Why is 56% of the Beti Bachao Fund Being Spent on Publicity?

How will the Beti Bachao scheme help girls if more than half of its allocated funds is spent on ads and publicity?

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Four years after the Beti Bachao scheme was announced, the government said that more than 55 percent of the scheme’s fund was spent just on ads and publicity!

In this episode of The Big Story podcast, we explain how effective the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme was, and where its funds were actually spent. Click on the player below to listen in:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Beti Bachao programme in 2015 to tackle two issues: first, the falling child sex ratio – the low number of girls to every 1,000 boys born in India, and second, to change the mindset about the girl child. Because God knows, we need it.

To make this happen, the government allocated at least Rs. 644 crore to the scheme. Great, right? Well, not really, if you ask HOW this money was actually spent. What you’re going to hear next is based on answers provided by Dr Virendra Kumar, Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development, in the Lok Sabha on 4 January.

Approximately, 56 percent of the amount has been spent on “media activities” i.e., advertising and publicity. This is just a little over Rs. 364.6 crore.

This means, more than half the fund they promised for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao… was spent talking about how successful Beti Bachao Beti Padhao was.

Almost 19 percent of the fund simply WASN’T released. That’s approximately Rs 124 crore. Not exactly a small amount.

This leaves just 25 percent of the fund. And it was only this 25 percent that was sent to the states and districts under the scheme.

These include many parts of Haryana, UP, Punjab, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. A total of 161 districts are supposed to be covered by the scheme at this point.

The 25 percent that they received is approximately Rs 160 crore.

So, 161 districts and Rs 160 crore. Let’s do the math. Each district got less than Rs 1 crore under the programme, and spread across four years, that’s less than Rs 25 lakh a year.

More money has been spent on advertising ‘Beti Bachao’ than on actually improving life for girls in India.

But the amount that was sent to these districts, however small, must have made a difference right?

Again, not really.

In 53 districts out of the 161 districts under the BBBP scheme, the child sex ratio – the ratio of girls to boys – actually DECLINED! Here are a few examples. In Nicobar, the ratio fell from 985 girls per 1,000 boys in 2014-15 to 839 girls per 1,000 boys.

That’s a huge drop! In Puducherry, the numbers fell from 1,107 girls for every 1,000 boys to 976 girls for every 1,000 boys… And the worst part is, this number was actually higher BEFORE BBBP!

In a blog, economist Mitali Nikore explained this is because only a small portion of the funds, about five percent, is actually allocated for education and health interventions. Another five percent goes to training and capacity-building at the district level. Training at the central level only gets one percent of the fund.

She calls this expenditure highly skewed and aimed at just one pillar of the scheme – publicity.

So, while the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative might have won the Modi government a lot of points, its actual implementation has left a lot to be desired.

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