On March 8, 2018 on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an important announcement concerning the expansion of the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (BBBP) programme and also launched the National Nutrition Mission at Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan.
India’s commitment to the empowerment of women is reflected in these two big announcements. In fact, one can note the consistent and continuous efforts in the cause of women’s welfare and empowerment when one considers the fact that the BBBP had initially begun in 161 districts. Now, the expansion to all 640 districts is actually riding on the success of that initial phase.
In this context, the latest development provides us an opportunity to evaluate what Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao has achieved so far and what the future for gender justice looks like.
The Significance of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao
BBBP was launched by the Prime Minister on January 22, 2015 at Panipat, Haryana with the aim of addressing the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and related issues of empowerment of women over the life-cycle. The CSR, defined as the number of girls per 1,000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years, declined sharply from 976 in 1961 to 918 in Census 2011. However, there was no systematic response or comprehensive advocacy strategy to arrest and curb this disturbing trend. This is where the BBBP came in.
The scheme is a convergent effort by the Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare, and Human Resource Development. The followings are the main focus areas under BBBP:
- Awareness and advocacy campaign towards saving the girl child
- Enabling girls’ education and effective enforcement of the Pre-Conception & Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act
- Preventing gender-based sex-selective elimination
- Ensuring the survival and protection of the girl child
The latest reports as per HMIS (Health Management Information System) data of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for 161 BBBP districts indicate that for the time period between April-March, 2015-16 & 2016-17, an improving trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) is visible in 104 districts, while 119 districts have reported progress in first trimester registration against the reported anti-natal care registrations and 146 districts have reported improvement in institutional deliveries.
The Example of Haryana
To understand the impact of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, perhaps there is no better illustration than the state of Haryana.
Haryana has had the worst record in CSR for a long time. In this context, the significance of the Prime Minister’s launching of BBBP in 2015 from Haryana’s Panipat cannot be missed. As it turns out, the positive results of BBBP also reflect sharply in the data from the same state.
According to the data released by the Haryana government in January this year, the important details of which have been widely reported in the media, for the first time, Haryana has logged the highest ever sex ratio of 914 girls against 1,000 boys in 2017. The sex ratio at birth was 832 in 2012 and 871 in 2014. By 2015 and 2016, it had improved to 876 and 900, respectively. Currently, it is well over 900, with a 43-point difference between 2014 (before) and 2017 (after). Nothing perhaps demonstrates the outcome of the Beti Bachao campaign as well as these numbers.
The credit for this achievement is largely attributed to the BBBP campaign. Media reports, too, have suggested that because of the scheme, local authorities exhibited extra interest in registering FIRs under the Pre-Conception & Pre Natal-Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act and conducted many raids to prevent illegal abortions.
An Overall Focus on Women
Saving the girl child by means of legal instruments and also by bringing behavioural change seems to be the primary challenge and Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, with its pan-India expansion and a total outlay of Rs 1,132.5 crore from 2017-18 to 2019-20, seems to be dealing with this effectively.
When we talk about saving and nurturing the girl child, the issue of nutrition and mother’s health needs to be taken care of. The National Nutrition Mission (NNM) launched by the Prime Minister at the same function is meant to deal with this. When the NNM was cleared by the Cabinet in December 2017, we took a detailed look at this ambitious programme in our article “National Nutrition Mission: A Concerted Effort to Address Malnutrition”.
Of course, there are other efforts already in place to supplement the above-mentioned cause. As the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech at the Rajasthan function, Mission Indradhanush has brought an extremely positive change to the lives of women and children. This scheme, too, has been explained in detail in our earlier piece “The Intensified Mission Indradhanush & the Silent Revolution in Healthcare”.
The overall focus on women’s welfare and empowerment has been evident in various programmes that have been implemented over the last three-and-a-half years. Along with BBBP and NNM, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme, National Creche Scheme, Ujjwala Yojana, the preference for women in MUDRA Yojana and in housing schemes are other important measures, to name a few. Again, a detailed take on this can be found in our article “The Empowerment of Women: A Fact-File on Major Initiatives and a Fact Check for Critics”.