Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath presented the Rani Lakshmibai and Begum Akhtar awards to eminent achievers of the state on Thursday.

At a ceremony held in Lokbhavan in Lucknow, the CM presented the 2017-18 Begum Akhtar Puraskar to classical singers Pandit Dharmnath Mishra and Ustad Sakhawat Hussain Khan.

While Pandit Mishra is an exponent of Thumri, Dadra, Choti, Hori and Kajri styles of singing, Ustad Khan is a maestro of Ghazal, Thumri, and Hindustani Classical.

Women and children were honoured with the Rani Lakshmibai Award for their service, excellence and achievements in the areas of education, industries, sports, healthcare, and government and non-government areas. Some of them were honoured for acts of bravery.

The ceremony was organised by the state’s Women and Child Welfare Department to recognise achievers in specific fields.

Addressing the gathering, Adityanath hailed the contribution of women in the society. He said the honours such as Rani Lakshmibai Puraskar helps the government come in contact with women achievers from within the society in of Uttar Pradesh.

“The women who have been honoured with the Rani Lakshmibai Puraskar should encourage other women to contribute to the society,” said the CM.

Stating that he was extremely pleased to honour so many women at the same time, Adityanath said that the awards have helped in recognising the contribution of these people in their respective fields.

He added that he was pleased to learn that 99 of the 147 students who topped in high school and intermediate exams in  2017 were girls.

Addressing the issue of gender discrimination in the society, the CM acknowledged that his government receives complaints about such matters.

“Though a lot of work has been done to eradicate this, a lot more still needs to be done,” said Adityanath, adding, “Government cannot end this alone; women will have to come forward to help.”

“The first person to comment when a girl is born is the grandmother of the household. This tendency needs to change,” said the CM in the presence of UP’s Minister of Women, Family, and Child Welfare Rita Bahuguna Joshi.

Stating that silence is tantamount to acceptance, the CM exhorted women to speak up against abuse. He also urged village chiefs to launch campaigns against drug use.