Modi’s shaky race to save India’s girls 


  • beti

Amritsar, May 23 (IANS/IndiaSpend) It’s a substantial but sparse two-room house, and flies infest the courtyard, buzzing ceaselessly around Manseerat Gill, 14 days old. Undisturbed by their buzzing, she sleeps peacefully.

For the next six years — thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s determination to fight the country’s bias against daughters — Manseerat’s well-being and survival will be the responsibility of a six-foot-tall man with piercing eyes and a full, flowing grey beard.

Ranjit Singh Buttar is a rare male gynaecologist here in this holy Sikh city, and as district health officer, he has many other tasks, including running rural health centres, delivering contraceptives and ensuring polio inoculations to every new born.

Amritsar is one of 100 Indian “gender-critical” districts — 10 are in Punjab, among India’s five richest states by per capita income — included in Modi’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save a daughter, educate a daughter)” programme, launched in January to fight the nation’s deep-rooted bias against daughters.

A poster for the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign is outside the District Commissioner’s office in Amritsar.

“The discrimination against girls is an illness, an illness of the heart, which leads us to think sons are more important,” said Modi at the launch. “Even in feeding, a mother adds ghee to a son’s ‘khichri’ but will deny this to a daughter.”

Modi is not the first prime minister to realise that is losing girls. While the 1990s saw three such programmes, since 2005 there have been 11 schemes, one following the other, to ensure that more girls — discriminated against at birth and in upbringing — are born, live, go to school and do not marry early.

Yet, the girls continue to disappear. About 2,000 girls die — aborted or starved, poisoned or otherwise killed after birth — every day in India, according to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, who provided this data in April. The estimates of women so missing range from two million to 25 million.

Gandhi said Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao — which, among other things, seeks to eliminate gender-based foeticide and ensure survival of the girl child — was already showing surprising results.

“Hundreds of girl children are being thrown into orphanages in these 100 districts,” she told NDTV in an interview. “I was in Amritsar and the DC (Deputy commissioner) told me they had received 89 girls this month. I thought this is a weird statistic.”

It is. The minister got things wrong, INDIASPEND’s reporting indicates. The 82 girls she cites were abandoned in Amritsar not since January but since 2008, not as an impact of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ but as a general malaise of giving up daughters.

What Amritsar did since 2008 was to collect these abandoned children as part of a “Pangura” (cradle in Punjabi) programme, housed in an International Red Cross building. Parents can leave children at a cradle here, instead of on the road or in fields. When a child arrives, a bell alerts staff, who place it in a hospital and later with adoption agencies.

Pangura, which has a physical cradle placed in the International Red Cross building, has collected 82 abandoned girls in Amritsar since 2008.

Pangura received 92 children since 2008, 82 of them girls. The scheme is a reasonable success, but 82 girls saved over seven years will not impact skewed gender ratios. Besides, experts said abandoning daughters is no better than killing them.

PM Modi’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme appears to focus on changing mindsets. Its first step is to spread awareness: Mobile vans and material have reached districts.

What has not reached districts is money.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley set aside Rs.100 crore for ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ in the 2015-16 budget. Each district in the hundred gender-critical districts will get Rs.55 lakh for 2014-15, followed by Rs.31 lakh in 2015-16.

Buttar’s office is yet to get the first tranche of funds, two months after Jaitley’s announcement. Minister Gandhi’s office did not respond to INDIASPEND’s interview request.

If Modi’s programme has to impact pint-sized Manseerat, money, while important, is not the only factor. The effort, as past experience shows, cannot be piece-meal, split by bureaucracy, confused and uncoordinated.

India’s political history is littered with programmes to protect girls such as Manseerat. Dhanalakshmi. Bhagyalakshmi. Rajalakshmi. Ladli. Balri Rakshak Yojana. Indira Gandhi Balika Suraksha Yogana. Balika Samridhi Yojana. Beti Hai Anmol. Mukhya Mantri Kanya Suraksha Yojana. Mukhya Mantri Kanyadan Scheme. Most have been of limited or no efficacy, hobbled by a rigid array of conditions and uncertainties about why they have not worked.

