The initial corpus of Rs 100 crore may be far too little, but the political initiative is impressive. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, launching the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Scheme, made an impassioned plea to not only save the girl child but also to ensure her education and safety. Some might take issue with the sum of money allotted, but money alone cannot be a criterion. It is in the implementation of the law that the fate of the girl child can be changed.
The first is to ensure that doctors do not violate the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, which prevents them from revealing the sex of the unborn child. The next step is to ensure that the girl child gets adequate nutrition and education. None of this can be taken for granted in what is still essentially a patriarchal society where the girl has little economic and social value. One thing that most of those advocating the rights of the girl child have omitted is to involve men in the battle. It is the father and male relatives who determine whether the girl should study or not. She loses out on nutrition to her male siblings. When it comes to safety, again it is the attitude of men that endangers the woman on the streets, at home and in the workplace. Her autonomy, dignity and worth are of no consequence to the man brought up to believe in his superiority. And this is where the push from the highest quarter can make a difference.
Now that the prime minister has made this a personal mission, the message should go right down the line to the local police level that any form of violence against the girl child or woman will not go unchallenged. It is when men take the lead that the attitudes towards women change. And such education in gender equality must begin at home and in schools where subtle distinctions are made between the girl and the boy. This could well herald the first positive steps in realising the catchy title of the new scheme.