In a conversation with CNN-News18's Swati Vashishtha, Uttar Pradesh Women and Child Development Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi says women's safety is the biggest concern of the month-old government and bats for doing away with the Muslim practice of Triple Talaq. She also touches upon the issue of Ram Temple and shares her experience of working with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
You’ve been given the portfolio of women and child development. What are the challenges you have before you?
Women were the last priority in the previous SP as well as BSP governments. There was no cabinet for women and child development, not even a woman in the cabinet. There is a lot to be done but women's safety is the biggest concern and also our priority. Previous government had set up 1090 helpline for women but that were never implemented properly.
BJP in its election manifesto had promised Muslim women support in their struggle against Triple Talaq. The case is pending before the Supreme Court. What is the government’s road map on realistic deliverable on the issue of Triple Talaq?
The matter is subjudice. Everyday women are meeting me and the CM with their stories which are shocking and sad. The reasons for talaq range from kidney failure to having a girl child. Muslims can keep four wives but they get divorced only because they can't maintain more than one.
If 22 countries in the world including Pak and Saudi Arabia can do away with this then why can't Indian Muslims. We are in the process of taking their opinion, listening to them, based on what comes out we will place that before the court.
Question: The Anti Romeo squads have some under criticism for cops going overboard at some places and for nomenclature that makes light of the serious issue of girls being harassed on the streets.
Cops who were going overboard have been pulled up. And they have been given clear instructions to not bother people unnecessarily. As far as the name goes the squads have not been named Anti Romeo to belittle the lover. The intention with which the squads have been set up is what matters, and that is to check stalkers and trouble makers.
Question: There’s been a revival of interest in the Ram Temple. BJP reiterated its commitment to building Ram temple in the manifesto. Do you think an extra judicial settlement is possible?
Our mind is clear, whatever will be done will be done according to the law. It's not that they will go construct a temple overnight. Hindus think that there should be a temple. An out of court settlement can be explored said Supreme Court. Issues that are emotive and have to do with sentiments should be settled out of court. Both the parties should sit together and show some large heartedness. A give and take is recommended.
Question: You recently joined the BJP but you’ve had a long career with the Congress. What according to you is the core difference between the Congress and the BJP?
BJP is more committed to a delivery system and is also better placed to deliver good governance with the kind of mandate behind it. For past 25 years, Congress did not have numbers in the parliament to implement policies, there were always regional parties with their own interests which had to be factored in.
Congress has weakened in terms of leadership. Leaders of the masses that the Congress had in the 60s and 70s are not there now. Congress has substandard leaders. They have also diluted their stand on many issues. The party lacks direction at the centre as well as state level. Rahul Gandhi does not have the ability to take on Narendra Modi.
Moreover, Congress has become unstable in its approach. See what happened in Uttar Pradesh. Just three weeks before polls they joined hands with those they were criticizing all along.
Question: How has been your experience so far working with the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who has been keeping the system on its toes since he took over?
Initially I was also sceptical about what Yogi Adityanath’s political approach. But after listening to his first statement Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and deliver good governance with 15 hours of daily work, I am very impressed. He sent a strong message that women's safety is a priority. And this new system of presentation by each department for the entire cabinet is a great idea. Never earlier did ministers knew so much about each other’s department, challenges and possibilities.
I was doubtful because he had never held an administrative role earlier. But he’s holding us in good stead. If we can keep up to it, then I think we can deliver good governance the state has been waiting for.