PM Modi should do more than just giving token slogans like ‘Beti Khilao’

#GenderAnd Culture | India will soon bear the cost for ignoring its women players. Beti Khilao became an obvious and logical addition to the slogan ostensibly aiming at improving the persisting gender discrimination in all spheres of life.

Written by Jagmati Sangwan | New Delhi | Updated: June 23, 2017 6:21 pm
Narendra Modi, PM Modi, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, women's education, women in games, The enthusiasm behind rephrasing the slogan came from the superb performance by Indian women players, particularly PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik in badminton and wrestling respectively.

Even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much touted ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (Save girls, educate girls) scheme, launched in 2015, was to show some results, the slogan was extended with another part, ‘Beti Khilao’ (let the girls play) in the aftermath of Rio Olympics. The enthusiasm behind rephrasing the slogan came from the superb performance by Indian women players, particularly PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik in badminton and wrestling respectively. They added silver and bronze medals to India’s kitty at the Olympics. Dipa Karmakar also achieved distinction in gymnastics. But for the mark made by these three girls, Indian Olympic contingent would have returned empty handed, obviously as big an ignominy as our country. Therefore, Beti Khilao became an obvious and logical addition to the slogan ostensibly aiming at improving the persisting gender discrimination in all spheres of life.

On the basis of my own experience as an international Volleyball player and an activist of the women’s movement, I feel it is the third component of this slogan, Beti Khilao that can play a crucial role in empowering our girls. Beti Bachao was coined to rectify the alarming imbalance in sex ratio. Under the scheme, over hundred districts of the country were identified for immediate action. According to the 2011 census, Haryana continues to be the most infamous state for its skewed sex ratio which stood at 866 females per 1,000 males. In March this year, after two years of implementation of the Beti Bachao scheme, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar made a tall claim. He said that a remarkable improvement was recorded in the state’s sex ratio with 950 female births per thousand male, registering an improvement of more than 100 points. This sounded unbelievable on the face value, itself. Later on, the audit team of the Beti Bachao scheme found serious discrepancies in the data related to birth registration methodology in 8 of the 10 districts covered under the scheme. Sections of media exposed that the inflated claims made by Khattar were based on deliberate misrepresentation of the figures supplied by concerned district level officials. Even the Consultant Demographer with the United Nations Population Fund, Arvind Acharya issued a public statement that ‘scientifically, we cannot compare the census data and the civil birth registration data because the data elements of two systems are different.’ In fact, Haryana’s Health Minister, Anil Vij, had to take a public note of this gaff and announce an enquiry into the apparent fudging of the numbers.

Narendra Modi, PM Modi, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, women's education, women in games, The vicious cycle of persisting adverse female ratio, continued gender discrimination, denial at institutional level, has to be broken now.

Just two weeks ago, an RTI revealed that in just two years Haryana government has spent Rs 190 crore on advertising. According to the information, the state government paid Rs 173 crore to print media and Rs 11.5 crore to electronic media between October 20, 2014 and January 4, 2017 for advertisements. Besides, the government spent Rs 5.5 crore on flax boards to publicise its schemes and events such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.

However, the reality of the Beti Padhao component was starkly laid bare in May, this year. There were a series of unusual protests by girl students at several places in Haryana demanding an upgradation of their schools to senior secondary standard. Thirteen, 16-year-old girls, of Gothra Tappa village of Rewari district of Haryana, sat on a hunger strike for eight days, facing worst weather conditions, to get their village school upgraded to senior secondary level. The primary reason behind this was that girls, often, have to discontinue their studies if the higher secondary schools are far off, as parents worry for their safety because of the increasing sexual harassment and violence. This episode depicted a deep seated assertion of young girls that attracted national media’s attention. It is not a coincidence that most of these matriculate girls on huger-strike happen to be players of their school hockey team.

In this light, the seriousness of the Central government to empower the young girls is suspect. The Central government, supposedly perturbed at the medal debacle in Rio Olympics, took a single strategic step. This was the formation of a task force with a mandate to prepare a long term roadmap for the next three Olympics and a short term strategy for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Shockingly, not a single woman was included in this eight-member task force that comprises of Abhinav Bindra, Pullela Gopichand, Viren Rasquenha, S Baldev Singh, Om Prakash Pathak, G. L. Khanna, Rajesh Kalra and Sandeep Pradhan. With such an exclusionary and gender-blind approach, it is not hard to imagine the outcome.

The so-called ‘Task Force’ submitted its interim report to the Prime Minister’s Office in May this year. If we go by the media coverage, among the several recommendations made by them, not a single one concerns women’s participation in sports. No one has a problem with the general approach of the interim report. But how can it be totally indifferent to take note of the immense potential of women players, which they have appropriately displayed at the Rio Olympics, in-spite of rampant patriarchal discrimination right from birth as reflected in the country’s skewed sex ratio.

The undying assertion among our women, especially young girls, can be witnessed in all spheres of life despite the indifference that surrounds them. The essence of unprecedented success of the recent Bollywood film Dangal, on women wrestlers from Haryana, and the tremendous acclaim it won actually lies in the spectacular manner of bringing this assertion in focus. This zeal to dream and dedication to follow them in most hostile conditions has the potential to create magic, if facilitated by family and society. The film touched so many hearts because it was based on a real life story of Phogat sisters, the wrestling champions, from Haryana. A change in attitude towards girls, even by virtue of their proven capability, could have gone a long way had it been supported and followed by drastic changes at various levels, including policy-making level. All stakeholders, therefore, will have to ensure that women sportspersons and young girls are no longer denied their share in resources and are guaranteed the dignity that’s overdue.

