Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has apologised for “derogatory” comments about the role of women’s education in population control made in the state Assembly Tuesday afternoon. “I apologise and I take back my words. If my words were wrong, I apologise. If anyone got hurt, I take them back,” he said.
“(My words) were not intended to hurt anybody. I have always maintained education is necessary for population control. I have also stood for women empowerment and women’s development.”
The contentious remarks were made as he explained why Bihar‘s fertility rate has dropped from 4.2 to 2.9 per cent. However, the language was slammed as “shameful”, “disgusting” and “vulgar” by the BJP, and National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma demanded Nitish Kumar apologise.
The remarks were seen as crude attempts to put the onus of population control on women.
Shortly afterwards, he faced down vociferous protests in the Assembly, “Why are all of you making noise? I told you… you saw, the reporters asked me and I gave an explanation,” he shouted back.
— ANI (@ANI) November 8, 2023
As the row over the comments gathered pace yesterday, Nitish Kumar was defended by his deputy, Tejashwi Yadav, who claimed the Chief Minister he was talking about sex education in schools.
“Let me clarify something… whatever the Chief Minister said was about sex education. People become hesitant over this topic… but it is taught in schools. He said what needs to be done practically…”
The attempted clarification aside, Nitish Kumar was targeted by the BJP; the opposition party, formerly his ally, called him a man “whose mind is infested with worms from B-grade adult films”.
Union Minister Nityanand Rai – a Lok Sabha MP from Bihar’s Ujiarpur – said Nitish Kumar had lost his “mental stability” and also hit out at the Deputy Chief Minister for defending his boss.
“It’s objectionable… the way he spoke about women. Tejashwi Yadav’s statement is also objectionable. Nitish Kumar is no longer worthy of being CM. He should detach himself from politics,” Mr Rai said.
The remark was also criticised by AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who reminded the Bihar leader “the Legislative Assembly is a sacred place”. Mr Owaisi said,
“He could have said, ‘if women are educated enough (they will) be able to decide when to have children’. Instead, he described it through inappropriate words and gestures,” Mr Owaisi said.
There was uproar in the Bihar Assembly on Tuesday as Nitish Kumar’s government tabled the caste survey report and passed a proposal to raise quotas for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Extremely Backward Classes – from the existing 50 per cent to 65 per cent.
The revised quotas – to which the centre’s 10 per cent for Economically Weaker Sections must be added – will take reservations past the 50 per cent cap ordered by the Supreme Court in 1992.
The revisions came after the caste report indicated that 36 per cent of Bihar’s 13.1 crore people are from EBCs and 27.1 per cent are from OBCs. Of the rest, 19.7 per cent are from Scheduled Castes. 1.7 per cent from Scheduled Tribes and the General Category makes up 15.5 per cent.
The report also said over a third – 34 per cent – of all families in Bihar survive on less than Rs 6,000 per month, and 42 per cent of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes households live in poverty,
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With input from agencies