Last updateSun, 20 May 2018 6am

Raksha Bandhan : Empowering Sisters

Raksha Bandhan Empowering Sisters

For millennia before the UN had declared the International Girl Child Day; we have been observing Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Duj. Using a simple cotton thread and Tilak, sisters have been so lovingly reminding brothers about their responsibility to protect them. This bond continues to be strong as ever before. However, pressure of uncontrolled population explosion has put a lot of strain on our life which has been particularly more severe for girls and women. 

Unfortunately, women have been confined to the household and bread earners have become more important than bread makers. Still worse they are being treated as a liability. This bias gets reflected in the falling child sex ratio.  Child sex ratio continues to deteriorate and has fallen to 918 girls per 1000 boys in census 2011.

An Unusual Gift for Sisters by PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always thought and worked in the direction of overall development of the society. For women he always has a progressive approach in order to facilitate their skill and talent worldwide. Therefore, this Raksha Bandhan PM Modi has asked all the brothers to do something special for their sisters. 

“Ahead of Raksha Bandhan, I urge you, please enroll the sisters who work for you, at your homes and in your fields, for the Rs 12 and Rs 330 social security programmes,” he said in the ninth edition of his radio programme Mann ki Baat  and he took the similar call in his Independence Day speech.

Female infanticide has become a matter of serious concern in many areas. Infant deaths among girls are much higher due to bias against them in immunisation, healthcare and nutrition. This bias gets reflected in education too. Although enrolment in primary schools is total, dropout rate is very high among girls. Their enrolment in secondary, senior secondary, higher and professional educational institution is very low. Their participation in labour force is very low and back breaking household multitasking is not counted as work. 
Even when employed they are being discriminated against in wages and promotion. They are also being deprived of their share in parental property. Their free and informed full consent is not considered necessary for marriage. This leads to low self esteem. The Global Gender Gap Index 2014 has ranked India at 114 out of 142 countries.

Gender equality is however a matter of global concern.  Empowerment of and investment in girls are critical for economic growth. Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is now 20 years old and on 27 September world leaders will assemble at the UN HQ for Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: “A Commitment to Action”. That may achieve Planet 50-50 gender equality by 2030.

It is not that we are not alive to the problem. We have so many schemes being run by the centre and various states for the girl child. Balika Samridhi yojna is in operation since 15 August 1997. Then we have the Dhan Laxmi Scheme of the government of Bharat, Bhagya Laxmi Scheme in Karnataka and Ladli Laxmi Yojana and Mukhya mantri Kanyadan Yojna in Madhya Pradesh and similar schemes in Bihar, AP, HP and other states.

Prime Minister launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign on 22 January '15 from Panipat in Haryana which aims at prevention of female infanticide, ensuring survival and protection of girl child as also her education and participation. The Prime Minister has also launched the Sukanya Samridhi Yojana under which for girls born on or after 1 Dec 2014; deposits can be made under sec 80C of the Income Tax Act making investment up to Rs 1.5 lakhs tax free. This scheme also has the benefit of higher rate of interest currently at 9.1 per cent which is also tax free. Tenure is of 14 years i.e. up to girl's age of 21 years allowing 50 per cent withdrawal at 18 years for marriage or higher education. This scheme is more beneficial to tax payer families.

We also have a very extensive integrated child development services (ICDS) scheme running across the country since 2nd October 1975 for children up to the age of six years for nutrition and preschool education. We have 7051 running projects, 13.34 lakhs running angan wadis benefiting 8.28 crore children, and 1.9 crore expectant and lactating mothers under supplementary nutrition program and 3.65 crore children including 1.8 crore girls, under the pre-school education program.

All these schemes of the central and state governments for the girl child use monetary incentives. The idea is to use short term financial support for long term behavioural change. Conditional Cash Transfer annually from birth to 18 years of age and education up to class XII , the amount of stipend is increased from Rs 300 to Rs 1000 the stipulated conditions may vary from registration of birth, to immunisation, to enrolment and attendance in various classes and no marriage till age 18. 

Various schemes may also combine the scheme with family planning and stipulate assistance for one girl child or two. Some may restrict it to BPL families only. Requirement of so many certificates defeats the very purpose of these schemes. Ideally a properly constructed and regularly updated family wise database should obviate the need for asking for so many certificates from each and every family and make direct conditional cash transfer automatic. 

All births, immunisations, school enrollments and drop outs, promotions, leaving, marriage etc. should automatically get recorded and family record updated accordingly thus doing away with the need for asking every beneficiary family to furnish certificate for everything. It is felt that the amount of stipend should be sufficiently attractive, the stipulations simpler and monitoring more effective. 

Panchayats and NGOs may be given bigger say. Like under other schemes digitisation may facilitate monitoring. Most of all it is actual budgetary allocation that can do all the difference. Even limited Gender Based Budgeting shows that women specific schemes account for just 5.5 per cent of the central budget!  

So what can the brothers in India promise their loved sisters on Raksha bandhan? Give them what is their birth right but has been eluding them just because they are so affectionate. Give them gender equality. Stop discrimination in any way just because they are female. Let them be born. Let them live a childhood well cared for in terms of inoculation, nutrition, healthcare, protection and education. 

Let them grow to full adulthood as healthy, educated, skilled persons. Let them have their say in career and marriage. But the years thus saved should be utilised to develop them into workers in different areas most suited to them but well paid. And this should start with the girl child. We have Hindu Succession Act since 1956 and amended in 2005 but are the female legal heirs and successors being allowed their share in intestate parental property? 

Don't deprive them of their share in parental property. Restore their self esteem and self image. Give them a chance in birth, survival, protection, development and advancement as equals.

Author: JP Dubey  

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