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.



#India- #Punjab – Discarded daughter has emerged as ‘ray of sunshine’

Sarita Skagnes has no birth certificate for a chillingly pragmatic reason: She was to be killed as a baby for the crime of being born a girl.

But her father’s attempt to smother her at 8 weeks old was unsuccessful. She lived to endure a devastating childhood, abandoned by her parents at 3, forced to work as an indentured servant, raped by two family members and plagued by hunger and loneliness.

Yet Skagnes triumphed, never to be smothered again.

Now 43, happily married and an international advocate for children’s rights, Skagnes is in the Twin Cities this week to speak about her life — more accurately, her two lives — and her best-selling book, “Just A Daughter,” newly translated into English.

“I came to this earth as Satwant Kaur of the Shimbe caste,” Skagnes writes. “I was just a daughter — good for nothing, just like many other daughters.”

Skagnes was born in 1969 in Punjab, India, her parents’ third girl. During the pregnancy, her mother sought out priests and gurus who blessed her stomach and promised her a son.

“When I came to the world,” Skagnes said, “I was a catastrophe.”

At 3, her family moved to Oslo, Norway, leaving her behind with an aunt and uncle who, she believed, were her parents. In exchange, her biological parents took their nephew with them to raise as their long-awaited son.

“He would have a good life, a rich life, a good education,” Skagnes said.

She would have nothing of the sort. At 4, she began mopping floors and washing dishes. She slept on the kitchen floor and waited until after her family ate to consume the scraps.

For five years, she was sexually abused by an older cousin. Her aunt was enraged to learn of it, telling Skagnes it was her fault.

She attended school sporadically but felt out of place with her “shabby clothes.”

When she was 9, “the couple from Norway” visited India with their newborn son (conceived after Skagnes’ mother aborted two or three female fetuses). Skagnes remembers the joyful party held for them, with rare sweets. And she remembers being told that the Norwegian couple were actually her parents. She was stunned, and hopeful.

“I thought they lived like a king and queen,” she said. “I thought that if I was a good girl, doing my job properly, maybe they would take me to Norway.” She served them tea, hoping they would notice her. “But they were so busy with this stupid baby boy.” (She laughs at the comment, emphasizing that she loves her younger brother “very much.”)

Her father finally came for her when she was 16. First, he raped her. She ran away. He promised to never touch her again, and he didn’t. She moved to Norway and began school again, full time. Life was comfortable. She had a bed, food and clothes.

Cleaning a house at 19, she noticed that the homeowner’s son, Alex Skagnes, often stuck around when she arrived. They became friends, then more. He told her that she was beautiful, “a ray of sunshine.” When her father found a photograph of his daughter and Alex, he beat her up and quickly arranged for her marriage to a man in India. She ran away again, cut her hair, changed her name and, in 1990, married Alex.

She hasn’t had contact with her parents in more than 20 years.

In 2004, Skagnes reconnected with one of her sisters, who was in a psychiatric hospital. The sister encouraged Skagnes to write a book about her life. Skagnes wrote 1,000 pages in eight months. Then her sister committed suicide, and a devastated Skagnes lost her desire for the project. A few years later she realized “this was not about me or my sister.”

This was about what could be for other girls.

The book, “Bare en Datter” (Just a Daughter), was published in Norway in 2007, becoming a best-seller soon re-published in Finland and Sweden. Skagnes found herself speaking at Parliament and being stopped on the street for her autograph.

But celebrity doesn’t drive her. Baby girls still are being killed in India, she said, mostly in poorer villages. Many girls have no chance at an education. For 25 years, Skagnes has sponsored girls in India so they can stay in school. Among them, one is now a doctor, another an engineer.

She donates book royalties to her nonprofit, Higher Education for Girls in India (

“This is something she needed to do,” said Sonja Johnston, minister of music at the Minnesota Valley Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Bloomington. Johnston, a popular Twin Cities pianist and singer, is Alex Skagnes’ second cousin. She spent two years translating Skagnes’ book into English. An immensely grateful Skagnes calls Johnston “Mom.”

“I was so tested, but I didn’t fail,” Skagnes said. “All the bad things were not my fault. That took me 30 years to figure out.”



