The National Advisory Council (NAC) has cast serious doubts on the government's cash-incentive scheme to check female foeticide and correct India's skewed sex ratio, saying the money given out under the plan is indirectly promoting dowry.
The Centre and 13 states have been offering cash incentives to poor families with the twin aim of saving the girl child and supporting her after she turns 18.
The scheme was introduced after the 2001 census showed the child sex ratio had dipped to 927 girls for 1,000 boys.
But according to the NAC, the scheme has failed to check this dipping number that now stands at 914 for 1,000 boys, the lowest since Independence.
"Giving lump sum cash when the girls turn 18 or 21 may be perceived as a subliminal message in favour of the practice of giving dowry," an NAC working group jointly headed by Farah Naqvi and AK Shiva Kumar said.
The NAC, which is headed by UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, did not rule out the possibility of parents using the money on their daughter's marriage and dowry instead of education. While Punjab and Delhi offer Rs 1 lakh to the girl child, Madhya Pradesh gives Rs 1.18 lakh.
The money is deposited in a government or a post-office account opened in the name of the girl child at the time of birth. They can withdraw it after they turn 18. "There's a need for systematic evaluation before such schemes are promoted as a centre piece of fighting declining sex ratio," it said.