The latest of the 'save girl child' steps of the state government- Rs 500 monthly pension to parents having only daughters- has largely received a thumbs down from experts on gender issues and activists fighting against femate foeticide.
They feel that offering monetary incentive cannot be an effective solution for curbing the deeply ingrained social bias that leads to sex selection and female foeticide and consequently a skewed sex ratio. It is even being looked upon as "cheap stunt" with no long-term positive impact.
Experts and activists HT spoke with feel that education, stricter implementation of the laws preventing sex selection and non-cash incentives for people promoting gender parity could be better solutions towards saving the girl child.
Lucknow-based gender issues expert and co-convener of the National Alliance of Peoples' Movements (NAPM) Arundhati Dhuru said that she looked upon the step as positive in the sense that it shows that the state government realises the very serious crisis that the country is facing with respect to dwindling sex ratio. "However cash incentive is certainly not the best way to show this recognition," Dhuru said while talking to HT over telephone. She added that cash transfers are always associated with rampant corruption and possibility of using the money for wrong things. So the incentive should be in kind, by the way of low-cost housing, special health and nutrition schemes, livelihood generation and other sustainable programmes.
Also, the fact that the scheme has been announced only for the people of economically weaker sections reveals a faulty analysis. "The problem of sex selection and female foeticide increases as one moves up the social and economic ladder and the government seems to have missed this point altogether," Dhuru said.
Social activist Asha Mishra of the NGO Samta rejected the step as a "political stunt coming at a time when assembly elections are just a year away." Mishra alleged that despite the existing monetary incentive-based schemes like Ladli Laxmi, the child sex ratio in MP continues to dwindle. "The emphasis of the government should be towards socio-economic uplift of the people that would by itself solve many issues including female foeticide. Such temporary measures are not at all effective," she said, adding that it would only promote corruption and greed among people.
Such incentives could never help in changing social attitude towards women, which is the basic cause leading to female foeticide, feels associate professor of Sociology with National Law Institute University (NLIU) Tapan Mohanty. "If money could solve all the problems, why young professionals would avoid staying with parents who are pensioners?" Mohanty asked in a bid to explain that such negative social phenomena were independent of economic aspect.
He questioned the logic behind offering the sop to people of above 60 years of age, while it is the young couple which takes the decision on sex selection. He added that a better idea would be to offer pension to single women after a certain age.
Chairperson of the MP State Women's Commission, Upma Rai, defended the scheme saying that it could be considered as one among many steps that are required to prevent girl children from getting killed in the womb or just after being born. She said that monetary incentive might not change social attitude towards women, but it certainly was an assurance for people who thought having daughters was an economic burden.
State government spokesman Narottam Mishra, when contacted by HT, said: "This is just one of the basic and initial measures to ensure that girl children are saved. More schemes and steps would be initiated and better suggestions would be most welcome."
The annual health survey (AHS) of 2011 revealed 904 girls are born for every 1,000 boys in MP. In urban areas, the sex ratio at birth is a shocking 875.
Child sex ratio (0-6 years) as per census of 2011 stood at 912.
Child sex ratio in urban MP stands at 895 compared to 917 in rural areas, indicating that sex selection/female foeticide might be more rampant in urban areas.