Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday described the Rs.60,000-crore farm loan waiver scheme as a woman-friendly measure, as women were the first victims of any crisis.

Citing the example of suicides by farmers, she said they brought immense suffering to the farmers’ families. “The government is sensitive to this and we hope the waiver would bring peace and happiness to the four crore families that are expected to be benefit.”

Speaking after presenting the Stree Shakti Awards to mark the International Women’s Day, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson said the government’s women-specific policies, including relief in income tax, encouragement of self-help groups and microfinance had started showing positive results.

Calling for an end to female foeticide at all costs, Ms. Gandhi said women should understand that daughters and sons were equal in every respect and should be given equal opportunities.

Pointing out that the International Women’s Day was being celebrated as Women Empowerment Day in the country, she said the journey for women was full of challenges and hopes and required patience and determination“I dream of an India where no girl is killed before she is born, no woman is killed for dowry and where no child is illiterate,” she said.

Minister of State for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury said India for the first time had a gender-sensitive government.

Award recipients

The recipients of the Stree Shakti Puraskar for 2004-2006 are: Triveni Balkrishna Acharya (Maharashtra), Pinki Virani (Delhi), Manmohani Debnath (west Tripura), Kavita Srivastava (Rajasthan), Samsad Begum (Chhattisgarh), Rani Bhang (Maharashtra), Shaik Shamshad Begum (Andhra Pradesh), Selmin Lyngdoh (Meghalaya), Neeta Bahadur (Uttar Pradesh), Sandhya Raman (Delhi), Vanguri Suvartha (Andhra Pradesh), Kalpana Sarkar (Madhya Pradesh), Senu Tsuhah (Nagaland), D. Santhi (Tamil Nadu) and Nighat Shafi Pandit (Jammu and Kashmir).