“(Our) findings point to the need to simplify the eligibility criteria and conditionalities, and also the procedures of registration under each of these schemes,” noted a United Nations Population Fund study.

“Though year after year substantial financial resources have been directed towards promoting these schemes, there is a lack of field-level monitoring. In the absence of a proper grievance-redressal mechanism, the challenges often multiply. In some states, the lack of coordination across different sectors such as health, education and social welfare is adversely affecting programme implementation.”

Implementing officers complained that other departments did not cooperate with them. In some states, tardy coordination between financial institutions, such as banks and insurance companies, and implementing departments delayed bonds, certificates and bank accounts. In most schemes, the involvement of local village institutions, NGOs and women’s groups was “rather limited”, as the study noted.

The Ministry of Social Welfare has been the nodal ministry for some schemes. State governments run parallel programmes they can tom-tom at election time. The “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme, managed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, will be implemented through deputy commissioners and top bureaucrats in each district.

“The effort is fragmented. You need one entity that is then also responsible for results,” said Buttar, whose office has written a plan for the scheme’s implementation covering Amritsar district’s 15 towns and 739 villages, home to 2.5 million people, 8.9 percent of Punjab’s population.

In Punjab, fewer than 850 girls survive to reach the age of six, 68 less than India’s already poor average of 918 daughters to a 1,000 sons. Neighbouring Haryana has 12 districts in the programme. Maharashtra matches Punjab with 10 districts, where fewer girls are allowed to be born or survive compared to India’s average.

What Modi is up against is people’s desire for a male heir. “How can you expect daughters-in-law if you don’t have daughters?” Modi said at the public gathering on the launch of his scheme in Panipat, Haryana.

Not only do disappearing girls take a toll in terms of fewer number of brides and trafficking of women, India loses workforce talent and diversity. For instance, economists have struggled to explain the fall in women in India’s workforce — contrary to global trends — over the 2000s, despite a rise in industrialisation and prosperity.

“Labour participation, same emoluments for same work, nutritional standards–they paint a grim picture,” said Krishna Kumar, a Delhi University professor who has researched discrimination against girls.

Government programmes, he said, are populist but cannot trigger social change.

In Nangli village in Amritsar, Manseerat’s mother, Pinky, fresh-faced and 23, looks too young to have had two children. Both are daughters.

Pinky, 23, looks too young to have two children. Since both are girls, she might try to conceive again in the hope of having a son and “completing the family”.

Thanks to the presence of a trained health worker under the Rural Health Mission run by Buttar’s office, Manseerat was born in a hospital and not at home. She will also be innoculated. Her family of nine — sister, parents, grandparents, three unmarried uncles — live on a monthly income of Rs 15,000.

Pinky, who uses one name, has a ready laugh but it is clear she is disappointed with Manseerat.

“Could have been a son,” she said. “Her father says a son will complete the family.” Pinky’s conversation with her mother-in-law indicated she would give motherhood another shot–in hope of a son.

It is this desire for a male heir that Buttar’s office is up against.

Buttar, whose office keeps a record of gender ratios in Amritsar, said: “I am an eternal optimist; no effort goes waste.”

The optimism, in many ways mirroring Modi’s, will go only so far. To begin with, programmes for the girl child need to be brought under one roof, those involved in the programme said. The implementing department or ministry should have money, manpower and jurisdiction to use the carrot and stick: give incentives to have girls, hold awareness drives to change mindsets and prosecute under the law that criminalises female foeticide.

If the office of district family welfare officer is to be given the key responsibility for Modi’s mission, then that office needs to be rid of diverse tasks, such as running rural health clinics, distributing contraceptives and family planning programmes.

Amritsar’s district family welfare office, headed by Ranjit Singh Buttar. It is already overstretched, serving a population of 2.5 million across 15 towns and 739 villages.

Over two years, 2011-2013, no more than 32 people were punished under the law that criminalises pre-birth gender testing; gender-testing cases reported stood at 563, according to the Press Trust of India. Thirty states have not had even one conviction under this law, noted the Supreme Court of India.

