A girl in India is called ‘liability’; boy an asset.
A girl has to be brought up (kharcha). She has to be married (more kharcha). She has to be provided with dowry (still more kharcha). Her husband may keep demanding more favors, financial or otherwise, and girl’s parents have to fulfill (kharcha to the power of n)
“Ladkiyan To Bekaar Hoti Hai.” No wonder, this is what my accountant (proud father of a son) proclaimed to his other colleagues in a girl child vs. boy child debate.
Boys, on the other hand, are opposite of girls. No doubt money is spent on bringing them up, but they grow up and bring money home. They receive dowry, which can be recycled for their sister’s wedding, and it generally is. They also look after the parents, providing them succor in their old age.
In cities, however, the equation is not quite the way it’s been stated above.
Girls are going to work. Girls are actually doing far more to look after their parents than boys are. A working girl has found a new way to bond with her aging mother, thanks to her own motherhood. Nanni is more than willing to look after the newborn, is more accommodating and helpful than the saas. Many husbands too have started looking at the positive side, and are more than accommodating. Economic necessity is bringing them closer.
Can we replicate the same model in rural India?
I believe we can. And at very little cost. And if we do, we’ll end up changing our society in more ways than any law has been able to.
All we have to do is turn the girl child into an earning member of the family. From the moment she is born.
When she turns 2 years, she starts receiving Rs.100 per month.
When she’s enrolled in a school, her income increases to Rs.250/ per month
Upon finishing her primary school, she starts getting Rs.500 per month.
When she enters 9th standard, her income grows to Rs.750 per month.
Passes 10th, starts getting Rs.1000 pm.
Finishes school, starts earning 1250 pm.
Graduates, and income is now Rs.1,500 pm.
She continues to earn Rs.1500 per month till the age of 25, or earlier if she gets a job or gets married before she turns 21.
Total cost over 23 years: Rs.1.92L. Or about Rs.8,300 per year.
Let’s look at the benefits:
a. Perception change: Boys start earning when they turn 18 or 20 or 25; girls start earning from their very first month. By the time the boys start earning, a girl would have contributed Rs.1.92L to the family!
b. Sex determination test. “What, it’s a girl? Wow!”
c. Girl’s mortality rate will drop dramatically.
d. Girls enrollment into school will jump. From dismal 12% to nearly 100%.
e. With possibility of a girl not making it to school, or progressing in a school, will create novel pressure from rural families: they’ll protest to have to a school in their village or at close proximity. And just not any school, a quality school, with toilets that the girls can use.
e. Girls completing 10th, 12th and even graduating, will rise to unprecedented levels. Educated girl means lower population growth.
f. As income to a girl is assured till she gets married or turns 25, child or early marriages will decrease. Direct impact on child population.
g. An educated and confident girl will exert pressure on boys to match up. No longer will we have a situation where a boy can get any girl he wishes to marry; he’ll have to compete, and brain power will play a role.
h. We could see an end of dowry as dowry. An aware girl will not be someone to posses, or demand.
How can we fund this?
There are three ways to do this:
a. Involve corporate.
b. Get citizens to fund one girl
c. Government can make a huge difference
a. Involve Corporate India
Corporate India could fund this in several ways. Here are a few:
a. Create a corpus and put it into a bank as fixed deposit. The interest from the fund can finance education for several girls. For instance, to fund one girl over a period 23 years, a company has to just start with a fund if Rs.18,000 in first year, and then keep topping it up with sufficient money to cover interest. The government can encourage by exempting it from tax.
b. Directly fund each household, promising to give preference for employment to the girls.
c. They can open schools in villages. This would be quite feasible as such a program is bound to create demand for more and better quality schools.
d. Healthcare companies can use this opportunity to help girls become doctors and nurses by helping fund new hospitals in villages.
2. Citizens can contribute big time: Each affluent individual or family could adopt one girl child through 23 years. Cost: No more than Rs.8,400 per year or Rs. 700/month. Not much money to sacrifice for many of us!
Internet makes giving very easy. There are hundreds honest and sincere not-for-profit social organizations who will be more than delighted to lend their hand in making this possible.
3. Govt can drive the program. I believe a single legislation can do the trick. All it has to do is levy a ‘bringing up a girl child’ cess on service tax, income tax and excise duty, much like the education cess. At 1% of the tax, we can take care of 9 millions girls a year!
We needn’t start in a grandiose manner. A small start will be good enough. For instance, if we decide to launch this program on Oct 2, 2012, two years from now, only targeting rural areas and girls born on or after Oct 2, 2010, we’ll have about 5 million eligible girls.
I’m very optimistic about this program. What do you think?