PART - I
By Archa Datta
Our ancient scriptures say that ‘Yatraryastupujyanteramantetatradevataha’— where women are worshiped there the Gods reside. The Upanishads declare that –Ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanthi’ —there is only one reality in this world, described in many ways. Man and woman are the two manifestations of one supreme power and are equal in strength, power and disposition. Such was the lofty status given to women in our ancient scriptures and society. Over the ages, women became subject to social exclusion, multiple deprivation and mental and physical abuse.
The vicious cycles of inequality perpetuated a decline in the status of women and fostered lop-sided development. In the 21st century, a paradoxical situation exists when a section of them have made a place for themselves in society, yet a large number remains deprived of the right to live with dignity and, moreover, a girl child is deemed unworthy of life itself. To have inclusive growth, it is imperative to ensure that women in all situations get equal opportunity to live and lead a life of their choice.
The Census 2011 is an eye opener as it records an all-time low Child Sex Ratio (CSR) of 918, which is the number of girls per thousand boys, between the age group of 0-6 years. The declining sex ratio is in existence in every part of the country- rural, urban and tribal areas. It is an alarming situation, which will alter the demographic profile of the country, and requires immediate action to reverse this dangerous trend to prevent further erosion of gender justice, and ensure social cohesion and all-round development.
To arrest this declining trend in the CSR and ensure women’s education, a tiol program, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao( BBBP), has been launched by the Prime Minister on January 22, 2015, at Panipat in Harya. It is a joint initiative of the Ministries of Women & Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resources Development to spearhead twin objectives: to protect a girl child of her right to be born and her right to life, and to empower her with education and life skills. The place selected for launch of this campaign is also significant, with Harya being one of the worst performers on CSR. Harya has just 877 females per 1000 males, and in case of 0-6 years, the figure is as low as 830, as per Census 2011.
The Prime Minister’s emotiol appeal at the launch of the program highlights the urgency of the situation and the need to reverse this dangerous demographic trend. He said that it is the collective responsibility to end this ‘terrible crisis’ which will have far reaching consequences on future generations. He appealed to the people to turn the birth of a girl child into an ‘.Andotsav’ and make it into a community celebration. The PM also launched the “Sukanya Samriddhi Account” for the benefit of the girl child for her education. The current year’s Budget proposal for 2015-16, gives it a tax break on its accrued annual interest of 9.1%.
The BBBP, for focussed intervention, has initially chosen 100 Gender Critical districts in all States and UTs. The program has a multi-sectoral approach and lays stress on mass mobilisation and community participation. The program in campaign mode has several monitor-able targets. One is to improve the Sex Ratio at Birth(SRB) in identified gender critical districts by 10 points a year. The other is to reduce gender differentials in under Five Child Mortality Rate from 8 points in 2011 to 4points by 2017. The programme sets the target to increase girl enrolment in secondary education from 76% in 2013-14 to 79% by 2017 and provide toilets for girls in every school in the 100 CSR districts by 2017.
The BBBP Campaign is to ensure effective implementation of PC& PNDT Act to curb sex-selective abortion. It is also to improve the nutritiol status of girls by reducing the number of underweight and aemic girls under the age of 5, from NFHS-3 levels and ensure universalisation of ICDS. The campaign is also to promote a protective environment for the girl child through implementation of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
(To be continued)