Women artists from Amritsar exhibit at Gaiety theatre

10 women artists, hailing from the holy city of Amritsar, are all set to put up an exhibition of their work at Shimla’s historic Gaiety theatre, displaying 50 art works including sculptures and paintings over a span of three days beginning June 13.Working tirelessly and reaching out to people with their art visibility and acclaim, the all-women group consists of women from all ages, with the youngest member of the group being 17 and the oldest one being 47, the creative diversity reflecting in their work is refreshing.

Their last exhibition at Shimla was successful as many of the paintings got sold and over 500 visitors registered every day. This year, they have creating artwork in mix medium, especially for the show.The group indulges in a lot of touring as they realize that not many can walk into galleries and understand art, especially in such small cities where there is lack of knowledge and sensitivity towards art. Therefore, these groups like to move around a lot and bring art to those who will be able to appreciate and celebrate it.

The group brings together women artists with same thought process and commitment towards not just creating art but promoting it as well, boasts of senior artists like Varuna Khanna and Saroj Sharma.According to Gursharan Kaur, 28, young artist from the city and a member of the Women Artist group, this year they have created art that revolves around sensitive but themes and issues, but important nevertheless, like gender-based issues, women empowerment and equality, spirituality, experimenting with different media in their genre.Even though promoters are hard to find, lack of sponsorships has never been an issue with them, as there are six artists in the group, who excel in both painting and sculpture making and there are no other women artist groups in the city.

Flaunting about their group shows in Dharamsala, Jalandhar and Delhi that got a tremendous response, getting the right price for their art is one of the biggest motivators for these women artists to go for art shows outside Amritsar.The expenses of touring do not bother them, as they always knew that they would have to support themselves before getting their work noticed. Focusing on doing the right work, the artists claim that that they have managed to get a bigger audience and potential market for their artwork outside of city.

According to Bharti Malhotra, who is famous for her sculptures and Tanjore paintings, said that last year they had managed to sell some of their works for Rs 25,000 each, which is quite encouraging, given the fact that Amritsar shows always lack buyers.The group comprises Aakarshi Sahni, Bharti Malhotra, Gursharn Kaur, Inderpreet Kaur, Saroj Sharma and Teena Sharma among others.

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WASPS: Taking forward the movement of Women Empowerment in Punjab

Women in the present world have created a separate entity for themselves. What is urgently required is that there should be a social metamorphosis and realization in all the sections of society regarding the value of women. However, the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led Punjab government has been conducive and sensitive towards the empowerment of women in the state.

Taking forward the movement of Women Empowerment in Punjab.pngA Women Armed Special Protection Squad (WASPS), has been set – up by the state government which includes of women police personnel who turn a hawk eye against the eve – teasers, and provides a helping hand to the victims of sexual harassment and takes stringent action against the perpetrators of criminal offences in the state of Punjab.

Initially being set up in Bathinda under the proficient guidance and support of MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Women Armed Special Protection Squad (WASPS) in – charge, DSP Avneet Sidhu said, “The squad is divided into 10 beats, in which 10 points near schools, colleges or crime – prone areas were selected and distributed to women cops. In Bathinda, there are 25 women cops working under the project. Two women cops patrol in their assigned beats on their modified two-wheeler. Sundays are off days.”

Being provided with appropriate training for the job, the Women Armed Special Protection Squad (WASPS) personnel are equipped with 9 mm pistols, wireless sets handcuffs and pepper sprays. Working in efficient coordination with the Police Control Room (PCR), women helpline number and the Women Armed Special Protection Squad (WASPS), the problems of the victims are first tried to be solved at a primary level. However, if the situation appears to be out of control, the nearest police station officials indulge into the case.

The pro-active approach and dedication of the woman squad, is clearly evident by the fact that while on work, they do not attend private phone calls and messages. Immensely convinced by their work, IG Nirmal Singh Dhillon said that, “It is a right step in the right direction. It has been a cent per cent success. Eve teasing has drastically gone down and boys can no more be seen near schools, colleges or tuition centers. The adjoining districts have also been demanding such squads, and shortly they will also have them.” The Women Armed Special Protection Squad (WASPS), patrolling is done around the clock. However, active patrolling is done daily between 8 am and 5 pm, for the safety of women in the state. 0164-2215020 is the women helpline number.