Outside Buttar’s cabin, junior officer Tripta Sharma explained how she successfully played a decoy pregnant woman. She was sent to an ultra-sound clinic that was alleged to have violated the law by offering gender tests. The police made an arrest. But eight court appearances over a year and a half exhausted Sharma. The court dismissed the case.

“We are doctors, not lawyers,” said Buttar, who said his office would appeal the acquittal. He frequently raids ultrasound clinics, checking a third of them by rotation. With reluctant decoys, all his office has by way of checks on doctors and clinics is a document called “Form F”, on which clinics must declare the purpose of the pre-birth test and the doctor-in-charge.

Academic research on female foeticide — research which is dated by now, as foeticide peaked during the 2000s and then dropped off – -has discouraging findings. Female foeticide increases with easy access to medical facilities, ability to pay doctors and the availability of good roads, which cut down travel time, according to demographer Ashish Bose in his book-sex-selective Abortion in India, based on fieldwork in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

In short, progress means more girls could die. Modi’s programme could mean a lot to Manseerat’s future–but not in its current form.

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/modi-s-shaky-race-to-save-india-s-girls-special-to-ians-115052300256_1.html

 

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Save the girl child: PMC nod to fixed deposit scheme


Express news service : Pune, Sat Jul 13 2013,

To check sex selection,  the women and child welfare committee of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on Friday approved a proposal seeking financial assistance to every girl child born in a poor family under the civic jurisdiction from April this year.As per the proposal, the civic body would make a fixed deposit of Rs 30,000 in the name of the girl child born in a family having income less than Rs 1 lakh. The girl can withdraw the money which will amount to Rs 2.4 lakh after interest, when she is 18 and provided she is unmarried.

The civic body will contribute Rs 20,000 while the parents will have to give Rs 10,000 to avail the scheme. The scheme would be eligible for citizens under the civic jurisdiction and up to two child per family.

“The committee will also contribute Rs 40,000 for a girl child if her parents decide to have only one child. In such cases, the parents need not contribute Rs 10,000 to avail the scheme,” said Varsha Marathe, chairperson of women and child welfare committee.

As many as 50,000 births take place every year in PMC. There are 938 female births for every 1,000 male births. This means 24,200 female births a year take place in the city.

If the civic body decides to include all of them in the scheme then the civic body would need a whopping Rs 48.27 crore. The scheme has a provision of merely Rs 5 crore and can be availed by beneficiaries who fulfill the criteria.

Civic body proposes to double scholarship of sportsmen

The PMC administration has proposed to double the scholarship given to sportsmen representing at district, state, national and international level. After the sports policy was approved last year, the civic body had made provision of Rs 25,000 for sportsmen from city representing at national and international level and Rs 15,000 for sportsmen representing the district.

PMC mounts vigil to keep monsoon diseases at bay

With the city having buckled under a volley of diseases during the last monsoon, particularly dengue, the civic authorities this year are mounting vigilance in advance to keep monsoon-related diseases at bay. Though swine flu claimed several lives, dengue and malaria attacked people with twin viral.

According to Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) monthly communicable disease report, 148 dengue cases, including five deaths, have been reported since January this year. Around 15 cases were reported in May and 36 in June, the report said.

As many as 66 cases of malaria and 184 cases of swine flu have been reported since January. While majority of swine flu cases were reported in February (44), March (64) and April (45), there were only two case in June. Around 98 snake bite cases have been registered since January, with 19 in June.

As per the PMC records, cases of viral hepatitis are on the rise, with a total of 682 cases reported since January. June alone reported 89 such cases.

In Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), officials said there were 47 cases of malaria since January.

The sentinnel surveillance centre set up by the PCMC to test dengue cases registered only two cases

 

J&K: Man kills 4-year-old daughter to get government compensation #Vaw #WTFnews


CNN-IBN | Updated Jun 30, 2013

SrinagarIn a shocking incident in Kashmir, a man allegedly choked and slit the throat of his 4-year-old daughter, in order to get government compensation. The accused Altaf Ahmad from Rafiabad has been arrested.

