Four years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the much-hyped ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (translated as Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child)’ campaign, it turns out there is a reason why the campaign has been so hyped—and it is not because the lives of India’s girl children have been turned around.
Rather, it is because 56 per cent of all the funds that have been released so far under the scheme—launched on January 22, 2015—have been spent only on advertising and publicity.
Only about a quarter of the earmarked funds have been disbursed to the states and districts for the implementation of the scheme, reveals data provided by the government itself.
The BJP-led NDA has allocated a total of Rs 648 crore for the scheme between the financial years 2014-15 and 2018-19 (as of December 31, 2018)—as Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development Virendra Kumar informed the Lok Sabha on January 4 this year.
This was first reported in the media by The Quint.
However, Rs 364.66 crore—or 56.27 per cent—out of this amount has been spent on “media activities”.
Only Rs 159.18 crore—or 24.5 per cent, or slightly less than a quarter—have been released to the states/districts.
Meanwhile, more than 19 per cent of the funds have not been utilised at all.
While the fund allocation increased year by year, the money spent on media activities also increased consistently. However, the same consistent increase was not seen in the funds released to the states.
In 2018-19, for example, a total of Rs 280 crore was allocated, of which Rs 155.71 crore was spent on media-related activities, while just Rs 70.63 crores were utilised by the states under the scheme.
In 2017-18, Rs 200 crore was allocated, of which Rs 135.71 crore was spent on advertising, and a mere Rs 33.2 crore was released to the states.
We already know that the Modi government has a penchant for spending money on publicity more than anything else. After all, it has spent Rs 5,000 crore on advertisements and publicity in the four and a half years since coming to power, even as it continues cutting funds for education and health.
The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign aims primarily at addressing the declining child sex ratio in India through prevention of gender-based sex selective elimination (female foeticide and infanticide).
The scheme also aims to “change mindsets regarding the girl child”, and empower women by focussing on the education of girl children, as the name suggests.
Meanwhile, the state of girls’ education in India is so deplorable that even girls belonging to the top 20 per cent of the income strata receive just nine years of education on average, while girls from the poorest families belonging to the bottom 20 per cent get no education at all, as per the latest report on inequality in India by Oxfam.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is a “triministerial” effort involving Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare, and Human Resource Development.
But even in its primary aim of saving the girl child, the scheme has seen only a partial success.
The scheme covered 100 districts in its first phase in 2015 and then added 61 more districts in its second phase.
However, in 53 out of these 161 districts, the child sex ratio has actually declined since 2015, as The Quint pointed out. Out of these 53 districts, 32 districts had been covered under the first phase while 21 had been covered under the second phase of the scheme. The child sex ratio has increased in the remaining districts.
While answering the question in Parliament, Virendra Kumar talked about the salient features of the scheme:
“The key elements of the scheme include nationwide awareness and advocacy campaign and multi-sectoral action. Multi-sectoral action includes effective enforcement of Pre Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act, Pre-Natal/ Post Natal care of mother, improve enrolment of girls in schools, community engagement/ training/awareness generation, etc.”
However, is not Rs 159.18 crore for 161 districts—amounting to less than Rs 1 crore for each district over the last four years—clearly insufficient to fulfil this ambitious mandate?
When the minister was asked if the scheme had failed “due to lack of policy implementation, ineffective monitoring mechanisms and diversion of funds”, he denied that the scheme had failed.
Instead, he said, “Since 2018-19, all 640 districts (as per census 2011) of the country have been covered under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme (BBBP).”
“Out of 640 districts, 405 districts are covered through Multi-sectoral intervention, Media & Advocacy and 235 districts covered through alert Media & Advocacy outreach.”