Stressing that the society as a whole needs to change the mindset towards the girl child to end the problem of female foeticide, Union minister Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday said the practice was more prevalent among the middle, upper-middle and rich sections of the society.
Though there was a healthy sex ratio in the North Eastern Region and tribal areas, Gandhi noted with concern that in some parts of the country it has been observed that the incidences of female foeticide were more prevalent among the middle, upper middle and rich sections of the society.
The sex ratio is healthy in the country's eastern parts but as one moves to the "more developed western parts", the problem raises its head, she said after inaugurating a workshop on "Best Practices for Women and Child Development", as part of "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" programme to be launched from here by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22.
The Union minister for women and child development said the evil practice of female foeticide needs to be fought strongly and the society has a larger role to play in this.
"We need to change the mindset. Today is just the beginning. We must see a visible difference in the next two years...," Maneka said at the two-day national workshop.
The Centre's ambitious 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' scheme would be implemented in 100 districts with low female sex ratio, out of which 12 are in Haryana -- Mahendergarh, Jhajjar, Rewari, Sonepat, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Karnal, Yamuna Nagar, Kaithal, Bhiwani and Panipat.
Gandhi said the central government will seek periodic reports from the districts and will reward those who register improvement. A reward of Rs 1 crore will be given for the innovative village which attains a balanced sex ratio and district commissioner or ambassadors of the campaign will be suitably rewarded by the government.
She said the Prime Minister was concerned about the imbalance in the sex ratio, which according to the last Census figures was 918 females per 1000 males.
There were many districts in Haryana where the ratio was dismal, with worst being Sonepat, Jhajjar and Rewari. "The Prime Minister was keen that this campaign should be launched from Haryana," she said, adding it would be extensively carried out to bring in positive psychological change in the mindset of the people regarding girl child.
As many as 135 participants from various states including chief ministers, Ministers and Union Government secretaries are participating in the workshop. Among those who addressed the gathering today included Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his Gujarat counterpart Anandiben Patel.
The Union minister said 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' was an important scheme of the Centre in the social sector like the 'Jan Dhan Yojana' and 'Make in India' in the economic sector.
She said the way people become so heartless to kill the girl child is shocking. "Not just in the mother's womb, some girls are not given proper food and they die before reaching the age of two. If 46 per cent of children suffer from malnutrition, this percentage among girls is 70," Gandhi said.
Advocating for innovative methods to curb the menace of female foeticide, she said the authorities in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh had come up with one such innovative method.
Gandhi said that she learnt through an NGO that they were involving grandmothers by forming a group of 'dadis' (grandmothers) to fight female foeticide.
She said the government will also send awareness vans to the affected districts and other areas to make people aware about the dangers of poor sex ratio. Stress will also be laid on having 100 per cent institutional births.
Gandhi said system of reporting will also be encouraged, wherein anyone who comes to know that female foeticide is being done can inform the authorities and be rewarded.
Speaking on this occasion, Gujarat chief minister Patel said that in 2001, the literacy rate of women in Gujarat was only 59 per cent which has increased to 74 per cent in 2011 due to implementation of various programmes under the guidance of Narendra Modi, then chief minister of the state.
Also, the rate of institutional deliveries has reached 95 per cent in Gujarat. She said that the state government had set up two lakh 'Sakhi Mandal' so as to ensure the economic development of women.
As many as 30 lakh women have so far been associated with these mandals. In addition, the state government has also waived the stamp duty on the purchase of property in the name of women, she said. A sum of Rs 651 crore had so far been waived as stamp duty.
Recently, she pointed out, that she had also announced a reservation of 33 per cent for women in police recruitment. A provision of gender budget has also been made for year 2014-15 for implementation of schemes of women empowerment in the areas of animal husbandry and dairy.
Haryana women and child development minister Kavita Jain said that Prime Minister Modi has taken an important step towards fulfilling his promise of ensuring the safety, security and empowerment of women.
Joint efforts should be made for realizing the purpose of the programme, she added.
The Union minister for women and child development urged state governments, the district commissioners concerned and other functionaries to work in tandem for the cause of 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' programmer and report the innovative programmes and initiatives taken by them, which would be later sent to the Prime Minister for review.
On Haryana's skewed sex ratio, Gandhi said some men are forced to "import" brides from the north-eastern parts "which in itself is something very strange". If number of girls fall in the society, it will result in a number of problems in future and the balance is needed for a healthy society.
A society without women will be full of violence as women bring gentleness, love and happiness around her, she said.
She also spoke strongly against the menace of dowry still prevalent in Indian society. "The girl and her parents should stand up and reject those who seek dowry...," she said.
The Union minister said it was a matter of grave concern that girls still get killed for dowry even after their marriage as dowry-hungry in-laws either kill her or create circumstances forcing her to end her life.
"We still refer to girls as 'Paraya Dhan' (who will leave her home after marriage). What we forget is the fact that it is a girl who rushes to help her parents first when they are in need more than their sons do. This 'Paraya' business (calling girls as paraya) has to stop," she said.
Another matter, she noted, which has become a matter of grave concern is the violence against women and favoured enrollment of 33 per cent women in police force.
Quoting her own example during the time of her birth, Gandhi said everyone in the family was happy barring her grandmother who to some extent was not that happy at the birth of a girl child.
However, things took a turn when my sister was born, she said. "When my sister was born, a hue and cry broke out. My mother went to temples, Gurudwaras and mosques..(to pray for a male child)," she said.
Though she had a brother later, her mother backed the sisters and raised them without any gender bias, gave them good education and all support, Gandhi added.