‘Avoid skirt’ comment puts ‘sanskari mantri’ Mahesh Sharma on back foot
Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture Mahesh Sharma is no stranger to controversies, thanks to his tongue-in-cheek comments. Last year, he had earned the ire of the people when he reportedly said that girls wanting a night-out was “not acceptable in India”. Now again, he finds himself in the dock over a similar male chauvinistic, controversial remark.
Recently, while responding to questions on the government’s steps for tourist safety in popular destinations like Agra, he said: “When tourists arrive at the airport, they will be given a welcome kit which has a card with dos and don’ts… it has instructions like if they are in small areas, they should not roam around alone at night or wear skirts” .
The ‘ skirt’ comment sparked off a furore of sorts forcing him to retract later, but not before the damage was done. The comment exposed his medieval mindset and immediately earned him the sobriquet of ‘sanskari mantri’. The Culture Minister’s opinion, it seems, is completely opposite to the government’s plans to woo tourists.
On one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making frequent foreign visits abroad aimed primarily to woo foreigners to come to India, projecting it as a safe tourist and investment destination. Then we have his own minister making tourists wary of coming to India.
It may be noted that ever since it rode to power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP led-NDA government has been banking on Narendra Modi ( who will soon become the brand ambassador of Incredible India) to showcase India worldwide. It has launched two programmes – Incredible India and Atithi Devo Bhava – in this regard.
Expressing her displeasure at Mahesh Sharma’s comments, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi while speaking to Narada News said: “This isn’t the first time that Mahesh Sharma has made such irresponsible and misogynistic comments about women. It certainly doesn’t speak well of the government when a minister responsible for increasing tourism numbers and making tourists feel confident and comfortable about travelling to our country is instead putting the onus of their safety at their door. What confidence does that inspire in women who wish to travel to our country? It is also a fact that many nations have issued an advisory to women citing safety warnings if they want to travel to India. Instead of reassurance, they are now getting warned by the Tourism Minister.”
She has some words of wisdom for Mahesh Sharma. She said: “Instead of restricting women, the minister would do well to focus on creating conditions to make our women tourists feel safe — enforcing law and order, providing adequate training to police, having more women in the police force and most importantly sensitizing them to handling such cases would be a good start.”