The Government of Maharashtra has made Hirkani rooms mandatory at places where women work in large numbers. These rooms are meant for lactating mothers to express and store their breastmilk and can also be used by pregnant women to rest or women with small babies to take care of. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has made these rooms compulsory in places where women are employed in big numbers.
Even police stations across Maharashtra will now have a Hirkani room. A campaign is being planned to set up Hirkani rooms at all crowded places where women may find it difficult to breastfeed their babies, such as railway stations, bus terminals and hospitals. In the first phase, about 17 Hirkani rooms will be set up by the state government in crowded spots.
With this regulation in place, all the public and semi-public offices, educational institutions and firms in Maharashtra will now have to compulsorily set aside a Hirkani room for the women in their workforces. The state government has ensured that this is legally provided for in the Municipal Corporation Act. Henceforth, according to the regulation, these Hirkani rooms will be made available in both residential and commercial buildings across the state, without including the space for the area in the calculation of the Carpet Area Index (FSI).
The rooms will allow privacy and comfort to lactating women, expecting mothers as well as mothers with small babies and kids below six years of age.
An official notification has reportedly been issued for the setting up of these rooms by the Urban Development Department, while a final decision on the same is awaited.
Recently, the Maharashtra government has allocated Rs 20 crore for the establishment of ‘Hirkani Kaksh’ (baby feeding centers) in key areas of the Mira-Bhayandar, a part of Ovala-Majiwada constituency, under the Thane Lok Sabha Constituency. Aimed at supporting nursing mothers, the Kaksh will operate 24/7.
The concept was proposed by Pratap Sarnaik, a Shiv Sena legislator, who approached the state government to secure funding for this initiative.
In the initial stage, the Ovala-Majiwada constituency has been chosen to establish the Hirkani Kaksha, catering to lactating mothers. These centres will be located in playgrounds and gardens within the constituency and will be quipped with amenities such as air-conditioned toilets, designated areas for breastfeeding, restrooms, cradles, and vending machines for sanitary pads. Additionally, these centers will be powered by solar energy and will also serve as open libraries.
The breastfeeding centers are called “Hirkani Kaksha” in reference to a historical figure named Hirkani. Hirkani was a courageous woman from Maharashtra who lived during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a prominent Maratha ruler. Legend has it that Hirkani, who lived in a hill fort called Raigad, would regularly descend the steep slopes of the fort to return to her infant son at home. This act required immense bravery and determination, as the descent was not an easy task.
Hirkani’s story has been widely celebrated in Maharashtra as a symbol of a mother’s love and dedication. The name “Hirkani Kaksha” for the breastfeeding centers is intended to honour her legacy and highlight the importance of providing a supportive environment for nursing mothers, just as Hirkani strived to ensure the well-being of her child.