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?
What an idea, sirji!! It’s huge in scope and absolutely do-able in its simplicity. Just do it – I think it deserves the attention of Mr Chidambaram – if he gets to hear of it, he’ll initiate it. And we’re all willing to pitch in with sponsoring one girl each! You are not just changing a perception, you’re changing a reality – becasue 20 years later, girls will be fetching dowry instead of boys. (Not that that outcome is any better – dowry is the pits… but i’d love to turn the equation upside down for once.) Cheers to this, man.
Good God ! I am truly apalled that we are even having this discussion.
First we treat women like male child manufacturers now we also expect them to make money even before the legal earning age!!! What makes us think that the same people who restrict the girl-child will not see this as an opportunity for further exploitation?
And this isnt only about education either – the accountant above would certainly be educated – this is about a sick section of society !
However, since it is also about ‘economic viability’, I agree that the Corprate sector should step up to the plate.
But Corporate India should contribute not in money – girls are not beggars – but by creating a demand for women employees – at ALL levels. There are very few jobs that men do that women cannot – in fact I can’t immediately think of any…
The Corporate sector to work towards eliminating gender diversity in the workplace altogether – my reaction would be to start by sacking the abovementioned accountant for making a diversity statement in the office – no doubt in the presence of both male and female employees.
Thereafter putting gender diversity (improve the female:male ratio) into the individual scorecard of every manager – with a greater weightage at senior levels. For example, the CEO would have to ensure that there are at least 50% or more women on the leadership team – or no bonus pay. I have seen leadership teams where there isnt a single woman. Disgraceful !!
Next: making women welcome in the workplace by ensuring that the infrastructure is conducive to the needs of women employees – starting with good clean ladies toilets, with appropriate amenities . Followed up by solid Company policies. Today the only woman-centric policy is around maternity – that’s only because its the law. Policy should include (but not be limited to) Travel:single women travellers are specially vulnerable and need to have special facilities, eg taxi cabs, airline timings, special secure floors at hotels (some already do – which cater to security, restricted entry, screened telephone calls, in-room and amenities), etc. Other policies that need women-centric modifications would be Leave, Transportation, that come to mind immediately.
Finally, women too need to change their mindset and support changes that are unique to their needs – specially those women who already hold positions that enable them to make this change.
Corporate development must come with a caveat that operating licences would be issued only if the company opens and funds a new school/college in a rural/semi-rural area which caters to women’s education. Further company expansion plans would be based on how the school/college has performed and how many women have joind the company’s workforce from these institutions.
Of course, there is much much more which can be done…
Sorry I dont agree that the Govt has the capability of handling this – look at any Govt initiative.
I also dont agree that this should be a part of the tax code – this is also administered by the selfsame Govt. I’d first like to see what they are doing with the Education cess – the public education system is still as pathetic as ever. Would any of us reading this agree to send our kids to Govt schools? Anyone? I rest my case.
The Corporate sector is doing extremely well – despite the Govt. If there is any salvation to be had, it rests here.
These are very interesting initiatives.
The perception change will be slow – irrespective of what we do because of the deep rooted nature of the bias which is there.
A few things that we can do :
1) Make education “Pay” for the girl child. Currently, there is a ‘free meal’ program in many schools for the kids. We can go one step further. If a girl child gets education, she can also start getting a certain amount of money – deposited in her name and available for her only after she is 18 years old. This is where the corporates can play a role. If a girl child clears upto 8th standard, she gets a sum every year; if she clears 10th standard, a little more and if she clears 12th, even more and so on – so that educating the girl child becomes an income for the family. Currently it is not.
2) The legislative initiative that you have mentioned. Absolutely valid.
Very heartening to hear about the MP initiative. The starting point should be schools. Social service organizations should help the government in implementing such an initiative. Again, the girl child grand should be linked to attendance and not just to enrolment in the school register. Money should never by paid in cash, but should be deposited directly into the child’s bank account only. Attendance register should be electronic with finger print reader to mark attendance. Else we will have more girl children enrolled in the schools than their actual population.
I think any country which can afford to give it’s MPs a 300% hike, have enough money to fund such an initiative.
Personally. I’m not very gung ho about legislation. To change perceptions about a girl child, we simply have to turn her into an earning member – “lakshmi” in real sense. MP government has taken an initiative in this direction. They are putting some money in FD in the name of the newborn girl. the FD matures when the girl turns 21. The girl receives Rs.1L. It’s a start. I think it’s one of the major reasons why BJP was re-elected to power in MP.
Absolutely right Preeti! That’s where the real challenge lies. But with the launch of ‘Adhaar’, the unique identification for everyone, at least reaching money to the right people will become a wee bit easier. ‘Adhaar’ is our best hope of reaching funds to those who deserve.
I think corporate India is in the best position to launch something like this in villages located closer to their factories.
Cery interesting concept! Sounds very simple and seems like it should work. Point is where and how dies one start? And as a participant I am always concerned as to where and how my money is being used and if it is really reaching the right people, irrespective of the amount! We dont see the minimum wage and other such programs reaching the real people, do we.
I think it’ll be a great initiative. Apart from all the ideas mentioned above, I also think that educating the rural folk is also equally important. Why just rural folk, the overall psyche of Indian society has to be changed 1st, which considers a girl to be a burden & a “machine” for producing children (sorry for the term but that’s what it is) Unless we do that no amount of legislation can achieve anything.