Earlier, the filing of an FIR was a taboo for the women in the state, in terms of giving an account of the entire incident which would ultimate lead to emotional and psychological breakdown for her. However, with the set – up of The Women Armed Special Protection Squad, an acceleration in the awareness and lodging of complaints has been witnessed in the state of Punjab. Needless to say, WASPS has contributing towards the right of shelter and safety to the women, and putting a halt to criminal offences such as domestic violence, eve-teasing and stalking.

Shagun scheme – Towards a Better Life for Women in Punjab

India is a patriarchal society, where the males own the majority authority and power. However, the state of Punjab evidently acknowledges the contribution of women in the society. In order to provide a helping hand to the Scheduled caste girls or women, the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government has come up with various initiatives, which include the Shagun scheme. Notions of women empowerment thrive on initiatives like these.

Shagun scheme – Towards a Better Life for Women in Punjab.pngThe government of Punjab, initiated the Shagun scheme on April 1, 1997 with the view to provide economic stability and financial support to the underprivileged families, at the time of marriage of the females in the family. Women belonging to backward classes, Schedule Castes, economically weaker sections, Christians, and the case of remarriage of widows or divorcees of any casts who have attained the minimum age of 18 years on the occasion of their marriage, are provided with the financial aid of Rs. 15,000. However, the beneficiaries under the Shagun scheme should not have the annual income of the family exceeding Rs 32,790.

The status of women in Punjab, has been ameliorating ever since the Shagun scheme was initiated. The pro – active approach of the state government, is clearly evident by the fact that all the amount which is to be paid under this welfare scheme is credited to the accounts of the beneficiaries with the help of online management. The girls are supposed to apply 30 days prior to the commencement of their marriage, with the view to have an efficient, prompt and hassle free functioning of the Shagun scheme.

The Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government, allocated an amount of Rs 98 crore for scheme, during the fiscal year of 2015 – 2016. The state government had already provided Rs 60.17crore to about 40,105 beneficiaries under Shagun Scheme, in the month of December, 2015.  The state welfare minister, Mr. Gulzar Singh Ranike claimed that the Punjab government had even issued the instructions to disburse the amount of Rs 15,000 under the Shagun scheme directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries.

Numbers sourced that the state government provided financial aid to about 82,267 beneficiaries, with the allocated budget of Rs 124.30 crore in the financial year of 2012 – 2013. Followed by 80,810 and 58,362 beneficiaries in the financial year of 2013 – 2014 and 2014 – 2015, respectively. The state government cleared about 18,798 cases of the Shagun scheme from March 2015 to June 2016, for which Rs 28.20 crore had been credited directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

The situation of underprivileged women is seen to be changing in the state. The potential government of Punjab has taken various steps like the Shagun scheme through which, the families can now bestow the same love for their daughters, as for their sons. This has come a long way, and shall definitely go longer towards the path of women empowerment and their position in the society.

Preparatory Institution in Punjab – An initiative towards women empowerment in the armed forces

Inspired by Mai Bhago – a Sikh woman warrior who had fought against Mughals in the 17th century, the country’s first preparatory institute for girls wishing to join Army – The Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute has been set up in Mohali (MBAFPI). To ensure the empowerment of women in the armed forces, the parliamentary committee on defense in the 15th Lok Sabha recommended the opening of preparatory institutions in the country.

Preparatory Institution in Punjab – An initiative towards women empowerment in the armed forces.png

Ensuing the mega hit of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Armed Forces Preparatory Institute at Mohali for boys, the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government decided to set up The Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute, in about a six – acre area in Sector – 66, Mohali for the preparation of the girls who intend to join the army.

In the Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute, an entrance test is held in which 25 young girls from the state shall be inducted as cadets in the institute for three years, after their completion of class 12th, out of a pool of approximately 1,600 applicants.  The preparatory institute comprises of highly trained and educated professionals who prepare the girls for armed forces, in terms of the written tests, in contrast to the interviews for being selected as a Commissioned Officer in the Defence Services. Spread over a six – acre campus, the Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute provides residential accommodation, along with various modern facilities which include multi – gym, swimming, sports fields, shooting, communication skills development, NCC, personality development and Professional preparation and training for the interview of Service Selection Board (SSB).

In contrast to the three year under – graduate programme for pursuing academic courses, the Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute, has been successfully incubating the determined students with professional skills and training in order to achieve the zenith of becoming officers in the Navy, Air force and Army. The chief minister of the state, Mr. Parkash Singh Badal claimed that, “It is a momentous occasion for all of us to have this premium institute to train our girls to join defence services as their promising career”.

