For now this question seems minuscule but in the long run it might cause havoc and develop in to a social disaster. Today I am going to present my views about it.
The grave issue is that of female infanticide which is on the rise especially among educated and in higher strata of society. It has assumed an alarming proportion. Great social worker Agarkar has once said, ‘in a country where a woman is not bound by chains and free to take a decision that country is in true sense culturally progressive’. India’s global image is that of a glorious, rich in traditions and a progressive country. The picture of 21rst century that comes across is that of Indian woman who is liberal, educated and financially independent though encouraging has a poignant side to it which we cannot ignore. The darker side to this positive development is every year 10 lac female foeticide takes place with the help of gender determination tests.
Our social structure has bound the woman curbing her freedom, potentials and I think the root of these constraints is female infanticide.
In our culture woman is honoured as ‘goddess of power’. She is considered to be ‘Mahalaxmi, Mahasaraswati and Mahadurga’. In olden times Indian tradition has always acknowledged the greatness of woman and treated her with respect and dignity. They shared equal place in social and religious programmes. Lopmudra, Vishwatara and Ghosha were some of the intellectual women who wrote rucha’s in Rigveda. In Vedas many of the shloks are written by women.
In 11th century India was invaded by foreigners. Women’s security became a serious issue as they realised she was no longer safe. Thus the tradition of girl-child marriage came in to existence. A woman’s future was shrouded in darkness and the downward slide began. She was viewed as an object to be used.
Today woman is educated and has reached a respectable place in our society. But sad part is in spite of all this even today people treat ‘birth of a girl as a kind of catastrophe’. In some parts the ratio of girl child is less than 800 to every 1000 male children born. Who is responsible for this? What happens if the situation assumes a grim role tomorrow? What steps have we taken to reform the present condition? Today these questions are imperative to me.
Our society, our traditions have imbibed a thought on people’s mind ‘a male child is the rightful heir and he is looked upon as a support for old age’. This age-old tradition has been responsible for remarkable decline of female child in comparison to male child. ‘After marriage a girl has to leave her house and her people so it is better not to have a girl’ can be cited as one more reason.
As per the Human Development Report 2002 published by Maharashtra Government 84% women are of the opinion that they should have one son at least. With the help of modern technology, many pregnant women, her relatives and select few doctors (I am not blaming all the doctors) in collusion and illegally perform gender detection tests and then abort the female foetus.
If great women like Jijamata and Savitri bai Phule had not been born, then Maharashtra’s history would have something else to say. A comprehensive discussion on this serious question is the need of hour. Unfortunately those whom we refer to as educated and intelligent, coming from affluent class and some skilled doctors (not all doctors) are in nexus. This is a social crime.
If the ratio of girl child declines then marriages of 200 boys out of 1000 will not take place. What about the safety of those 800 girls born today? This situation will give rise to an insecurity which will be difficult to protect. Today girls are given huge sum of dowry and brought from other states to Rajasthan and Haryana.
The state or country is termed as progressive when the girl-boy child ratio is found to be equal. In Kerala the girl-child ratio is higher in comparison to boys. Kerala is known as a progressive state. In Russia the girl child ratio is higher and hence it is considered to be world power.
We cite examples of Jijamata and Savitribai Phule and speak about their exemplary contribution in the history of Maharashtra while on the other side we are setting our mark in this heinous crime. Would we still have the right to talk about how radical we are as a state? Today take any field, look at the 10th and 12th standard board Exam. merit list holders, we will realise that girls are not any less than boys. But still mistakes of such serious nature take place.
In this chain we find doctors, skilled gynaecologists (I am not blaming all of them) a part of this crime. But what they do not understand is they will not stand to gain anything out of this. They would soon wake up to the stark reality that there is no girl left for their son to marry.
As a Home-Minister of Maharashtra I am of the opinion that the state’s police and Home department should be more sensitive to this issue and immediately curb this kind of criminal activity. At times certain questions assume a crucial role. A robbery takes precedence over gender detection which finds itself on the lowest priority level. In fact female infanticide as a crime should be on the top most priority list.
This cerebral disease is found less among the poor hence backward districts like Nandurbar and Gadchiroli report low cases of female infanticide compared to other districts. It tops the list when it comes to rich and affluent class.
Few doctors help these kind of crime. These people are found in all parts of Maharashtra. We will take stringent action with help of the law against such activities. I appeal to the people, especially the women to consider the fact that she too is a woman and think twice before killing a girl child in the womb. I understand when it comes to family; women still don’t have the right to make a decision. It would be our good fortune if a woman is given this right.
I think we need to start a movement to mobilise people in this direction. In a radical state like Maharashtra we follow the ideology of Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar, where Savitri bai Phule in spite of all odds built a foundation for women’s education. We just can’t ignore these pages from history and turn a deaf ear to the goings on around us.
Now is the time to give a cry to ‘save a girl child and save a state’. The pertinent question today is to change people’s mentality and I do not think only politicians can do it. In addition, social workers also should take the initiative and work full fledged. I have seriously taken note of this question. I am ready to use my power, ‘with courtesy or by force’. I want your active support. The doctors who are a part of this shameful act should be punished and the medical council should cancel their license to practice medicine for the rest of their life. A female child is killed in womb but what about the future security of the girls that are born. I consider their safety as much important.
In some families poverty is also one of the reasons for abortion. The question of dowry looms large over their head. My government has proposed a scheme wherein when a girl is born the government will keep aside a certain amount in ‘fixed deposit’ and when she turns eighteen the amount of one lac will be released for her education or marriage purpose. We have declared this in our manifesto during the elections. Henceforth a girl born in Maharashtra will not be dependent on anyone anymore and will be a ‘dhanlaxmi’ in true sense.
I take your leave now. My next post will talk how family violence and gender detection are closely related with each other.
Home Minister, State of Maharashtra