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‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’

‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’
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By Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched one more scheme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (save the girl child, educate the girl child), on January 22, 2015 in Panipat, Haryana. With an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore, the scheme has been launched in hundred districts across the country. In Haryana, where the child sex ratio (CSR) has been dismally low, 12 districts have been chosen: Rewari, Mahendergarh, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Sonepat, Rohtak, Karnal, Kaithal, Panipat and Yamuna Nagar.
Lamenting that we have an 18th century mindset, the Prime Minister called for an end to the discrimination between sons and daughters. He said this is the key to ending female foeticide. Modi reminded the medical fraternity, which also contributed to female foeticide, that their medical education had been for the purpose of saving lives and not killing daughters.
PM has also launched the ‘SukanyaSamriddhi Account’ for the benefit of the girl child. He released a stamp on the theme of ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ (BBBP) and administered the ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ pledge on the occasion.
Today the society as a whole needs to change its attitude towards the girl child to end female foeticide. The practice is prevalent among every strata of the society. Although there is a healthy sex ratio in the north-eastern region and tribal areas, in many parts of the country the incidence of female foeticide is high.
The Government has initiated this innovative scheme to save the lot of girl children.
There’s a huge deficit of women because families fear the cost of raising a daughter. It is a commonly practiced tradition (despite being outlawed) that the bride’s family pays a large sum of money to the groom’s family at the wedding. Plus, women are generally not seen as bread-winners and or allowed to inherit wealth like men in some states. Sex-selection is now spreading to rural areas as the technology gets cheaper and enforcement of the law remains ineffectual.
The imbalance in sex ratio may increase violence, including rape, against women. With many men remaining unmarried, prostitution will increase substantially. Media exposes of doctors providing sex-selection services and offering to abort girls are commonplace, but they have little overall impact because demand is too strong. Doctors and radiologists conducting, or soliciting parents for, sex determination tests can be imprisoned up to five years and fined up to Rs.50,000. Despite the PC & PNDT Act, the conviction rate is low and the selection of male child before conception and female foeticide continue to take place.
Despite rising levels of education, gender awareness and stringent pro-women laws, change has been slow and violence against women is increasing. Visionary leadership, stringent implementation of laws and a united effort to discourage dowry are the need of the hour.
Educational programmes encouraging parents to view daughters as no less valuable than sons need to be mounted. Time has now come to formulate an action plan to launch a campaign to change the mindset of people and to promote female child birth rate
The problem begins right at birth and right in their own homes. The birth of a daughter – if she ever gets born, that is – is regarded as a calamity. Looming large on the horizon of the dejected parents’ minds is the dowry that they will have to slave to put together when the girl is married off. An advertisement for amniocentesis, the medical test misused for sex determination and the consequent abortion of female foetuses, sums it up succinctly “ Better pay Rs 500 now than Rs 5 lakhs later.”
It’s high time one stops killing girls children in their mother’s wombs.” Girls infants are left to die – sometimes drowned or given poison by their own parents who perceive a daughter as an economic burden. In India the population of girls has been decreasing. We need to understand that girls are our fortune. In order to curb female foeticide and improve the sex ratio, a strong a multi-pronged strategy that includes legislative measures, advocacy, awareness generation and programmes for socio-economic empowerment of women is needed. Visionary leadership, stringent implementation of laws and a united effort to discourage dowry are the need of the hour. One fails to imagine why is the right to live denied a girl child in some communities and why are women still the most chronically undernourished sections of the population? It seems waiting for the real changes to occur for women in India are rather like waiting for God.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])

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