In Conversation with Ritu Khanduri Bhushan: Uttarakhand’s Trailblazing Speaker

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Recently, in an exclusive interview with Sahara Samay, Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, a trailblazing figure in Uttarakhand’s political landscape, shared her profound insights. As the esteemed Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, she epitomizes leadership, resilience, and dedication to public service. Join us as we delve into her experiences and vision for the future of Uttarakhand.

In Conversation with Ritu Khanduri Bhushan: Uttarakhand’s Trailblazing Speaker

Interviewer:
In 2000, Uttarakhand was established as a separate state, marking a significant milestone. Following subsequent elections in Uttarakhand, a historic moment unfolded: for the first time in the state’s history, a woman was appointed as the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Today, we have the honor of hosting Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, the Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, for a discussion on the legislature and the state of Uttarakhand. Let’s delve into her two-year tenure. Ritu Ji, first and foremost, congratulations and best wishes to you. It has been two years since you assumed the role of Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, marking a groundbreaking moment in Uttarakhand’s history with the appointment of the first woman to this esteemed position.

Ritu Khanduri: I extend my greetings to all our listeners. Indeed, I am honored to be recognized as the first woman Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, representing the beautiful state of Uttarakhand. I express my heartfelt gratitude to our esteemed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his commitment to development, which encompasses the empowerment of women. This appointment marks a significant stride towards fostering women-led development in Uttarakhand. I take immense pride and joy in serving as the inaugural woman Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, a milestone that fills me with great pride and happiness.

Interviewer: Another historic thing happened. It not only happened that a woman was made the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for the first time in Uttarakhand, but another thing happened when the UCC Bill, that is, the Uniform Civil Code Bill, was passed in Uttarakhand, making Uttarakhand the first state in the country. You also played a significant role in this. How big of an achievement do you consider this? Regarding the UCC Bill, various strategies were used, various attempts were made to create confusion or opposition through various means, which could create confusion or opposition from various religious communities. What benefits do you think the people of Uttarakhand will have from implementing these things?

Ritu Khanduri: First and foremost, I want to emphasize that the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), introduced by Uttarakhand, is not only significant for our state but also presents a vision for the entire nation. Its implementation marks a historic milestone. In our country, we already have criminal laws that apply uniformly across all castes, religions, and classes. Therefore, it begs the question: why shouldn’t civil laws follow the same principle? This is a fundamental question that we all need to contemplate.

Secondly, I firmly believe that regardless of religion, caste, or class, women often find themselves as the most vulnerable demographic. Thus, when legislation is enacted to empower and uplift women, it is a cause for celebration. Such laws contribute to our collective empowerment and resilience. Regarding the Uniform Civil Code (UC), there are numerous positive aspects to consider. For instance, it ensures property rights for women, grants adoption rights to Muslim women, and criminalizes practices such as polygamy, thereby safeguarding women’s rights and promoting gender equality under the law.

There are still many religions where the onset of puberty and menstruation marks the beginning of a girl’s marriage. However, it has been mandated that marriage for girls will be permitted only at the age of 18, regardless of their religion, caste, or class. This decision aims to empower and strengthen girls. Therefore, I am pleased that the Uniform Civil Code is being implemented in Uttarakhand under our leadership and the esteemed leadership of Chief Minister Dhami Ji.

Interviewer: You mentioned during the Uttarakhand Assembly elections that Mr. Pushkar Singh Dhami, under whose leadership the elections were held, stated that if the BJP were to come to power in Uttarakhand, they would implement their manifesto. However, there were questions raised regarding allegations against the government or the BJP, specifically that the Bharatiya Janata Party is using the Uttarakhand Civil Services Commission as a tool to win elections. Could you elaborate on this?

Ritu Khanduri:
Certainly, it has become a habit to link every positive outcome with electoral gains, but not all commendable actions are driven solely by political motives. Over the past decade, we have witnessed the significant advancements and benefits our country has experienced, enhancing the lives of its citizens. As we strive to progress as a developed nation, it is imperative to refrain from politicizing every aspect of governance.

Interviewer:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently passed the Women’s Bill. The national convention, which was a two-day event, has also concluded. During the convention, he highlighted that in the last 10 years, the most significant achievement for women has been what our government has accomplished. For 70 years, there has been an ongoing discourse about the necessity for women to have equal participation in politics. Do you believe that the Women’s Bill will create more opportunities for women?

Ritu KhanduriWell, for the first time in 70 years, the voices of my sisters, which were previously overlooked by the influential circles of Delhi and the corridors of power, have not only been acknowledged but also addressed. Various difficulties and problems have been successfully resolved. For instance, if a woman receives a 12,000 rupee toilet, it signifies more than just a mere physical structure; it symbolizes the restoration of her dignity. Moreover, initiatives such as the Ujjwala Gas scheme, provision of electricity, water, healthcare, and education have contributed to her economic independence.

Prime Minister Ji has not only honored me personally but has also taken significant steps to empower women by placing them in positions where they can advocate for themselves, for society, for their respective states, and for the nation. They are now actively engaged in formulating strategies for the development of our country. This marks a remarkable era for the women of our nation, and I find great joy in witnessing the tangible implementation of initiatives we’ve advocated for. It’s a fulfilling experience to serve our country and state during this time.

We believe in translating words into action, as per the Prime Minister’s directive, and I’m immensely pleased to witness the empowerment and strength of women. With half of our population being women, it’s imperative that they receive the rights and recognition they rightfully deserve. Therefore, I wholeheartedly agree with Prime Minister Ji’s assertion that significant progress has been made for women. I extend my gratitude to him for acknowledging the previously unheard voices and for taking concrete steps towards their development. It’s indeed a moment of great happiness and satisfaction.

Interviewer: Our final question pertains to your two-year tenure as the Speaker of the Assembly. You’ve successfully led the Legislative Assembly as a woman for this duration. Could you share your experience during this time? Additionally, looking ahead to the next three years, what do you envision for the future under your leadership? Reflecting on your achievements over the past two years, what milestones stand out, and what do you aspire to accomplish in the upcoming term?

Ritu Khanduri: I’m honored to have served as the Speaker over the past two years, and I owe my gratitude to all members for their unwavering support, irrespective of their affiliations. Throughout my tenure, we’ve prioritized efficient debate management, ensuring that every voice is heard in a conducive and respectful environment. Our initiatives, such as establishing libraries and digitizing processes, are aimed at promoting transparency within the Assembly.

As a woman leader, I take immense pride in representing Uttarakhand’s Legislative Assembly and advocating for the interests of our constituents. Looking ahead, we remain committed to fostering youth empowerment and embracing digitalization to drive progress and inclusivity within our legislative processes. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and for the continued support received from all quarters.

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