Whose Laadli is it Anyways?

It is a matter of great shame for all of us to be living in a country whose citizens have stooped down to such levels of atrocity that they are ruthlessly discriminating, marginalizing and even killing their own daughters and sisters in the name of honor. Women in our country have faced oppression and widespread discrimination since centuries in the form of sati, child marriage and many other heinous crimes. What however, hurts the most is that even today the attitude of the society towards women has not improved. In the olden days, it was sati and child marriage now we have dowry deaths, forced marriages and honor killings. But the most obnoxious and brazen act that our doctors, who are treated like gods, and parents, both rich and poor, are engaging in today is sex determination, followed by abortion of the female fetus. In most cases it is the man in the house who pressurize their wife and daughter- in- law to produce male children. And if she gives birth to a girl child, she has to face the wrath of not only her own family but also the society’s. Sometimes, a woman is so oppressed that she thinks it is wiser to end the life of the girl fetus even before she comes out of her womb so she doesn’t suffer the barbarism of our patriarchal society.

With the objective of curbing these heinous crimes against girl children and improving the dwindling sex ratio, the Delhi Government launched the ‘Laadli’ scheme in 2008. This scheme promotes girl children and their school education by offering monetary incentive to girls, whose family’s total household income is less that Rs 1 lakh and are residents of Delhi. This incentive can be collected by the girl after she attains the age of eighteen, provided she has at least passed class tenth. A girl child born on or after 1 January, 2008 can receive approximately Rs 1 lakh under this scheme. This money can be utilized for her further education or even marriage.

As I evaluated this scheme I came to know that this scheme has found many takers in a short span of time. As per the information gathered from a senior officer, as many as 27, 5000 applications have been accepted to receive assistance under this scheme. The popularity of the scheme can be linked with the huge amount of expenditure incurred by the Delhi Government on publicity. While the marketing budget for 2008 was Rs 3.83 crores, in 2009 it was reduced to Rs 2.34 crores. Yet, the reality is that, at the grassroots level there is lack of awareness among people about the scheme. Even those who know about this scheme do not have complete information about its procedure and conditions. This highlights the ineffectiveness of the promotional tools used. The real problems– illegal sex determination, female foeticide and infanticide, discrimination, low emphasis on girl education and health– remain as unaffected as the crude mindset of the people against a girl child.

The government must synchronize its efforts with NGOs and civil societies to bring forth a real change. There are several NGOs which have taken up the cause of the girl child. These agencies can reach out to the most marginalized sections of people and make them aware about this scheme. They can also organize street plays and group discussions to sensitize people about the plight of girl children and thus bring about a change in their mindset. Besides, they can assist them in filling Laadli application forms and obtaining birth certificates and other documents. Similarly, anganwadi workers can promote the girl child scheme by generating awareness among people living in slums and resettlement colonies.

The government should also think on alternative methods by which the application process of the scheme can be effectively and efficiently conducted. There is a lot of ambiguity in the procedure and conditions of the scheme. The procedure is very complex and involves a lot of paper work. I would suggest the department to allot unique identity cards to all the girls who are availing the benefits of this scheme. Instead of refilling the Laadli form in several stages, they should be able to get the benefits transferred to their bank accounts by showing this ID card.

One major positive impact of this scheme is that the number of female birth registrations did increase in 2008 after this scheme was launched. But I doubt if it indicates a dramatic change in the sex ratio of the city, or for that matter, the attitude of families towards their daughters. If tomorrow our government launches a scheme that benefits boys, the male birth registration will also increase. It is time for us to change our rigid attitude. We must open our minds and accept our daughters whole heartedly. We should be willing to spend as much on their health, recreation, education and upbringing as we do for our sons. Besides, we should make an endeavor to promote the girl child among our friends, relatives and peers. Remember, the more we empower our girls, the more developed our nation will become. There is no time for procrastination. It is time to introspect and act.

Pranav Sukhija

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