Beed’s child sex ratio among worst 10 in the country

, TNN | Jun 8, 2012,

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government need not have waited for incidents of sex-selective abortions in Beed to tumble out, as they have over the last month, to begin cracking down. The provisional numbers of Census 2011 show that when it comes to child sex ratio, the district is the worst in the state, among the worst 10 in the country, and barely better than the states of Haryana and Punjab.

According to the Census, Beed has 801 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of six. This puts it in the same ignominious group as pockets of Haryana and Punjab that are known to be biased against the girl child. Its child sex ratio is slightly better than that in the country’s worst district in that respect: Haryana’s Jhajjar (774); and also Mahendragarh (778) and Rewari (784) in that state. It is worse than all of Punjab’s districts.

Girl child campaigners say the state should have heeded the warning signs earlier and ensured stricter implementation of anti-sex selection laws.

Lamenting the child sex ratio record of Beed district, girl child campaigners say the state government should have acted early rather than be wakened by news items about abortion of female foetuses.

“It is tragic that the child sex ratio in a part of Maharashtra should be on a par with northern states. It is sheer recklessness,” says antisex selection activist Sabu George, who had petitioned the Supreme Court for strict implementation of the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (prohibition of sex selection) Act. “The state should have realized the consequences and cracked down on sex-selective practices when the decline (in child sex ratio) started two decades ago.”

George maintains that the state’s measures—such as the crackdown on private clinics and adoption of the silent observer—are mere “desperate steps” to show that action is being taken. He asserts that the government should bring to book errant doctors to send out a strong message.

Beed’s child sex ratio has steadily declined over the years—from 939 in 1991 to 894 in 2001 to an abysmal 801 in 2011. It now features much lower than Haryana’s 830, Punjab’s 846 and Jammu and Kashmir‘s 859. Rural parts of Beed are worse off, with 789 girls for every 1,000 boys. The picture gets even more appalling when viewed at the level of talukas. Shirur taluka, for instance, has a child sex ratio of 768, Wadhwani’s ratio is 783 and Patod’s 784.

Nandita Shah of women’s resource centre Akshara too feels dismayed at the shortsighted nature of the government’s response to the declining child sex ratio. “Action has been taken only against very few doctors. Our plea is that medical associations need to do something, such as withdrawing the licence of doctors indulging in sex-selective practices,” she says.

Activists met the chief minister on Thursday to press several demands, main among which was the transfer of 14 pending cases of sex selection from Beed.

The authorities say they are doing their best. “We have initiated several measures. We arrested doctors as soon as we got to know of sex-selective abortions and have a vigilance radar for all maternity and abortion centres,” said Beed collector Sadanand Koche. He is forwarding a proposal to the state to have ‘cradles’ in the civil hospital to ensure that unwanted girls aren’t aborted.

Punjab’s Bijlipur best village for girls

, TNN | Apr 23, 2012,

BIJLIPUR (PUNJAB): For some time now, the village of Bijlipur has been attracting a slew of local news TV crews and even reporters from Canadian radio stations. The village has something that most of Punjab can’t boast of: a sex ratio in favour of women.

The state of Punjab, along with Haryana, is among the country’s worst performers when it comes to sex ratio. Census 2011 figures record 893 females per 1000 males for Punjab. Between 2002 and 2008, the local administration of Bijlipur reported a sex ratio of 1,800 females to 1,000 males.

While the exactness of the figure may be contested, other indicators such as birth and death figures from the local aanganwadi confirm that girls enjoy a healthy sex ratio in the village compared to the rest of the state.

From 2005 to 2010, the village saw the birth of 22 girls against 13 boys. The year 2011 was the only year since 2002 that saw the birth of more boys (five) than girls (two).

In 2006-07, no boys were born while Bijlipur added seven baby girls to its tally. Meanwhile, Ludhiana, an hour’s drive away from this village, recorded a child sex ratio of 869 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011.

Sociologist Dr H S Bhatti of Punjab University, Patiala, surveyed the village with a team of students in 2009. The survey results showed, among other things, that girls made up more than 50% of the student body in schools. The trend of having a string of girls until the birth of a baby boy, prevalent even in Indian cities, seems absent here.

In Bijlipur, it is common for families to have just two daughters. Jaspal Singh, 57, has four daughters. While two of them work in the city and live away from home, the other two are still in college.