Police are saying his main motive was to claim she was killed by militants and seek compensation from the government. Altaf’s wife is the village sarpanch and he was hoping the police would believe his story considering the recent militant attacks on sarpanches and their families. On the day of the incident, Altaf allegedly sent his wife and son to the doctor and in their absence murdered the young girl.

“We believe that the motive could have been that his wife is the village sarpanch. He might have tried to pass the murder off as a militant act to claim compensation from the government,” DIG north Kashmir JP Singh said.

 

Nashik – Relatives stomp on Pregnant woman leading to abortion


Press Trust of India | Updated: April 16, 2013 15:18 IST

Nashik, MaharashtraIn-laws of 20-year-old pregnant woman here have been charged with murdering an unborn girl child after they allegedly stomped on her stomach and beat her, killing the two-month-old foetus, police said today.
The incident took place in the Mhasrul locality where victim Suvarna Gaikwad was being harassed mentally and physically for dowry since her marriage to Khanderao Gaikwad in June last year, they said.The young woman was being tortured to bring a dowry of Rs. 1.5 lakh for building a house. Later, when her in-laws came to know that she was pregnant, they took her to a ‘godman’ Shyambaba Shinde at Niphad, who told them that she was carrying a girl, police said.Suvarna was told to abort the girl child but when she refused to do so, she was allegedly roughed up by her husband, and family, including the mother-in-law killing the foetus on April 4.The matter was brought to light by Mahendra Datrange, President of Nashik unit of Blindfaith Eradicating organisation following which the husband, his brother Vijay Gaikwad, maternal father-in-law Dilip Suryavanshi and one of his kins Jalinder Suryavanshi was arrested yesterday, police said.

Offences have been registered against them under different sections of IPC at panchavati police station yesterday, police said.

Suvarna’s family, which alleged murder of the girl, is demanding the arrest of her mother-in-law Bibabai, Shinde and others involved in the killing

Jaipur: ‘Free’ tag brings more girl out for treatment


DNA | Apr 10, 2013,
Jaipur: A rapid assessment study celebrating the free medicine scheme conducted by district collectors and Chief Medical Health Officers renders a chilling reminder of the continuing mindsets towards the girl child in the state. The study shows that there has been a two to three-fold increase in the treatment of girl children (0-6 years of age), in the six months that the scheme came into being (Oct 2012-Mar 2013) compared to the pre-free medicine scenario (Mar 2012-Sept 2012).
Money wise
The district, which has shown the highest rise in the number of girl children availing free medicines is Jhalawar. According to officials, the number of girls coming in as patients has tripled in the district. Before the scheme was introduced, the number of girl children who took the treatment was 4469, which increased to 12,883, doctors said.
In Barmer there has been an increase of 90 to 100 percent. Before the scheme was initiated, 31,640 girls registered for treatment. Their numbers rose to 62,763 after the scheme’s implementation.
In simple terms, now that the medicines are ‘free’, people are finally flocking to hospitals to avail treatment for their girl children, implying they were not being treated whenever it implied a financial cost.
Rajasthan Medical Services Corporation (RMSC) MD Samit Sharma said, “After the scheme has been launched, a two to three fold increase in girl children coming for treatment has been witnessed. Now, people are taking their girl children to hospitals for treatment in large numbers,” he added. Sharma said that it is for the first time in the last 65 years there is access to health services as people can get free medicines. Now free medical tests will definitely help in the increase of girl child ratio in the state, he stated.
Dr Hemant Acharaya of Save the Child organisation said, “With the government initiative of free medicine, free medical tests and schemes like Shubh Laxmi Yojna, people are now willing to bring their girl child for medical attention, which will be a boon to save the female child.” In the state, people are gender biased giving priority only to the male child. People do not spend on girl child education, health and food nutrition, which has reflected in a declining female sex ratio.
The free medicine scheme was started in October 2012 and until now around 10 crore people have benefited from it. Last year alone, 7.63 crore people availed of scheme.

 

 

India: Money Is Plenty But Girls Are Scarce in Haryana


Published February 21, 2013

By CARL GIERSTORFER, FOR THE PULITZER CENTER

The highway to Mewat, a district in the Indian state of Haryana, is smooth and plastered with roadkill. Dogs, mostly, at least one flattened carcass every mile. Behind us is Gurgaon, a newly erected city of almost a million, where multi-nationals have found a home in glitzy high-rise buildings but no supply of running water (it’s brought in with trucks from Delhi).

