The Bihar government has decided to train one million schoolgirls in karate so that they can use the martial art to protect themselves from sexual harassment, an official said on Friday.
"Martial art training (karate) will be given to 10 lakh schoolgirls in 20,000 middle schools across the state," Rahul Singh, the director of the Bihar Education Project Council, said.
The programme will be undertaken as part of the National Programme of Education for Girls at Elementary Level, and reach 10 lakh girls by 2014.
"At present, 1,500 girl students of 150 middle schools are being given martial art training," he said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has repeatedly said in the last few months that girls should learn martial arts like judo, karate and taekwondo. These skills are necessary for physical strength and greater alertness, and would enable girls to defend themselves in case they were harassed by men, the chief minister maintains.
"Martial art training is a must for girls. It would work as a deterrent to molesters," the chief minister said last month.
Last week, Nitish Kumar announced that 10 lakh self-help groups (SHGs) for women would be formed in the state over the next five years. He said these would help women become economically more independent.
The Bihar government was the first in the country to provide 50 per cent reservation to women in civic bodies, including gram panchayats.
The government, in 2007, launched an ambitious scheme to provide cycles to schoolgirls, in a bid to encourage them not to drop out of school and finish their education, even if schools were some distance away from their homes.