He often includes a message about the girl child when reading outside Bijlipur. “I normally ask the hosts if they are okay with me putting in a bit about this issue. I have never been refused,” says Singh. Surinder Kaur, 28, who runs the village aanganwadi, points to the factors that she feels have led to such encouraging figures. “People are better educated here, most have college degrees. There is a strict ban on tobacco and drugs. More importantly, killing girls is considered a sin,” she says. Charanjeet Singh, the 55-year-old headman of the village remembers how when he was a child the village stood out in its treatment of women. “Educating women in the family was not common in neighbouring villages when I was young. But our village has been doing that ever since I can remember. All five of my sisters studied up to college and have retired from their jobs now,” he says.

Jagjot Pal Kaur, a hotel management professional who travels to Ludhiana for work, says that lack of facilities has done little to deter women to go out and get what they want. However, it is not all about giving cushioned comforts to the females. It’s a two-way street. “While they were in college, our older daughters would come back from their exams and help us in the fields too,” says Singh.

That the current state of affairs is limited by geography is only too clear to Bijlipur girls.

In a country of dwindling sex ratios , a school in Punjab that values girls


by Nirupama Dutta

Harpreet Kaur, 18, of Udowal village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, first heard of the
Baba Aya Singh Rearki College at Tugalwala from her cousin. Recalls Harpreet,
“My cousin who studied here would tell me stories of the happy and simple life
there and of the great values learnt through education. So I longed to go there.”

Harpreet eventually joined the school after her matriculation and is currently doing
her Bachelor’s degree. “I would like to stay on here as a teacher
after doing my B.A; and then do my Masters in English Literature,” says
the enthusiastic student, who is also the secretary of her class.

The college is an exceptional experiment in education for rural girls in the districts of Gurdaspur
and Amritsar, which adjoin the border with Pakistan. Its far-reaching impact on
women’s education and empowerment can be gauged from the fact that the college is
based in a state where Sex selection is rampant and where the sex ratio is the
lowest in the country.

The college, which functions as a trust, dates back to 1934 when a social worker c
alled Baba Aya Singh established a small ‘putri pathshala’ (girls’ school) at Tugalwala.
He also set up the SKD High School in 1939. The college, however, aptly began
functioning in 1975 – the International
of Women.

Principal Swaran Singh Virk, 64, recalls the early challenges the college faced in a
society reluctant to grant its daughters an education. “After campaigning from village to
village on the importance of education for girls, I was promised 34 students. Twenty backed
out and so we started with a batch of 14. These girls sat for the exam of Prep (equivalent
to Class XI) and Giani (a Punjabi language examination) and secured excellent results. Today, the school has
the requisite number of teachers and is affiliated to the Punjab School Education Board.
The college students appear privately for their graduation and post-graduation examinations.
Altogether there are around 3,500 girls – boarders and day scholars – who are enrolled
from Class VI to the Masters’ level.”

Interestingly, the tuition fee is only Rs 800 (US$1=Rs 47.14) a year. Boarding and
lodging comes for an annual fee of Rs 5,500. In the absence of any grants, the college displays
excellent management of limited means and innovative self-sustaining measures. Homespun rugs,
or ‘durries’, are used to seat the students. Desks and benches are used only for the examinations.
The college has six teachers, who teach the senior classes. The remaining classes are taken by
senior students through the ‘each one, teach one’ approach. This not only cuts down the cost
of hiring another teacher, but also inculcates a sense of responsibility and confidence
in the ‘student lecturer’.

Virk explains, “We would rather do without aid. We save on electricity by using solar lighting. We have no fuel bill as we have our own biogas plant.” The cooperative store for stationery and the general store in the college offer around 50% discount to students and also manage to save about Rs 150,000. The savings are used to sponsor around 150 orphaned students who study at the college.

All pupils have been taught the dignity of labour and the advantages of self-help: everything from cleaning the campus to cooking meals in batches of 12 to tending to the kitchen garden is managed by the students. All pupils have been taught the dignity of labour and the advantages of self-help: everything from cleaning the campus to cooking meals in batches of 12 to tending to the kitchen garden is managed by the students.

All pupils have been taught the dignity of labour and the advantages of self-help: everything from cleaning the campus to cooking meals in batches of 12 to tending to the kitchen garden is managed by the students.

Visit Tugalwala and you can spot hundreds of young women dressed in their white uniforms, finding no task too hard to handle. The tall gates of the institution are ‘wo-manned’ by two students, who note down the names and addresses of the visitors. One group of girls is busy preparing the midday meal. Sukhmeet Kaur, 18, a BA Final student and secretary of her class, elaborates, “We are having curry for lunch. The girls decide the menu by consensus. We use most of the vegetables and grain grown here on the eight-acre school farm.”

