Beti Bachao Andolan
Striving for Gender Equality
By Adhitya Srinivasan
The 2011 Census figures reveal two interesting statistics for the state of Madhya Pradesh. The first is that according to the 2011 figures, the sex ratio stands at 930:1000 or 930 females per 1000 males. This is an improvement from the 2001 Census figure of 919:1000. The second statistic which has alarmed the media and caused the state government to sit up and take notice is the figure for Child Sex Ratio. The Child Sex Ratio is a measure of the number of girls for every 1000 boys up to the age of six. According to the 2011 Census, the Child Sex Ratio in MP is 912:1000 – a decline from the 2001 figure of 932:1000.
The MP government, headed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has developed dedicated government schemes that are focused on empowering the girl child. Schemes such as Ladli Laxmi Yojana and Kanyadhan Yojana have been very popular with the masses. Refusing to be unsettled and saddened by the census figures, the MP Government has chosen to take up the challenge. The Chief Minister has decided to launch the Beti Bachao Andolan (Save the Girl Child Movement) on October 5. The movement is aimed at educating the populace about the importance of daughters in society.
The Beti Bachao Andolan will commence on Navami from the Chief Minister’s residence after Shivraj Singh Chouhan has performed the Kanya Poojan. The Chief Minister is expected to feed 1000 girl children on this day. Moreover, similar programs are expected to be conducted by ministers in the MP Government as well as by MLAs and MPs belonging to the BJP. In an effort to display its seriousness towards this initiative, the State Government has slated an expenditure of 100 crore rupees. The MP Government also plans on awarding those districts which have a comparatively better child sex ratio. The Chief Minister will undertake a tour of various districts in MP during the period between Dussehra and Diwali with a view towards spreading the message of the campaign.
It is impossible to fully underscore the importance of this campaign. Most states in India are replete with cultural values associated with the gender of a child. To put it mildly, a son is considered to be a gift. A daughter is considered to be a burden, financially and otherwise. The birth of a son generates an environment of joy and happiness. The birth of a daughter conveys despair and desolation. Through her childhood, the daughter is often neglected and given unequal opportunities to education and health. Where a mother gives birth to daughters in succession, she is herself greeted with neglect and is often ill-treated in her matrimonial home.
This is where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the MP Government and the Beti Bachao Andolan come in. The movement is aimed at changing the popular mindset and attitude towards the girl child. Changing social mindset is not an easy task. In fact, it becomes a particularly difficult task when such attitude is woven into the local narrative and sanctioned by age-old customs. Change requires the active dedication and participation of a charismatic and acceptable leader. There is no questioning the fact that Shivraj Singh Chouhan has the personal charisma and acceptability to make a change. The only question that arises is whether he will demonstrate the kind of resolve that is required for a social transformation? There is reason to be optimistic since previous experience indicates that the Chief Minister has shown full commitment to causes of social justice and women empowerment and has taken initiatives to their logical conclusions. Success in this endeavour will be historic and will leave an indelible mark in the lives of girl children across the state.