Friday, May 18, 2012 NC
Mamata Banerjee rule disappoints many women
Many women saw themselves in her. Trinamool Congress firebrand Mamata Banerjee, always clad in a simple cotton sari and slippers, gave rise to huge hopes when she took charge of West Bengal a year ago.
But incidents of crime against women increasingly highlighted by the media in the past one year of her rule as well as Banerjee's casual response has many women questioning her priorities.
As in other states, crime against women was a problem in Bengal too though Kolkata was considered relatively safer as compared to other metropolises. But it is the off-the-cuff remarks by Banerjee, a single woman with no family of her own, that have drawn the most flak.
The frequently reported instances of rape in the state had the National Commission for Women (NCW) come calling to Kolkata to meet Banerjee.
It sent a missive to the government after a study pointed out that West Bengal recorded the second highest number of rape cases in the country and the rate of increase in the reported cases was twice the national average the past year.
Banerjee's description of two rapes -- on Park Street in Kolkata and at Katwa in Burdwan -- as "fabricated" shocked many, said activist Anuradha Talwar, who was Banerjee's comrade in the campaign against Tata's Nano plant in Singur.
At the height of the movement, Tapasi, a teenager, was allegedly raped and murdered within the fenced-up Tata Motors site in 2006. The Trinamool chief had then stood rock solid by the victim's family and pointed fingers at the Marxists for the crime.
Her reaction was quite in contrast after coming to power. Banerjee got flak for dismissing the Park Street rape when a victim was an Anglo-Indian woman. In Burdwan, one woman was raped earlier this year.
The chief minister ate her words after police arrested the alleged offenders.
The Park Street victim, who earlier accused the administration of being insensitive, however, praised Banerjee.
"I have been getting a lot of help from the government. I think she is doing a good job as a woman administrator," the victim told IANS although she kept mum when asked if the city was safer for women.
Calcutta University professor Ishita Mukherjee said: "Forget about our expectations, she has not even been able to provide minimum security to women.
The report by NCW claimed that the rape victims included girls from the age of seven to women of 72 years.
Many working women now fear staying outside their homes late at night.
Banerjee also seems to have lost some of her appeal as a mass leader.
"We thought she was one of us. We believed in her promise of 'parivartan' (change). But it seems she is like all other politicians who male hollow promises," said domestic maid Lakshmi Maa.
Some feel the feisty leader deserves a longer rope.
"She has initiated many welfare schemes. Moreover, a year is too short a time to evaluate," said professor Bonita Alleaz of Calcutta University.
Well known social activist Medha Patkar said: "Expectations from her are very high. Hope she can deliver."
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