April 15th 2020 as part of Jivan Bindu programme which encourages youth to donate blood.This constructive and service oriented celebratory programmes are worth emulating across the nation for the purpose of celebration of birth anniversaries of our national leaders and observation of days dedicated for causes widely acclaimed across the world.
As part of this State wide programme Shrimati Tukuni Sahu, MLA of Titlagarh constituency and currently Cabinet Minister in Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik’s Council of Ministers holding the portfolio of Women and Child Development organized a massive rally of women in Titlagarh on 9th March 2020. It was attended by almost 10 to 12 thousand women out of which there were several Muslim women. It was a spectacular rally in every sense of the term affirming the lively and meaningful engagement of the party and its leadership with women most of whom hailed from humble background and became the rallying point for the party’s relentless quest for empowering women and making them agents of change and transformation.
It was very gracious on the part of Shrimati Tukuni Sahu to have extended an invitation to me to participate in the rally as the Chief Speaker. She organized everything for my comfortable travel, stay and participation in the mega rally and I owe a debt of gratitude to her for her nice gesture in doing so. For me it was an eye opening experience to see thousands of women participating in the rally which commenced from inspection bungalow of Titlagarh and culminated in the premises of school meant for deaf and dumb children.
The mammoth rally in the small town of Titlagarh located in Balangir district of western Odisha was truly spectacular. All along the route the participating women enthusiastically shouted Biju Patnaik Amar Rahe and Naveen Patnaik jindabd. They so passionately and respectfully recalled Biju babu and gratefully acknowledged role of Shri Naveen Patnaik in opening up scores of avenues for economically and politically empowering women.
The rally attracting more than the number of women targeted stopped for a while on its route to pay tribute to martyr Shri Abhimanyu Sahu, husband of Shrimati Tukuni Sahu, who laid down his life some years back when criminal elements fatally fired at him and grievously assaulted. It was a somber moment for all those who garlanded the statue of Shri Sahu.
Again the rally stopped for some time when Shrimati Tukuni Sahu and others garlanded the statue of legendary Biju Patnaik. The atmosphere was reverberating with the slogan of Biju Patnaik Amar Rahe and my mind remained tuned to his rich legacy marked by his historic role as the architect of modern Odisha.
As the rally reached its culmination point and thousands of women settled down in their chairs and dignitaries occupied the seats in the stage the whole atmosphere was enlivened with the idea of women’s empowerment. Presence of Shrimati Tukuni Sahu, Shrimati Pramila Mallik, Chief Whip of Biju Janata Dal in Odisha State Assembly and Shri Sushant Singh, Cabinet Minister of Odisha Government and other distinguished women representatives made the event very special.
The narrative which emerged in that memorable event captured the saga of women’s empowerment in Odisha during the twenty years of Shri Naveen Patnaik’s governance anchored on numerous schemes including the historic decision of Shri Patnaik to increase reservation of women in grassroots democratic bodies from 33 per cent to 50 per cent and field women in 33 per cent of parliamentary seats of Odisha in 2019 general elections. Some of the other transformational schemes such as Mamata for pregnant and lactating women and interest free loans worth rupees five lakhs to each of the seven hundred thousand self help groups consisting of seven million women were flagged by the speakers. Such celebration of women’s capabilities in a small town of Titlagarh as part of celebrations of international women’s day in the context of Biju Patnaik’s 104th birth anniversary reminds one of the vision of Mahatma Gandhi and advocacy of Shri Naveen Patnaik to include non-violence in the preamble of the Constitution to pay tribute to the father of our nation on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary being celebrated across the nation. Mahatma Gandhi had said in 1947 that if women of the world would come together they would release such heroic non-violence as to kick away atom bomb like a mere ball. Indeed the marvelous non-violent power of women was in full display in Titlagarh and it represented the spirit of women of Odisha which is now getting manifested in diverse realms of economic and political policies of Odisha Government. It is worth emulating across the nation to realize in practice he full potential of women in nation building and social transformation.