New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that modern India can progress only if women are empowered, and that whenever given a chance, women have outperformed men.
He said his government is taking "progressive decisions" in this direction.
"Modern India can only progress if women are empowered. With this thinking, the government is taking several progressive decisions," Modi said, addressing 50 years celebrations of Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) Ladies Wing in Mumbai through video conferencing.
"Where laws are needed to be amended, they are being amended and where new rules are needed, they are being made," he added, citing examples of a number of laws the government recently amended, including the Maternity Benefits Act, Factories Act and Disability Act.
"Recently, the Maternity Benefits Act was amended to increase maternity leave to 26 weeks from 12 weeks. Even very developed countries don't have such laws. Similarly Factories Act was amended to enable women to work in night shifts. The Disability Act was changed to give acid attack victims same assistance and reservation benefits as given to the disabled," Modi said.
In another important change in passport rules, Modi said, women now no longer have to produce certificate of their marriage or divorce.
"A woman may now choose to give the name of her father or mother in her passport," the Prime Minister said.
He said that Indian women are flying fighter planes, going to space (as astronauts) and winning medals in Olympics. He also acknowledged women's contribution in the agriculture sector.
"India's women are making their presence felt from panchayat to Parliament and from the village well to Silicon Valley. It's a myth that Indian women remain confined to the four walls of the house," Modi said.
He said that in the families which avail government welfare schemes, the government has decided to give first preference to the women in the households, such as under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, preference would be given to allot houses in women's name.
"Many brands have succeeded as they have women power behind them. Many successful enterprises are being run by women. Indian women have patience, capability as well as spirit to fight it out," Modi said.
He urged each of the audience to set a target for themselves for 2022 when India completes 75 years of independence.
"Is it not our responsibility to fulfil the dreams of the freedom fighters who laid down their lives or spent their youth in Andaman jail? During freedom struggle, everyone used to do their bit for the country's freedom. Can we do something to make our contribution towards the nation before we celebrate 75 years?" the Prime Minister said.
"We should have a dream and a roadmap for New India," he added.
He said that democracy is a "constant contribution" and that government is not a contractor.