Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme on January 22, 2015 with two related aims. The quantitative aim was to address the declining Child Sex Ratio in India and the qualitative aim was to "change mindsets regarding the girl child". The approach, conceptualised by the government, involved "multi-sectoral action" through three ministries: Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare and Human Resource Development.
Four years later, data released by the government shows that its main aim has been publicity. Over 56 percent of the funds allocated under the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme from 2014-15 to 2018-19, were spent on "media related activities". In contrast to this, less than 25 percent of the funds were disbursed to districts and states. Over 19 percent of the funds weren't released by the government in the first place.
This is according to the answer provided by Dr Virendra Kumar, Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development, in the Lok Sabha on January 4 this year, in response to a question posed by five Members of Parliament: Kapil Patil and Shivkumar Udasi of the BJP, Sushmita Dev of the Congress, Gutha Sukender Reddy of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Sanjay Jadhav of the Shiv Sena.
Till now the government has allocated Rs 644 crore for the scheme, out of which only about Rs 159 crore have been sent to districts and states. This is the year-wise break-up of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ funds, as stated by government in its answer in the Lok Sabha.
When asked in Parliament if he saw the scheme as a failure, the minister replied in the negative. In fact, he pointed out that the government has decided to implement the scheme in all the 640 districts in the country.
In the first phase of the scheme in 2015, the government focused on 100 districts with a comparatively lower sex ratio. In the second phase the year after that, the government added 61 more districts.
Based on the child sex ratio in these 161 districts, the scheme's success has been partial at best. In 53 out of 161 districts, the Child Sex Ratio has actually declined since 2015. These include 32 out of 100 districts from phase one and 21 out of 61 districts from phase two. However, the child sex ratio has increased in rest of the districts.
The decline has been particularly sharp in the Union Territories. For instance in Nicobar, the Child Sex Ratio fell from 985 females per 1000 makes in 2014-15 to 839 in 2016-17. In Puducherry's Yanam, it fell from 1107 in 2014-15 to 976. The government has given Rs 55 crore and Rs 46 crore to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry respectively.
Experts say that the limited success of the scheme is largely due to the fact that the government isn't releasing the funds effectively and that it is spending too much on publicity instead of concrete interventions in the education and health sectors.
According to economist Mitali Nikore, "Only a small proportion of the funds, about 5 percent each, is allocated for education and health interventions".
"Further, another 5% is allocated for training and capacity building at the district level, with training at the central level receiving only 1%," she further wrote in a blog in The Times of India.
She terms the pattern of expenditure, "highly skewed towards just one pillar of the scheme" – publicity.
According to her, the government should have instead made provisions for "strengthening long term, measurable outcomes related to education and health envisaged under the scheme".
So while the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme might have generated a lot of buzz for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it's success hasn't quite been up to the mark.
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