By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Feb 29 (IANS) Bollywood actress Preity Zinta had met Finance Minister P. Chidambaram a few days before he presented the 2008-09 budget, and had urged him to keep the budget woman-friendly.
"We met for just about 20 minutes and I, along with some other women like Renuka Chowdhary and some NGOs with a voice, got a chance to have a say. It was to urge him to make this year's budget woman-friendly, to provide incentives for women in the industries," Preity told IANS.
Asked why she had spoken to a senior politician on a social issue, Preity said: "I guess it's a natural process of growth within all individuals. I may have started off as a glamorous entity in a glamour industry. But today I look for substance and motivation in whatever I do. Whether it's my roles in films or in real life, I've to get re-inspired.
"I strongly feel the women with a voice in this country need to get together to create better opportunities for the silent majority. Just think, asking for better home loan-options for single women or widows is so difficult when they don't have a collateral security to offer. I'd like to see that change. I also want to work for bettering hygiene and personal sanitation. And of course free and compulsory education for girls."
Preity feels families in India must stop looking at the girl child as a burden. Before becoming a glamour icon, the actress gave an excellent performance as a teenage single mother in "Kya Kehna".
"I'm so lucky that my father gave me every kind of opportunity for growth. I think today I'm in a position where I earn more than a lot of boys. If I can be here, why not girls from less privileged homes?
"The girl child needn't be a burden. When farmers commit suicide, their widows get left behind with their children and the loans. No one wants a woman when she is a widow when in fact she is the mother, the creator. From the homemaker to homeless is such a sad journey. Just softer interest rates for farmers would make so much difference," she said.
Preity discussed all of this with the finance minister Monday.
"It wasn't easy getting an appointment with him but he gave us all a patient ear. He heard us out so gracefully. I had never met Mr Chidambaram before. He's highly qualified and wonderfully articulate. We had a very positive meeting."
Preity was the only spokesperson from the film industry among the women who met the finance minister.
"I suppose it's because of my work with women, especially concerning female foeticide. I seriously feel it's time for me to give back to society some of what I've been given," the actress said.