'Malicious Reporting,' Claims IAS Officer Caught on Video Equating Plea for Sanitary Pads to Birth Control

In a viral video of a government event, Harjot Kaur Bhamra is heard telling a schoolgirl who asked if the government can give sanitary pads at Rs 20-30, "You will eventually expect the government to give you family planning methods, condoms, too?"

Listen to this article:

New Delhi: An IAS officer’s question as to whether people expect the government to pay for family planning methods when asked by a student if reduced rates can be available for sanitary napkins has sparked outrage, leading her to describe reports on it as “malicious” – even though they were based on a viral video.

Dainik Bhaskar first reported on the incident, which took place at a Patna workshop titled ‘Sashakt Beti, Samriddh Bihar‘ (Empowered Daughters, Prosperous Bihar) organised by the government. The workshop aimed at “enhancing the value of girls,” NDTV has additionally reported.

The Dainik Bhaskar report notes that the event primarily involved children of the Kamala Nehru slum in the city.

A schoolgirl, the resident of a slum, was on stage and is heard asking IAS officer Harjot Kaur Bhamra, if the government can “give sanitary pads at Rs 20-30.” Bhamra heads the state’s Women and Child Development Corporation.

At the girl’s question, the audience appears to break into applause.

Bhamra’s responds saying, “You are clapping but do these demands have an end? 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 student then told her that people’s votes are what made the government.

Unimpressed, Bhamra is heard saying, “This is heights of stupidity. Don’t vote, then. Become Pakistan. Do you vote for money and services?”

To this, the girl responded, “I am an Indian. Why should I?”

The exchange took place in Hindi. The above translation is NDTV‘s.

The IAS officer also reportedly told the audience of schoolgoing girls that they are wrong to think that they “need to take anything from the government.”

The Women and Child Development Corporation comes under the Social Welfare Department of the state government and is the nodal agency for implementing welfare schemes for women, Indian Express has noted in its report of the incident.

When girl students highlighted the fact that their school toilets are broken and boy students often enter toilets meant for girls, Bhamra asked if they had separate toilets for men and women at home. “If you keep asking for a lot things at different places, how will it work?” she said.

Bhamra has reportedly claimed that the reporting of the event was “false, malicious and wrong.” However, almost reports on the incident have relied on video evidence where Bhamra is audibly making these comments.

She has claimed to be “the most vociferous champion of women rights and empowerment” and has called on the Press Council of India to take action against Dainik Bhaskar.

Bihar’s social welfare minister Madan Sahani was quoted by Express as having said: “Our department works for welfare of girls and women. She [Bhamra] should not have discouraged the girls. The workshop was meant to encourage them. Our department secretary will speak to the MD on Thursday.”