A schoolgirl in Bihar had a rather simple ask: “Can the government give sanitary pads at Rs 20-30?”
“Tomorrow you’ll say the government can give jeans too. And why not some beautiful shoes after that?” was IAS officer Harjot Kaur Bhamra’s snarky reply. And then she added, “You will eventually expect the government to give you family planning methods, condoms, too.”
When the student reminded her that people’s votes make the government, the officer snapped: “This is heights of stupidity. Don’t vote, then. Become Pakistan. Do you vote for money and services?”
This shocking exchange with a teenaged student from a slum came at a workshop on ‘Sashakt Beti, Samriddh Bihar’ (Empowered Daughters, Prosperous Bihar) with the tagline, ‘Towards enhancing the value of girls’. It was organised on Tuesday by the Women and Child Development Corporation, which Ms Bhamra leads as managing director, in partnership with Unicef and other organisations.
The officer did try to spin a lesson from it. “Why do you need to take anything from the government? This way of thinking is wrong. Do it yourself,” she told the audience, which comprised mostly girls from Class 9 and 10.
The series of question-answer shockers ran long. When a student said the girls’ toilet in her school remains broken and that boys often enter, the officer replied, “Tell me, do you have separate toilets at home? If you keep asking for a lot things at different places, how will it work?”
To her “become Pakistan” jibe, the student shot back: “I am an Indian. Why should I go to Pakistan?”
Ms Bhamra had a lesson again: “Girls, you have to change your thinking. You have to decide where you want to see yourself in the future. You will have to make this decision yourself. The government cannot do this for you. Do you want to sit where you are, or on the side I am sitting on?”