Is Save Girl Child scheme an eyewash?

The NDA government, as per reports, has spent 56 per cent of the cumulative funds allocated for the campaign on its publicity, writes MY Siddiqui

In an unprecedentedly bizarre way, the NDA government has spent more than 56 per cent of the cumulative funds allocated for the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save Girl Child Educate Girl Child) scheme, launched with big fanfare by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014-15, on paid advertisement and publicity. The scheme intends to correct the skewed child sex ratio to ensure parity between men and women and other issues of empowerment 

of women. A major portion of the money was allocated to paid advertising in both print and electronic media, i.e., visual publicity, including hoardings, promoting the prime minister as the messiah for all-round development and prosperity of women, whereas the Minister for Woman and Child Development was nowhere in the picture, which bodes ill for Indian democracy.

In India’s system of rule of law-based democratic governance, policy decisions are taken collectively by the Union Cabinet. Once a policy decision is taken, the individual minister concerned takes charge of its implementation and for that matter is in the forefront. That is, every cabinet minister is the chief authority regarding the ministry under his/her charge.

According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, a cumulative sum of 648 crores has been allocated for the lofty scheme since 2014-15 when the current Union Government took office. Out of this, 56.27 per cent was spent on promoting the prime minister publicising and advertising the scheme of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. Only 24.5 per cent, equivalent to 159.18 crores, was disbursed to States and Union Territories for implementation of the scheme.

During the current financial year of 2018-19, a sum of 280 crores has been allocated for the all-round development of the girl child. Out of this, 155.71 crores had been incurred on advertisement and publicity till December 2018. The government is yet to release 55.66 crores, a little over 19 per cent of funds.

Paid advertising was higher in 2017-18 with 68 per cent of the total sum of 200 crores allocated for the scheme out of which 135.71 crores was spent on advertisements. In 2016-17, out of the total sum provided for the scheme, 29.79 crores was spent on advertisements and the remaining Rs2.9 crores disbursed to States and Union Territories, translating to the lowest relative allocation to implement the scheme.

It is clear now that the scheme, much touted for the overall upliftment of girls, has come a cropper on the altar of the publicity of and advertisements for the prime minister at the expense of the welfare of the targeted group. This speaks hollow of the Sangh Pariwar-led NDA Union Government, which in practice is denigrating women ostensibly in the name of development notwithstanding ever rising crimes and violence against girls and women as never before.

Failure of the scheme is due to lack of policy implementation, ineffective monitoring mechanisms, and diversion of funds. The government’s claims that by 2018-19, all 640 districts across the country have been covered under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme have also been demolished!