The girls are provided with wholesome meals and their day begins with a full glass of fresh buffalo milk – from the in-house dairy – boiled with some tea leaves.

The high standards of excellence extend to the classrooms, too. The college is proud of its unblemished record when it comes to examinations, as there has not been a single case of copying. Harsharan Singh, an examiner, explains, “The examiners and invigilators are posted here but are required to do nothing more than hand out the papers.” The school has a cash prize of Rs 21,000 for an examiner who can spot a case of copying. The award goes unclaimed every year. However, the real reward for the school is the near 100-per cent pass rate, with at least 50 per cent of these students getting first divisions.

In a state known for its attachment to hockey, the latest excitement on the campus is the new hockey field in the school. Explains Virk,”We will train the girls to take part in national and international hockey tournaments.”

While religious study – Sikhism – is part of the curriculum, children are taught to respect all faiths and the school corridors are lined with sayings from various scriptures. As of now, the institution offers only Humanities but hopes to include diverse streams in time. “We will spread our wings on our own if we can. Affiliation would bring in more money, aid and grants but it would turn us into one of the many run-of-the mill institutions which we don’t want to be,” says Virk. For now, the college falls under the jurisdiction of the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) but is not affiliated to it, as it is not a conventional institution. The students appear for their exams as private candidates.

Visit Tugalwala and you can spot hundreds of young women dressed in their white uniforms, finding no task too hard to handle.Visit Tugalwala and you can spot hundreds of young women dressed in their white uniforms, finding no task too hard to handle.

It’s now afternoon, and the students are all over the campus – playing ‘kho-kho’ (traditional Indian team sport), merrily running around, or singing folk songs. Some practise for the various inter-class music, painting and public speaking competitions; others are busy making handmade charts and invitations for various events. These events are held in the school and are very often inter-school. Even the Tugalwala college girls go out for inter-school events.

The campus seems to exude a tremendous sense of confidence and happiness, and all the students – whether they are boarders or day scholars who bus down to school every day from their village or town – appear to participate wholeheartedly in school activities.

Reveals Sukhmeet Kaur Baupuria, 18, a B.A. Final student, “Recently Manpreet Kaur, a student of Plus II, told a filming crew from a popular national news channel that she had given up the practice of copying, which she did in a previous school. When the anchor retorted that she should be ashamed talking on camera about having cheated, Manpreet promptly replied, ‘I should have been ashamed when I was cheating and not when I am confessing.’ This is the confidence imparted by the Tugalwala way.”

But the school gets endorsements not just from its students but from senior educationists. As Jai Roop Singh, Vice Chancellor of GNDU, observes, “Visiting the Tugalwala College for me was a new and unique experience. Students study as well as work. Other institutions need to learn from this one.”

(Women’s Feature Service)

Pics courtesy: Prabhjot Gill/WFS

NRIs returning to India for sex selection : UK MP

A UK based charity has evidence to prove an increase in NRIs travelling to India for pre-natal sex determination and incidences of “abortions” using Indian clinical facilities even as its study report is likely to be released next month, revealed UK MP Virendra Sharma on his recent visit to  India

Sharma, accompanied by NRI Sabha, Punjab president Kamaljeet Hayre, said that during a study conducted by a UK Charity – “Jeena” (allow me to live)– in Punjab, a section of Indian families settled in UK, Canada, US and Australia were found returning back to their motherland for using Indian clinical facilities for sex determination.

The next step is to ensure expectant women should abort the baby in case it is a girl foetus, he revealed. The charity had collected enough evidences to prove increase in such incidences of SEX SELECTION  involving NRI families, Sharma said, adding that the matter was of serious concern for the society in India and abroad.

“The study report will be released in UK  in March 2012  even as the same will also be simultaneously made available in India for identifying the grey areas and to work out solutions at society and government levels,” he said.

Though sex determination was banned in foreign countries, the NRIs preferred to abuse Indian legal system by indulging into such illegal practices. “It’s an open secret that a section of clinical facilities in India are open to such practices for obvious reasons. This leads to skewing sex ratio,” he added.

