Beti Bachao scheme

Stillborn scheme

Print edition : May 11, 2018

A section of the crowd at the launch of the Beti Bachao scheme on January 22, 2015, in Panipat, Haryana. Photo: AKHILESH KUMAR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani (right) and the actor Madhuri Dixit at the launch of the scheme. Photo: PTI

An audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India comes down heavily on the Haryana government for its lax implementation of the Beti Bachao scheme.

NOTWITHSTANDING the tall claims made by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre, a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the social and economic sectors (for the year ending 2016) of the Haryana government has revealed huge gaps in the implementation of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana, one of the major flagship programmes of the Union government. The scheme, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Panipat district, Haryana, on January 22, 2015, aimed at ensuring the survival, protection and empowerment of the girl child. The scheme was to be implemented through a mass campaign in 100 “gender-critical” districts, which included 20 districts from Haryana. Clearly, from a “gender-critical” point of view, Haryana, a BJP-governed State, was given top priority.

The CAG report, which focussed on the implementation of the scheme in the three districts of Panipat, Mahendargarh and Sonepat, stated that “the target of improving the sex ratio at birth, increasing girls’ enrolment in secondary education and hundred per cent re-enrolment of dropout girls could not be achieved”. The CAG found evidence of diversion of funds from the scheme, which is wholly financed by the Central government. The audit found that of the Rs.5 lakh released by the District Programme Officer to the Civil Surgeon in Panipat for the fulfilment of the objectives of the scheme, Rs.3 lakh was spent on making a “theme gate” at the entrance to Panipat for the occasion of launching the scheme. A sum of Rs.5 lakh was allocated to each district to strengthen the district Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique cells and monitoring, to gather information, for research studies and for information and communication activities. The expenditure on the theme gate, said the report, was “irregular and tantamount to diversion of funds”. Further, the Women and Child Development Department spent Rs.24 lakh on purchasing 1,800 laptop bags and 2,900 mugs even though there was no provision in the scheme for purchasing these.

On the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) in the three test districts, the audit report found that an anonymous online complaint portal that was to be functional from September 2014 was not set up in any of the districts. Only seven complaints under the PCPNDT Act regarding unregistered doctors operating ultrasound machines and conducting illegal tests were received from these districts from 2014 to 2016. “Non-provision of the facility of the online anonymous complaint portal diluted the monitoring capability of the department,” observed the audit report.

Guidelines flouted

The PCPNDT cells were not provided with equipment or technical manpower, and no targets for monthly or quarterly inspections were fixed by the department. The guidelines of the scheme stipulate that review meetings, field inspections and monitoring be carried out once every three months in all the districts by the State Inspection and Monitoring Committee. The audit found that only one meeting was held in the State between January 2015 and March 2016, and no meeting was held in any of the test districts.

The audit found the State wanting in encouraging the education of the girl child. As per the scheme, Rs.1 lakh was to be given to five schools in each gender-critical district to encourage and promote the education of the girl child. The idea was to increase enrolment and to draw dropout girl students back. The audit found that the department had released only Rs.1 lakh for each of the three test districts. The State government pleaded that the Central government had not released the funds, which the audit found was not true. The money had been released but was spent in workshops and seminars at the district headquarters.

The Beti Bachao scheme was launched with much fanfare by the Prime Minister himself. The State government was implementing seven schemes for improving the sex ratio and checking the demographic imbalance that Haryana was notorious for, and to meet the sociological and health needs of the girl child.

It set up State and district task forces for monitoring and implementing these seven schemes. The audit found that very few meetings of these task forces were held in the test districts, instead of the mandated quarterly meetings.

As per the guidelines of the Beti Bachao scheme, an improvement of the sex ratio at birth by 10 points in a year was to be achieved. The audit found to its alarm that the sex ratio had declined further in Panipat and Mahendargarh, though it had improved in Sonepat. This indicated that sex selection at birth was still pretty much rampant. The audit report found major deficiencies in the upkeep and maintenance of shelter homes for destitute women and children; it was also noticed that not enough was done to make the women self-reliant.

The crime statistics of Haryana are equally grave. According to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the State ranks sixth in the country in crimes against women. Between 2014 and 2016, a total of 1,000 rapes were reported.

The Haryana government may have been lax in implementing the guidelines of the Beti Bachao scheme, but it has not been a laggard in cracking down on alleged cow smugglers and traffickers under its stringent Cow Protection Law (Haryana Gauvansh Sanrakshan and Gausamvardhan Act, 2015), which awards a sentence of one year in jail and Rs.10 lakh as fine to those caught smuggling cows.

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