Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign has reinvigorated the urge to protect the girl child
mhari chhoriyaan chhoron se kam hai ke?” Reads the poster of ‘Dangal’ as Aamir Khan (read Mahavir Phogat) sits with her four daughters, poised yet fierce. The story traces the life of Mahavir Phogat and how he trained his daughters, Geeta and Babita, who went on to clinch gold medals in 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games respectively. The Phogats belong to the Balali, a small village in the state of Haryana. The state is notorious for its attitude towards women. It has the lowest Child Sex Ratio (0-6), 834 females per thousand males, amongst all the states in India. ‘Dangal’ movie’s punch line is a signal of the times to come.
A Nation Without Women
India’s gender story has been hostile towards the fairer sex. History hadn’t been very kind to them; sati, dowry system are just few of the examples highlighting their plight. The 21st century was supposed to be a progressive one. But if the Child Sex Ratio (CSR) is an indicator of societal progression, Indian data shows a regressive trend. In 2001, the CSR was 927, which dropped down to 918 by 2011. It is amongst the lowest in the world.
Some of the reasons attributed to this disturbing trend are female infanticide, sex selective female abortions, high maternal mortality, intra household discrimination of the girl child in food, education and healthcare resulting in their higher mortality and lesser competence, etc. These are the outcomes of a much deeper malaise which runs through our society. It is widely believed that lineage and inheritance runs through the male child, that it is the son’s responsibility to take care of the ageing parents, men are the caretakers of the family, etc. The result of the prevailing depraved mindsets is the continuous decline in gender equality indicators.
Social scientists have pointed out the social consequences of such low numbers – marriage squeeze (low availability of marriageable females per male), low economic productivity, rise in crimes and violence against women, etc. Keeping all this in mind, ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) scheme was introduced in October, 2014. This was formally launched by PM Modi on January 22nd, 2015 from Panipat, Haryana, with an emotional appeal to the people of India, saying “he comes as a bhikshuk (beggar) to beg for the lives of daughters”.
A 21st Century Narrative
The key elements of the scheme include ‘strict enforcement of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, nation-wide awareness and advocacy campaign and multi-sectoral action in select 100 districts (later increased to 161) which had low CSR. There is a strong emphasis on mindset change through training, sensitization, awareness raising and community mobilization on ground.’ It is a tri-ministerial effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development (WCD), Health & Family Welfare (HFW) and Human Resource Development (HRD).
In the past, numerous schemes had been initiated to address the issue, but with little success. With BBBP, the strategy is three pronged – preventing sex selective abortion, ensuring survival and protection of girl child and ensuring education of the girl child. Administration has tightened its claws around the diagnostic centres that have been illegally carrying out sex determination. Strong focus has been given on mindsets and behavioral changes rather than ad-hoc approaches. District and block level targeting has enhanced the implementation as well as monitoring of the scheme. For mobilization and sensitization in the communities, Anganwadi Centres have been involved. HRD ministry is specifically focusing on universal enrolment of girls and decreasing their drop-out rates.
Far Reaching Effects
In Haryana, where the BBBP programme was launched, efforts have already started bearing the fruits. Haryana health minister Anil Vij told that there has been considerable improvement in the sex ratio in 18 districts of the state due to the awareness and intensive inspection campaigns being run under the ‘BetiBachaoBetiPadhao’ programme.
He also said that the sex ratio in 12 districts has crossed the 900-mark. Mansa district in Punjab has launched an initiative to inspire its girls to be educated. Under its ‘Udaan - Sapneya Di Duniya De Rubaru (Udaan- Live your Dream For One Day)’ scheme, the Mansa administration invites proposals from girls belonging to classes VI-XII. These girls have the opportunity to spend one day with a professional they aspire to be — doctor, police official, engineer, IAS and PPS officers, among others.
BBBP scheme has brought the nation’s attention back to a very fundamental issue of our society – patriarchy. Over the years, the structure of patriarchy had suitably modified itself to ensure that fairer sex also remains the ‘weaker sex’. BBBP has started making dents into that structure. Very soon, every father will have the same pride and poise as Aamir Khan in ‘Dangal’ movie’s poster, while standing with their daughters, with the
punch line reverberating in the background –“Mhari chhoriyaan chhoron se kam hai ke?”
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