For “Want Condoms?” Reply To Schoolgirl, Bihar Officer Lands In Trouble

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IAS officer Harjot Kaur Bhamra interacted with students in Patna on Tuesday.

New Delhi/Patna:

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has sought an explanation from the Bihar IAS officer who told a schoolgirl “you’d want condoms too” after she asked if the government could make sanitary pads more widely available.

The officer — Harjot Kaur Bhamra, Managing Director of the Bihar Women and Child Development Corporation — has to reply within seven days, the NCW said today. She had yesterday said her remarks at an event on Tuesday were misreported and that, being a woman, she has been working against gender discrimination.

Videos showed how Harjot Kaur Bhamra had a series of snarky answers to questions by girls on stage and the audience at the event in Patna.

One of the girls on stage with her asked her: “The government already gives uniform and scholarships, so can it give sanitary pads at Rs 20-30?”

The officer replied, “Tomorrow you’ll say the government can give jeans too. And why not some beautiful shoes after that? You will eventually expect the government to give you family planning methods, condoms, too.”

The girl — a teenaged student from a slum — underlined that people’s votes make the government, to which Ms Bhamra said: “This is heights of stupidity. Don’t vote, then. Become Pakistan. Do you vote for money and services?”

Ironically, this happened at workshop titled ‘Sashakt Beti, Samriddh Bihar’ (Empowered Daughters, Prosperous Bihar), the tagline of which read: ‘Towards enhancing the value of girls’. It was organised by the state’s corporation that Ms Bhamra heads, with assistance from UNICEF and other organisations.

Ms Bhamra sought to paint her remarks as a lesson in self-sufficiency when an audience member sarcastically asked her why government schemes exist at all. “There’s a need to change the thinking,” she told the audience member, and then said to the girls on stage, “You have to decide where you want to see yourself in the future… The government cannot do this for you. Do you want to sit where you are, or on the side I am sitting on?”

When videos of the event went viral, and questions were raised about her conduct, Ms Bhamra threatened to sue the newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar, which first reported her comments. She even urged the Press Council of India to take action.

In her statement, she claimed, “I am known to be one of the most vociferous champion(s) of women rights and empowerment.”

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