MUMBAI, APRIL 13: The Maharashtra Assembly today passed the Maharashtra Devdasi Practices (Eradication) Bill prohibiting the age-old Devdasi tradition.
Introduced by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshawardan Patil, the Bill is the first legislation against the practice—in which girls are dedicated to Goddesses—after independence. The Bill has punitive provisions, including imprisonment from to two to three years, with fine from Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000. ‘‘We want to stop rampant exploitation of women through this tradition which has religious sanction,’’ Patil told The Indian Express
The state would have a control board under a judge and district-level Devdasi Practices Control Committees headed by the respective chief judicial magistrate of the district. The panels would be formed in 10 districts. These are: Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur, Sindhudurg, Usmanabad, Nanded, Latur, Mumbai, Pune and Satara.
Patil said the government wanted to create fear in the minds of people abetting this practice. ‘‘We have provided for severe punishment….Even if 100 persons are punished, it would send the right signal and curb exploitation of women in the name of religion.’’
He said the government was also contemplating rehabilitation of Devdasis. ‘‘There are about 1 lakh Devdasis in Maharashtra and about 20,000 of them have been surveyed. As many as 6,500 of them get pension of Rs 200 per month with allowances of Rs 300, besides Rs 10,000 towards marriage expenses of their daughters,’’ Patil said, adding, ‘‘We have made a provision of Rs 16.21 lakh in the 2006-07 budget for them’’.