Ahead of us is farmland dotted with property developments. Oxcarts next to SUVs, veiled women evading the gaze of my camera, men smoking gigantic hookahs while punching their smartphones.

This is Haryana, where villages flush with money are ruled by councils that command honor killings and where 14 is a suitable age to marry when you are a girl. That is, of course, if you were lucky enough to be born.

Because Haryana also has one of the most skewed sex ratios in India: the recent 2011 census counted 830 girls born for every 1,000 boys. In other words: tens of thousands of baby girls are aborted every year because families here (as in much of the rest of India) strongly prefer boys.

“There are many reasons for this,” says Shafiq ur Rahman Khan, an activist who heads an NGO called Empower People and who has come with us to Haryana. It’s the son who inherits the wealth of a family; it’s the husband’s parents who are looked after in old age by the bride (not her own parents). And there is the dowry system, where huge sums have to be paid by the bride’s family to the future husband.

A case in point is the pile of fridges and air conditioners, flat-screen TVs, sofas and armchairs in the hallway of the building where Empower People have their Mewat office: excess dowry belonging to the recently married landlord that he could not fit into his new home.

We have come here to look at the social consequences of the skewed sex ratio: what does it mean for a society if it lacks a significant amount of women? Shafiq has been working in the area since 2006 and has established contacts with many villages in the region. He believes that the disregard for the rights of women is at the root of many problems that plague the region, from sexual violence to bride trafficking and child marriages.

Through Shafiq and his local co-workers we hope to get access to some of these villages. It won’t be an easy task, especially after the Delhi rape case that awoke a whole nation to the widespread problem of violence against women. But Shafiq is confident that through his network we will be able to speak to some women about their situation.

 

BMC to beef up vigilance in wards with dismal sex ratio


By, TNN | Feb 19, 2013,  IST

MUMBAI: Fifteen of the BMC‘s 24 wards across the city improved their sex ratio at birth in 2012 from 2011.

The B Ward of Bhendi Bazaar and Masjid Bunder recorded the highest sex ratio at birth of 996 girl children born per 1,000 boys.

Areas such as Malabar Hill came a close second; it recorded 979 deliveries of girl children per 1,000 boys in 2012, up from 915 girls in 2011. Borivli, too, registered 979 girl births in 2012, up from 914 in 2011.

These figures are based on the data compiled by the BMC, which issues birth certificates in the city.

Demographics and gender studies experts have attributed the improvement in the sex ratio to awareness drives as well as stringent regulation of maternity and sonography clinics, and sustained crackdown on illegal sex determination.

The largest dip in sex ratio, on the other hand, has been recorded in the C Ward of Bhuleshwar, Pydhonie and Sandhurst Road. The number has dropped from 981 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011 to a shockingly low 860 girls in 2012. The other areas that have witnessed a drastic dip include Kandivli. It recorded 882 births of girls per 1,000 boys in 2012 against 907 in 2011. Dahisar, too, registered a lower figure of 891 girls against 893 in 2011.

Dr Arokya Swamy, demographer at the Indian Institute of Population Studies (IIPS), said theBMC should now focus on localities that have shown a dip and strengthen their vigilance to curb female foeticide.

The BMC, on its part, has already lined up a programme for specific areas where the sex ratio is low or has fallen drastically. The civic body has asked its primary health staff to increase surveillance and immediately report any illegal activity in their areas. “We will also dissect the data so that the reason for the dip can be understood. Effective steps will be taken to improve the situation,” said a senior health officer.

Experts added the drop in certain areas could be attributed to the fact that young couples these days opt for a single child and may choose a male over a female child.

They further said that this data does not pinpoint to any trend, though, as there are cases where a mother may have delivered a female child in some ward and acquired her birth certificate from another.

“There is also a chance that the expectant mother has gone to her mother’s residence for delivery and got a birth certificate from the ward where she lives. Such cases may be few, but cannot be neglected,” said Dr Swamy.

 

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