The vicious cycle of persisting adverse female ratio, continued gender discrimination, denial at institutional level, has to be broken now. This can only be done by adopting a holistic approach towards establishing a girl’s identity as no lesser citizen. And, their promotion in sports has a tremendous potential to do so. Beti Khilao can play a catalyzing role in supporting Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao, if there is an honest attempt. Else, our country will bear the cost of its apathy towards its women.

#GenderAnd — Rethinking how we cover gender in mainstream media. Click here to read about our new series. You can also help us find more such stories using #GenderAnd in your conversations.

Jagmati Sangwan is an International Volleyball player and former General Secretary of All India Democratic Womens' Association.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. M
    M.A. Haque
    Jun 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm
    The Govt. is surviving only on SLOGANS. Almost every week one more Slogan is added to the Junk List. Nothing much to implement the Slogans in real life. Everyday girls and women are harassed, stalked, molested, raped. But withing a day or so the incident is forgotten. Our Police and Judicial Systems are great. Cases take years for Inquiry and then decades for Judgments. i have no hope that things are going to Improve in Future.
    Reply
    1. T
      THATHAMAN
      Jun 24, 2017 at 1:26 am
      WHAT ELSE YOU CAN EXPECT FROM THESE " JUMLABAAZ". HE IS GOOD FOR ONE THING AND THAT IS SELF GLORYING AND SELLING DREAMS. IN 3 YEARS BE BROUGHT INDIA TO THE LEVEL OF RAMDEV BABA THREATENING BEHEADING OF SO CALLED PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT SANGHI NATIONALISTS. MODI WHO COULD NOT TAKE CARE OF ONE WOMEN HE TIED KNOT HOW HE CAN IMPROVE DAUGHTERS OF INDIA ? BULL S H I T.
      Reply
      1. S
        SubbuI
        Jun 24, 2017 at 1:29 am
        I AGREE. MODI IS ACURSE TO INDIA.VOTE THIS MAD MAN OUT
        Reply
      2. M
        MyTake
        Jun 24, 2017 at 1:25 am
        This writer is sample of what Nehruvian India has produced thus far: only talk and talk and no mind or hand to act! Shame on this class of slavish, mentally colonized stink tank/intellectuals!
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          Jun 24, 2017 at 1:23 am
          It was said , in the past India was progressing only when the then leadership was sleeping and now it is progressing with or without the leadership being awake. System has started to work under Modi's leadership! Now take your pick! When you talk about Beti Bachao, did you ever ask yourself why that had to be the burning question even after 65 years of independence? Did you or did you not ask this question to yourself before writing this botheringly long article, which, not many person of actions have time to read it beyond first few para?
          Reply
          1. P
            paarth
            Jun 24, 2017 at 12:31 am
            Jagmati Sangwan should do more than stalking Modi
            Reply
            1. J
              jk
              Jun 23, 2017 at 11:01 pm
              Feku slogans,Jumlas are symbols of minimum government maximum governance...
              Reply
              1. H
                Hedonist
                Jun 23, 2017 at 10:59 pm
                If everything will be done by Modi, then what would Jagmati Sangwan do? -Lecture others.
                Reply
                1. P
                  Prem Silhi
                  Jun 23, 2017 at 10:14 pm
                  Jagmati Sangwan has only lent her support to the anti-India elements in politics in maligning PM Narendra Modi, as suggested in the heading. I would rather want her to tell the readership about whatever All India Democratic Women’s Association (Communist Part of India, Marxist) and the Janwadi Mahila Samiti she is affiliated with have done for the women in India and how she can work with the nationalist government led by PM Narendra Modi to do, as she states, more than just giving the token slogans like “Beti Khilao.” No body dared criticize INC or their cronies except when politically allowed to feed fancy of the public at large. I hope there is some law that encourages criticism of the state or the ruling party only when it takes us forward on a given subject, especially the one neglected by the erstwhile rulers over the decades since the so-called independence. Dalit is a good example. The crooks of the yesteryears have always returned to feed on their follies that a Dalit is Dalit.
                  Reply
                  1. T
                    tarsame singh
                    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:00 pm
                    YOU ARE DEFENDING A PERSON WHO BELIEVES IN MAKING FOOL OF PEOPLE THROUGH CATCHY SLOGANS ONLY....JUMLE BAAZ....HE IS VERY GOOD EVENT MANAGER ,AND FOR THE LAST 44 YEARS HE IS ONLY MAKING SPEECHES. PLEASE TRY TO CO-relate HIS SLOGANS AND GROUND REALITIES. I AM ONE OF THOSE WHO WERE TAKEN IN BY HIS JUMLES IN 2014.
                    Reply
                    1. P
                      Prem Silhi
                      Jun 23, 2017 at 11:44 pm
                      I am not defending any individual but my country from those who are bent on keeping it in shackles of ignorance and poverty. Now, there is only one person who could take all others along to re-build India. If every other person seems eager to do good for the country (always failed over the decades), I ask, why is there the opposition to this individual?
                  2. Load More Comments