Needless to say, the Shiromani Akali Dal – BJP led state government has been conducive to the needs of the women, which is clearly evident by the setting up of the Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute which not only enhances the financial status and security of the girls, but also adds confidence to their personality. Despite doubts, the setting up of the preparatory institute is a positive and progressive initiative towards a more egalitarian society for the women, which shall promise them economic and social freedom in the state of Punjab.

Punjab government curbs female foeticide through PNDT Act

If Punjab Government takes credit for not only keeping a check but also bringing down the incidents of female foeticide, its primarily due to the fact that the SAD-BJP government became strict with the implementation of PNDT Act. The effect was visible as the number of female foeticide cases came down substantially after the year 2009.

In fact the government undertook a wide range of awareness generation activities for changing the mind set of ruralites about the girl child and also by sensitizing the ultrasonologists and the general masses about the provisions of the PNDT Act. This was coupled with the effective implementation and monitoring at various levels.

Steps for implementation of PNDT Act

The government constituted a high level state advisory committee in which persons representing NGOs working for the cause of the women at the national level were incorporated as members. Besides it also appointed appropriate authorities for the implementation of the Act at various levels. A multi member State Appropriate Authority was appointed at the state level and Senior Medical Officers were appointed at the Sub Divisional level Hospitals. Besides, Civil Surgeons were also appointed at the district level. Inter district inspections by the Civil Surgeons have now been undertaken to nab the violators of the PNDT Act and surprise inspections are also being carried out by the State Officers so as to cross check the enforcement of the Act in various parts of the State. Enforcement of the PNDT Act in the districts is reviewed every month at various levels.

CM’s intervention paid off  

Also following the directions of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the Deputy Commissioners have been regularly holding meetings with the ultrasonologists. To keep a tab on the progress, monitoring of sex-ratio has been listed as an agenda item during the monthly meetings at the district level. Advisory Committees have also been constituted at the district level and sub-divisional level. A State Supervisory Board under the Chairmanship of Health Minister has also been formed.

In a bid to keep a tab on the functioning of ultrasounds the government has also registered ultra sounds centres and more than 1330 ultrasound and genetic centres have been registered in the state.

Awareness drive

Hoardings mentioning about the important clauses of the PC & PNDT Act have been displayed at different places. Besides messages and slogans for saving girl child and the important provisions of the PNDT Act have also been displayed on Bus side panels of Punjab Roadways and PRTC Buses. Also advertisements making an appeal to doctors,
journalists, law enforcers and politicians are regularly being given through the regional newspapers for seeking support for the cause of the girl-child. As a part of plan the government printed and published more than   40000 posters all over the the state.

Action under law 

More than 100 court cases and FIRs have been launched in the state for violation of the PNDT Act. In addition action has been taken against more than 300 centers. Their registration has either been suspended or cancelled. There has also been conviction in many cases.

What is PNDTA and how it came to effect

In a bid to keep a check on the dwindling female sex ratio due to rampant female foeticide on the basis of sex determination, the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act was enacted in 1994 and was given effect in January 1996. This Act was aimed at regulating the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for detecting genetic and metabolic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, certain congenital malformations and/or sex linked disorders. The Act was latewr amended in 2003.

However the techniques were otherwise being used for pre-natal determination of sex of the foetus leading to misuse through female foeticide.

Punjab government brings girls’ empowerment through new schemes

For empowerment of girls in state Punjab government has introduced a number of new schemes and given incentives in education. SAD-BJP government launched Mai Bhago Vidya Scheme in which girl students of Class XI and XII studying in Government schools are being given free bicycles every year. The SAD-BJP government launched this scheme in year 2011-12 by distributing 1,11,000 free bicycles to girl students worth Rs 30 crore and it was decided to make it an annual feature.

Punjab government brings girls' empowerment through new schemes.png

“The state government has continuously been having focus on empowerment of girl students and the scheme has given programme a boost. This is an initiative of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to curb the number of drop out of girl students from schools and motivate them to take up higher education to empower them”, says state Social Securities and Women and Child Development Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani.

Even before the scheme was formally launched, the state government already released Rs 41.90 crore for the purchase of bicycles which have been distributed to the girl students in the schools.The scheme in the first phase benefited as many as 82,244 girls of Class XI and 70,086 girls of Class XII.

