The Maharashtra government is considering to make training in self-defence a part of the school curriculum in the state.
Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde gave this assurance in response to an online petition filed by a woman self-defence coach from Pune, Neha Shrimal.
In the petition posted on Change.org in September last year, Shrimal, a mother of seven-year-old girl, had demanded making self-defence training compulsory for all the schools in the state. The petition received over 1.38 lakh signatures in support of the demand.
In the petition, Shrimal gave an example of how an 18-year-old girl fought off three men harassing her and handed them over to police in Birbhum in West Bengal.
"This brave student shows us that girls can be empowered to face such situations with confidence, rather than feeling scared, victimised and helpless.
"In India, over 53% children face sexual abuse. Whenever any such incidence happens, we just look at police and legal system for help. We never imagine that a girl can also have power to deal with such situations," she said.
"I believe that every child should be trained to protect themselves from an early age. I am asking Maharashtra Government to make self defence training compulsory for all the students from 5th standard onwards," Shrimal added.
According to her, self defence was not martial arts, but a psychological, mental and physical preparedness to deal with any danger from undesirable elements.
In his online reply, Tawde said, "The first petition that I have received is from a Pune citizen and a mother, Neha Shrimal. Neha and 1.37 lakh citizens have asked me to Make self-defence training compulsory for all the schools in Maharashtra. I have heard you and 1.37 lakh citizens."
"Taking due cognisance of the petition, I am now considering running the programme, and making it a part of the curriculum. We recently decided to introduce an hour-long sports session for school students.
And we are planning to introduce self-defence as a part of these sessions. With this, we have decided to start mandatory self-defence training in schools," he said.
When contacted, a senior official from the School Education Department confirmed the state government's plan in this regard.
"Our department went through the issues raised on the online platform and we found merit in the petition. Therefore, we are seriously considering to introduce the self-defence session in the curriculum," the official said.