JIND (HARYANA): When Sunil Jaglan was blessed with a baby girl in January 2012, he offered Rs 2,000 to the hospital nurses. They refused and said Rs 100 would be fine. “If it was a boy, we would have taken it,” they said.
Jaglan — the sarpanch of Jind’s Bibipur village — was disturbed. He checked the records only to find that of the total 96 births, 59 were boys and only 37 girls. He met with women elders to understand the anomaly, the answer was obvious. “They were first uncomfortable and then said clearly that a boy carries on the family name, the ‘vansh’, the girls don’t,” he said.
Haryana has confronted the issue of female foeticide for years now, but Jaglan made it the centrepiece of his work. He organised a mahapanchayat in July 2012, where he claims the slogan of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao was first given. Khaps, increasingly synonymous with acts of grave injustice against women, came together to call for the protection of the girl child. And then, in the middle of 2015, Jaglan went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijan. Inspired, he started a campaign, Selfie with Daughter.
Little did he know that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would address the issue in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ monthly broadcast. The PM encouraged his listeners to post selfies with daughter, and social media was flooded. Jaglan was ecstatic. In January 2015, Modi addressed a conference in Panipat where he said as the PM of India, he was begging citizens to save their daughters. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign was launched here.
Jaglan credits Modi for making the issue of foeticide and sex ratio central in Indian public discourse. “The PM personally feels strongly about it.” But he thinks that Modi’s concern has not quite percolated down the system.
Thus is the classic Indian quandary – strong on policy commitment, weak in seeing it through implementation. “Bureaucrats still think it is something you need to speak on Women’s Day on March 8 rather than sustain as a permanent campaign,” says Jaglan.
Instead, he suggests catching people young, making it a part of school textbooks and working with young married couples to make a change in the next decade.
There is some evidence of this in Bibipur’s government school for girls. A group of Class 9 students were sitting outside after finishing class. When asked whether they were familiar with foeticide, a student said, “Yes, when a child is killed in the womb.”
Santosh, a social studies teacher, said there is both change and continuity of the practice. “There is a change among many parents. It isn’t the old time when girls are given less food at home or deprived of education. But this old mindset of seeing girls as a liability among some persists.”