How has Beti Bachao Beti Padhao fared in 5 years?

One of the flagship programmes of Narendra Modi Government that has created a lot of buzz is Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.  However, the scheme has neither fared in its design nor in its implementation. The scheme majorly runs in two components; mass media communication and multi-sectoral intervention. I will be commenting critically on the design of the scheme, implementation issues, fund allocations, utilization of the funds in this blog.

The scheme was introduced in 2015 under the centrally sponsored umbrella scheme called, Mission for Protection and Empowerment for women with a primary objective to improve child sex ratio. As per the policy document[1] of Beti Bachao Bet Padhao, the decline in child sex ratio since 1961 is seen as an indicator of women dis-empowerment. Accordingly, strategies were designed to ensure girl child protection, to create an enabling environment for promotion of girl child education and prevent gender biased sex selective elimination. For this, a tri-ministerial convergence was called out among Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development. The Grant in Aid is released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development directly sent to the District Collector/District Magistrate. Since 2018-19, the scheme has been expanded to all the 640 districts of the country from the 100 select districts.

The scheme recognises that women dis-empowerment is a multi-faceted problem that involves many social constructs, socio-cultural and religious biases. Heavy focus has been given on the mass communication campaign through radio spots, social media platforms, brochures, advertisements, etc. By giving such importance to mass media communication, it seems as if the people’s mind-set, social norms and discrimination resulting in domestic violence, female foeticide, child marriage, son preference, etc. can be solved with mere advertising without engaging in dialogue though diverse means. Notwithstanding the role of advertising in creating public opinion, one is also always suspicious of the platforms being misused for the party publicity and boasting, side lining the objective. This becomes clear when one looks into the multi-sectoral intervention component of the scheme.

With respect to the multi-sectoral intervention, there were no significant changes that were introduced. The existing activities and responsibilities under the three ministries were re-packaged and monitorable targets were set. Given that departments work in silos with very little convergence, the scheme does not talk about effective mechanisms of communication or co-ordination among the three ministries. At the local level also, there is very little convergence that has been evidenced.

In terms of design, one of the main flaws is that the initiatives are targeted to girls and women, completely neglecting the need for boys and men’s involvement. The narrative is such that it is a problem for women and therefore, should be dealt with women. In my recent field work in Andhra Pradesh, we found that, peer group trainings are being conducted as part of YSR Kishori Vikasam under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. These trainings cover a wide range of issues; child rights, gender awareness, good touch-bad touch, menstrual health and hygiene, nutrition, social issues like child marriages, child abuse and child trafficking. These trainings are given mainly to girls alone while this is a problem that should be dealt with engaging society at large and perhaps men in particular.  Given that girl’s choices are determined by the social structures and hierarchies that exist in family and society, mere empowering the girls would provide meagre results if the boys and men are not privy to the process and their role in not seen as comrades in the process of change. The sustained results can be seen only when the ministerial efforts are converged effectively at different levels of implementation and the awareness creation exercises are conducted inclusive of all the stakeholders.

Apart from that, it was also evidenced in the field that, In YSR Kishori Vikasam, volunteers from degree colleges are trained to provide awareness to adolescent girls in secondary schools, government hostels etc. However, none of the schools visited as part of the field work in Andhra Pradesh were aware of this scheme and no trainings had been conducted in the schools yet the district officials were boastful about this scheme. Clearly, the monitoring and communication mechanisms have been weak hampering the scheme’s implementation. Also, the degree students are not given any incentive for conducting their trainings apart from reimbursing the expenses incurred. Given that the school is an important site for intervention for this scheme, another lacuna is that the HMs and teachers have hardly been involved, either in the design of the content for such trainings or in the training sessions itself. Involvement of teachers would not just help in better implementation but would also create pathways for sustainability of intervention.

Moving on to funding, a simple analysis of the budget clearly shows the disparity in fund disbursements of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme.

About 25% of funds that were budgeted had not been allocated and 21% of the allocated funds were not released on an average since the inception of the scheme. There is a huge discrepancy between the budgeted estimates and the actual releases; 40% had not been released. The year 2016-17, has seen the lowest release; 9%, in only 8 states/ UTs. Moreover, Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) has been releasing funds to the States/ UTs without properly scrutinising the utilisation of the previous funds. “Despite balance funds of Rs. 3624.05 lakh lying with the state governments as on March 2017, the Ministry has released fresh funds of Rs. 3298.85 lakhs during 2017-18, which was an avoidable expenditure.” [2] According to the Parliamentary standing committee on Human Resource Department, of the Rs. 43 crores that was provided in 2016-17, only Rs. 5 crore have been utilised. [3]

Within the releases, 67% had been released for media activities. It is uncertain whether the remaining 33% funds released to states/ districts is used for the multi-sectoral intervention alone or again used for media and advocacy purposes as it is also one of the components for the districts to spend.

Secondary education has the potential to transform many social outcomes among the adolescents and young adults. Health benefits are also associated with secondary education more than primary education and were greatest amongst young women. (Russell M. Viner, Dougal S. Hargreaves, Joseph Ward, Chris Bonell, Ali H. Mokdad, George Patton, 2016). The transformative potential of secondary education has been well documented and there is also extensive research suggesting the need for investment in adolescent development. Lack of comprehensive efforts is making the adolescent group vulnerable. In spite of the high regard that education is a major instrument of social change little seems to have been done to promote adolescent development through secondary education. At present the scheme exists as one of those schemes that is absent in spirit resulting in meagre outcomes.




[Disclaimer: Views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CBPS]

Susmitha M V
Research Assistant, CBPS

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