Lavjibhai Daliya is a Surat-based realtor who had unsuccessfully bid to buy Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pinstripe suit in an auction in 2015, the proceeds of which went to the Clean Ganga project.
An undeterred Daliya has, however, embarked on a bigger philanthropic mission: to provide financial stability to the girl child.
Under his Badshah Sukanya Smridhi Yojana, the businessman has been providing parents of his Patel (Patidar) community with more than one daughter with bank bonds that would earn them Rs 2.31 lakh on maturity after 21 years. Daliya pays the full premium and the accrued money is meant to be used for the girl’s higher education or marriage.
Earlier this week, 1,000 parents were handed over the bonds at a function. Launched in 2015, 10,000 bonds, intended only for the second or subsequent girl child, were given in the first year.
According to Daliya, bonds with a total maturity value of Rs 200 crore will be given with Daliya spending 56 crores on premium payments.
Clearly a Modi acolyte who the prime minister mentioned by name during a recent visit to the city for inaugurating a hospital, Daliya said he was only contributing his might to a right cause. “Soon after Narendrabhai as Gujarat CM started the Save Girl Child campaign, I organised various events to create awareness, particularly among Patels. But at the end of the decade-long campaign, I realised it was difficult to bring about such social change without extending financial support,” Daliya told HT.
Daliya said he was driven by his poor background to help those in need. He had first come to Surat from Bhavnagar in Saurashtra at the age of 13 to work as a diamond polisher. One thing led to another and he came to own diamond factories, power looms and also one of Gujarat’s biggest real estate firms.
“I have seen that families feel more devastated when their second or third child is also a girl. This situation, especially in poor families, subconsciously leads to discrimination. That’s why the bond is meant only for the second and subsequent girl child,” he said.
The situation, he said, was dire within his Patidar community suffering from a skewed sex ratio. The female-male ratio for the Patidars is thought to be just 800 per 1,000 males against the state average of 919 per 1,000, forcing many Patidars to seek brides from outside Gujarat.
Some within his business circle whisper that Daliya’s motives are not entirely noble. “He is eyeing publicity plus Modi’s attention,” said one on condition of anonymity.
But the businessman, affectionately called Badshah, is winning many hearts at the moment with his initiative. He runs a team of volunteers who stay in touch with doctors and counsel parents against female foeticide.
“I see some difference in attitude of parents toward girls, especially in young parents. They seem to fully understand the situation. And with little help from society they now seem to be welcoming the girl child wholeheartedly,” he said.