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Saving the girl child

In the past few weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been facing flak for not addressing the gross improprieties committed by certain senior leaders in his party. In fact on Sunday, he was criticised by opposition parties for failing to speak about the controversy involving the alleged links between former Indian Premier League Chairman Lalit Modi, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during his national radio address. However, what many opposition leaders seem to have forgotten in their rabid urge to criticise the prime minister is that he used his fortnightly radio address to focus on the girl child once again, calling for women to be gifted insurance policies on Raksha Bandhan. Selfies aside, the prime minister has taken a strong initiative on this front. 

The insurance schemes initiated by the Centre, including Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, which requires a person to pay a premium of just Rs 330 per annum to get a life insurance of Rs 2 lakh and the PM Suraksha Bima Yojana, aimed at providing accidental insurance of Rs 2 lakh at a premium of Rs 12 per annum, are steps taken in the right direction. Allied with the Atal Pension Yojana, which offers a pension of up to Rs 5,000, these schemes, if implemented, could go some way in addressing gross crimes against women like female foeticide. Data released in April by the Women and Child Development ministry state that approximately 2,000 girls die every day in India from abortion, starvation, poisoned or killed after birth.  According to a survey by the Centre for Social Research, “the fear and burden of dowry, <g data-gr-id="35">parting</g> with a share in property and maintaining female chastity were the dominant reasons for a male child preference by the Delhi households”. Mind you, this is the national capital we are talking about. In the event of deeply entrenched social mores that are heavily biased against the girl child, providing economic incentives to families seem like the best way forward.  

These schemes for young girls must brought in tandem with the Centre’s Beti Bachao, Beti <g data-gr-id="36">Padhao</g> (Save girl child, educate girl child) scheme, which  aims to generate awareness and improving the efficiency of welfare services meant for women. A more concrete version of the above scheme is the implementation of the Sukanya Samriddhi Account. According reports authored by the government, a saving account can be opened by the parent or legal guardian of a girl child of less than 10 years of age with a minimum deposit of Rs 1,000/- in any post office or authorised branches of commercial bank. Despite the plethora of schemes, implementation remains a problem. India is no stranger to schemes aimed at protecting young girls. According to a noted study by the Unite Nations Population Fund, “(Our) findings point to the need to simplify the eligibility criteria and conditionalities, and also the procedures of registration under each of these schemes.” In addition to these basic anomalies, there is a distinct lack of field-level monitoring of these schemes, besides a complete absence of grievance –redressal mechanisms. Poor coordination between financial institutions and government departments continues to hamper implementation, allied with poor participation from local village institutions. If Prime Minister Modi hopes to bring tangible change, he must, in close coordination with state governments, must address these issues urgently. 

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