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Rajasthan on Wednesday approved a bill that proposes stringent punishment against women being branded as witches and subjected to other atrocities in the state, officials said.

“The cabinet meeting was held at chief minister’s (Ashok Gehlot) office Wednesday. The draft of the bill named Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities) Bill, 2011 was approved by the cabinet,” an officer of the chief minister’s office told IANS.

The bill had been prepared by the state’s women and child welfare department keeping in view the increasing cases of women being branded witches in the state.

The officer said that the bill also proposes to prevent other offences of atrocities against women and constitution of special courts for trial of such offences and for relief and rehabilitation of the victims.

“The bill will soon be tabled in the assembly,” said the officer. As per the bill, a crime would be considered to have been committed when any person or community intentionally or inadvertently abets, conspires, aids and instigates the identification of a woman as a witch leading to her mental and physical torture and humiliation.

The bill has proposed a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment and fine for those who grab the land of such women after forcing them to leave their house.

If a woman commits suicide after being called a witch, the accused shall be given a prison sentence of not less than five years, which can be extended to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs 25,000. The fine can be enhanced to Rs 50,000, the bill draft said.

The official said that the cabinet also decided to launch ‘Prashashan Shahron Ke Sang’ campaign between November 21 and December 25.

The officer added: “It was decided by the cabinet that buildings constructed in unauthorised colonies set up before June 17, 1999 on agriculture land will be regularized during the campaign.”

The cabinet also gave approval to the proposal related to amendment in various models of ‘Affordable Housing Policy’, 2009. The decision would pave way for providing more houses to the people belonging to the weaker and lower income groups, the officer said.

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