Experts said that the problem among Indians worldwide is less one of discrimination against the girls than the desire to have at least one boy, as studies show, parents did not abort their first born child even if they knew it was a girl. But if a family is going to have only two children and they already had a girl, then they will try the second child should be a boy.

On solutions, Sharma suggested there was need to have embassy level coordination and understanding on Indian cultural issues so as to check such practices. “The British High Commission in New Delhi should be engaged with Indian High Commission in London to understand and solve such issues. There is need for a social engineering through engagement of community leaders with government functionaries whether in India or abroad,” he added.

“The NRIs may be involved in sex determination and sex selection  cases in the state. Though Punjab’s sex ratio is 846 girls for 1000 boys in the year 2011, we are working hard to achieve national sex ratio of 950,”  Satish Chandra   said, adding that he would as certain level of NRIs involvement in such practices.

Verse case scenario

Syeda Hameed | February 11, 2012

 Sufi poetry could inspire a change in attitudes to the girl child.

Maulana Altaf Husain Hali was born in Panipat in 1837. Panipat was then the centre of Sufi thought, whose leading light in India was Bu Ali Shah Qalandar. Like most poets Hali began writing on themes of love and nature, but soon decided to use his poetry as a vehicle for social reform. What saddened him the most were two pervasive ills: oppression of women and girl children, and the reduced state of the Muslim community. Like most non-conformists, Hali’s poetic corpus met with initial skepticism, even open disdain. His rejection of traditional themes and conventional language was derided by other elite poets of the time. Hali had chosen to write for the masses in a language that was a blend of Urdu and Hindi. Such non-embellished, often clearly feminist poetry was deemed unworthy both in theme and expression. Interestingly, in his Young India, Mahatma Gandhi struck a different note. He famously wrote that if anyone wanted to learn the “real language” of India, which was neither pure Hindi nor pure Urdu, the best example was Hali’s ‘Munajat-e-Bewa’ or ‘Lament of the Widow. ‘ He called it a ‘model language’ for a new India.

It was a bright winter morning when our President stood in Hali Maidan, Panipat, a couple of weeks ago, and expressed her pain at our declining child sex ratio – as reflected in the steep drop seen in the last decade. She challenged Haryana, a state which has terribly low overall sex ratios, to become the leader not only in India, but in the world, considering that only 150 years ago their very own poet wrote these lines that gave women pride of place: Ai maon, behnon, betiyon duniya ki zeenat tumse hai, Mulkon ki basti ho tumhin, qaumon ki izaat tumse hai (O Sisters, mothers, daughters, you are the ornaments of the world;You are the life of nations, the dignity of civilisations)

As a child I had heard Hali being recited in my home. Hali was my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather. He wrote a poem for his six year-old great granddaughter – my father’s younger sister, for whom I was named. My elders made me believe that the poem was written for me;a realisation that made me feel self conscious but secretly happy. As I recounted in Hali’s simple words, of the family’s love for the little girl, that day, I sensed that the audience was identifying with each word praising the innocence and intelligence of a small girl, a lass who was described by the poet as an unending source of happiness for all.

When his famous lines about the status of mothers were recited from the podium, the huge crowd listened with rapt attention. Hali’s poem made a single assertion: that to whatever exalted station men rose, it was to women that they owed their very existence. After all, what were they, at birth, if not but a lump of flesh? This lump of flesh, how would it have been nurtured If the mother had not held it to her bosom, The Sufis, the scholars, the men of God, the Prophets, The intellectuals, the savants, All creatures of God who evolved advanced, The ladders they climbed were held in their mothers’ laps.

That day Panipat perhaps stood poised to lead the country in reclaiming its girl child. A poet, a president and a populace is a formidable combination. It can break vicious mindsets. Hali was indeed born to break all stereotypes – the one about ‘Maulanas’, especially their antipathy for women’s rights;the stereotype about self-indulgent poets;and finally, the stereotype about Haryana, especially. Jo ilm mardon ke liye samjha ha gaya aab-e-hayat, Tehra tumhare haq mein roh zehr-e-halahal sar ba sar, Aaya hai waqt insaaf ka nazdeek hai yaumul hisaab, Dunya ko dena hoga in haq talfiyon ka wan jawab. “ (Learning, which for men was considered the elixir of life, For you it was considered lethal, venomous The day of judgment dawns, justice will smite, The world will then answer for depriving you of rights).

(The writer is member, Planning Commission), 11th feb, TimesCrest,

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