In an effort to reduce gender discrimination against girl children, the government plans to provide cash and non-cash incentives to parents in backward districts to encourage them to register the birth of daughters, send them to school regularly and not rush them into marriage as soon as they are 18 years old.
A pilot scheme has been submitted to the Planning Commission by the Women and Child Development Ministry, according to which adherence to these guidelines would be ensured by community vigilance groups to be appointed in each village.
The pilot scheme is to be introduced in the country’s backward districts from the next financial year. It aims to promote “desirable behaviour and practices” for the girl child.
The gross enrollment rate of the girl child in schools is still lower than boys’ and their dropout rate very high. According to the National Family Health Survey-3, 57 per cent of girls are married before the legally marriageable age of 18. In some backward areas, the proportion of child marriages is as high as 80 per cent of marriages of girls.
The scheme has been proposed to improve India’s dismal record on gender discrimination and on preventing child marriages and gender discrimination. “Improving community practices will help India in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. India is at present lagging behind in meeting the goals,” said a Planning Commission official.
Another incentive to delay girl’s marriage would be an insurance cover to the girl child till she gets married. “The insurance amount would be given the girl at the age of 18 after she completes her basic education,” a Women and Child Development Ministry official said.
To prevent misuse of the incentive, the ministry has proposed community vigilance groups, who will ensure that girls are sent to school and are not abused or exploited.
The scheme will be discussed by the Planning Commission on November 8.