When Finance Minister P Chidambaram announced the setting up of a public
sector bank exclusively for women with an initial capital of Rs 1000
crore, the key women leaders, whether it was Congress President Sonia
Gandhi or BJP leader Sushma Swaraj or even speaker Meira Kumar, thumped
their desks in approval.
But the Budget day announcement has got a
big thumbs down from Justice J S Verma, the head of a government panel
that examined laws on crimes against women. (Watch:
All women bank: Something concrete or mere tokenism?)
Speaking in Aligarh,
Justice Verma called the all-women bank idea mere tokenism and a move
that wouldn't work if social mindsets stayed the same.
"I think we need to change the mindset. By setting up a separate bank
for women, we will be further segregating them. That's why I think
social change is needed."
Justice Verma's comment came on a day
when scores of women affiliated to the Congress party called on Congress
President Sonia Gandhi to thank her for the pro-women initiatives in
Yet as the press release from the Mahila Congress
proudly announced that the women thanked Mrs Gandhi for the all-women
bank, many NDTV spoke to had no idea why they had met the UPA
One woman who had come all the way from Nashik said,
"We want to thank her for all the packages given specially for women."
When asked what those were, she shrugged saying she didn't have the
details but still wanted to thank the Congress leader.
lady from Haryana, who had come with her grand-daughter told NDTV,
"Nothing happened inside. We just went in, saw her and returned."
After a little more prodding she was candid enough to admit that all she wanted was a picture with the leader.
lady from Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi, who came with a big group, said
she was only accompanying her friends and had no details.
friend said she wanted to thank Mrs Gandhi for the 'annashree yojana',
the ration cards and LPG cap being increased. When pointed out that it
wasn't a part of the Budget, she directed us to another friend who was
more than eager to complete the sentence for her. She told us, "We want
LPG prices to be reduced, more tax rebates, for women and senior
So did you go with demands or to thank her, we asked. "No, no today we made no demands, we only thanked her."
Elsewhere in the city though the reactions were sharper.
college student said, "This will not help. It will only push women more
into a corner. It's like telling women, you need to be segregated, so
we are giving you a bank!"
In the absence of more details on how
the women's bank would work, the question many are asking was this move
made with an eye on 2014?