A video of Soumya Pandey, a Sub Divisional Magistrate posted in the Modinagar district of India's Uttar Pradesh state, recently went viral on Twitter, showing the officer skipping on maternity leave and returning to work just days after delivering her baby girl.
With the evident intention of inspiring working mothers with this "new age Laxmibai", the video showed Pandey working in her office while holding the baby in her arms.
Pandey pointed out that working women in India do not neglect their professional responsibilities even during the critical months of pregnancy and that under these circumstances, family support really encourages women to keep working.
Must be inspired by @GummallaSrijana ! @IASassociation Soumya Pandey (SDM Modinagar) didnt availed 06 months maternity leave, joined back office with her infant daughter. #CoronaWarriors pic.twitter.com/8Q6Cju2X49— Dr.Prashanth (@prashantchiguru) October 12, 2020
The video, which was meant to inspire, ended up garnering blunt and sour comments from netizens who called Pandey "stupid" for "carelessly exposing the newborn to the pandemic".
Some people also accused such videos of promoting an "unrealistic" work culture, pointing out that not all offices allow new mothers to bring their babies to the offices and that women should not be made to feel guilty for taking time to recover.
Stop being stupid & exposing the child to infections while pandemic rages through the world. Stop this kind of pressure on new mothers. Maternity leave is a necessity not a luxury. She will find out when child needs breast feeding every couple of hours in middle of her ‘work’.— Mona Ambegaonkar (@MonaAmbegaonkar) October 13, 2020
Why must this even be an inspiration? Each case is different, and using those 6 months off is not a crime. Neither is it a luxury. If at all one has to work, one can work from home. Many of us did. I desist from speaking of the unnecessary risk the infant is being exposed to.— Subha Jayanagaraja (@subhajrao) October 13, 2020
Besides, rights like Maternity Leave have not come easy. This is exactly the kind of thing that will lead to - “If she can do it, why can’t you” reactions!— Abhik Sen🏹 (@sen_abhik) October 13, 2020
Besides how many employers will allow for children to be allowed at work? Most parents would be delighted!
This publicity stunt is certainly at the cost of the infant's life during this pandemic... Surprising she is an IAS... Education served no purpose + no commonsense...— FRANCIS J (@francispolit) October 13, 2020
I request the @IASassociation to request this officer to not risk her own and more importantly the child's health.— Devendra Pai (@DEVenDrapai) October 13, 2020
And posting such videos does send a wrong signal.
Amid the comments that called this video a “publicity stunt”, some people openly offered shout-outs to the “strong working woman” in Pandey who now has both a baby as well as a career to manage and excel at.
There are crores of mothers who are at various projects, construction sites ... it is common to them carry load as well their child immediately after delivery...Respected SDM Madam is also setting an example in this crucial period of pandemic ... Kudos to all Mothers— Dr. Zafar A Khan (@DrKhanzafar) October 13, 2020
गर्व है आप पर। धन्य है आपकी जननी 🙏💐💐💐 pic.twitter.com/3uPdJPnsXT— Pawan Kumar (@PawanKu37548828) October 13, 2020
As of now, Pandey has not replied to people questioning her for bringing her baby to the office.
In September, Pandey took a 22-day leave to prepare for delivery, and two weeks after giving birth she resumed work.
Back in 2018, a report by the Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership, a wing of Ashoka University revealed that 50 percent of working women in India quit their jobs to take care of their children at the age of 30. Even among those who manage to return, 48 percent drop out within four months of resuming work.