Free education to girls

Besides the Punjab government has declared to provide free education to all girls up to Class 12 in the state. The scheme is proving a major relief to poor families who could ill afford education for girls. As per the provisions under the scheme, funds like admission fee, re-admission fee, amalgamated funds, PTA funds, sports funds etc. would be waived off. The government has allocated a sum of Rs.26 crore for this project.

Kanya Jagriti Jyoti Scheme was another scheme initiated by the state government, which aimed at encouraging people to send their daughters to school and sensitizing them about gender equality.

Also taking forward the National Policy on Education (1986), the Punjab government prepared an action plan to increase the number of schools for girls and BPL (below poverty line) students besides providing scholarship schemes for SC/ST and meritorious students.
Bolstering the Union government’s efforts, the state government has also promoted girl education under the the slogan ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’.

Bal Rakshak Yojna

The state government has launched Balri Rakshak Yojna a state funded scheme, for promotion of cause of the girl-child.

Under the scheme incentive is paid for adopting terminal method of sterilization after the birth of only one or two girl children @Rs.500/- and Rs.700/- respectively. Besides to improve the steep decline in child sex-ratio, implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection) Act 1994 became the top agenda of the Government.

Awareness campaign

The government took several steps to create awareness about empowerment of girls through media, art and culture, Panachayats and now social media.

Exclusive girl-child competitions have been organized for under two year girl-child in the State in which baby girls were awarded Kisan Vikas Patras worth Rs.500/- and 300/- as 1st and 2nd prize which on maturity could be used for school education of these girls.
Besides, Istri Sehat Sabha members, NGOs and Anganwari workers have been actively involved for promoting the cause of the girl-child.

Empowering the Girl Child via (BebeNankiLadliKalyan Scheme)

400 young girls have lined up to shadow a police or IAS officer for a day in one of Punjab’s  - Harsimrat Kaur Badal

In order to check the menace of female foeticide and impart quality education to girls, besides extending financial assistance to poor families in bringing up the girl child, the cabinet gave a nod for the work plan for 2012-13 to implement the proposed “Bebe Nanki Ladli Beti Kalyan Scheme”.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting of the State Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The scheme, which was a part of ‘measures to improve Sex Ratio’ under the 13th Finance Commission, would benefit the families with an annual income below Rs. 30,000 or those covered under the Atta Dal scheme of the state government.

Mr.Madan Mohan Mittal, Social Security – Women and Child Development Minister, Punjab, disclosed that the girl child born on or after 1-4-2011, of those families who had adopted the two-child norms and family planning method and also whose income is below 30,000/- per annum would be eligible for the scheme. Mr. Mittal further informed that the department would invest Rs. 20,000/- per beneficiaries with life insurance corporation of India as premium. On the birth of a newly born girl child, the department would give Rs. 1100/-, after attaining the age of 1 & 2 years (after immunization), the female child would get Rs. 1200/- each,  and on third year she would be entitled  for Rs. 1500/-. Also, upon her admission to 1st class, the department would deposit Rs. 1100/- in her bank account. On admission to classes 6th, 9th, 11th Rs. 2100/- each would be deposited by the department.  On attaining adulthood, she would be entitled to get Rs. 21000/- as a scholarship for furtherance of higher studies. Besides this, Mr. Mittal added that department would provide scholarship from class 1 to 6th Rs. 100/- per month amounting to 7200 and from class 7th to 12th the scholarship would be doubled i.e. Rs. 200/- P.M  amounting to Rs. 14,400/- in six years.

The Minister further said that Rs. 15,000 would be given from 13th finance commission grants and Rs. 5000 would be borne by the Government of Punjab. The target is to cover 34,500 beneficiaries; Rs. 1.75 crore has been earmarked for various publicity schemes under information, education and communication activities.

He explained that each youth club would be given a grant of Rs. 5000 under the scheme for youth centre. An expenditure ofRs. 2.50 crore would be earmarked. To provide higher education to orphan girls in the state, Rs. 2 crore would be dedicated.

He added that Rs. 1 crore has been earmarked for giving grants to 15 NGOs (Rs. 2 lakh per NGO) for generating awareness regarding PNDT and for their efforts to improve sex ratio in the state.

The cabinet also approved the policy guidelines and building norms for regularization of old as well as new marriage palaces in the state. The regularisation of existing marriage places would be permissible up to December 31, 2012 on payment of rationalized charges. The policy has regulated the procedure and the entire state has been divided into seven zones for levying the Change of Land Use (CLU).The cabinet also decided to hold the Council of Ministers’ meeting regularly on second and fourth Thursday every month.

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