Demands public apology from Modi for remarks on reasons for malnutrition

Workers of the Mahila Congress organised rallies here on Thursday protesting against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged for his alleged defamatory comments against women, particularly young girls.

Anti-Modi demonstrations were also held in Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot and many other cities and towns in the State, condemning his remarks in an interview to The Wall Street Journal that women in Gujarat were more “beauty conscious than health conscious.” The demonstrators demanded a public apology from the Chief Minister.

“Is Mr. Modi condemning vegetarianism and advising the women in the State to convert to non-vegetarian food?” Congress women’s wing president Mandakiniben Patel asked. “He has hurt the sentiments of women, more so of the strictly vegetarian Jains by making such remarks during their holy Paryushan celebrations,” she said.

Mr. Modi had reportedly attributed malnutrition to vegetarianism and beauty consciousness among women.

“What rubbish is he talking about,” commented State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia. He pointed out that malnutrition was more prevalent among tribal women in the State.

“They are neither beauty conscious nor are all of them strictly vegetarian.”Mr. Modi’s comments were not a joke but an “insult” to all women, Mr. Modhwadia said, adding that such remarks were made to cover up the State government’s failure on the health security front.

Pointing out that the per capita expenditure in the health sector at Rs. 270 was the lowest in the country, the Congress president said the Chief Minister should apologise to all women for his “insensitive” remarks.

An official spokesman of the State attempted to find fault with the U.S. daily but failed. The Gujarati translation of Mr. Modi’s remarks was the same as was reported in WSJ. The spokesman added that Mr. Modi had told the daily in response to a question, that Gujarat largely being a State of middle class families, malnutrition was a major challenge before the government and had also expressed the confidence that it would be able to overcome the problem in the coming years.

“But I cannot give any definite figures for malnutrition now because for many years there has been no survey on the issue,” he had said.

The State BJP, however, refused to react on the issue. Though Mr. Modi attended a workshop of party activists handling the media, where national spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman and national BJP Mahila Morcha president Smriti Irani were present, the issue concerning women was not discussed, a party spokesman said.