Sharma Confectionery is now Riya General Store; Lovely Arts Studio is Aruhi Arts Studio; and, Chhaju Ram & Sons General Store is Aadhya Shoppe. In the villages of Una in Himachal Pradesh, there’s a lot riding on a name these days — after the district administration launched Una Utkarsh, an awareness scheme to drive home the value of girls in the family.
The idea is simple: name shops after daughters in the family, the district administration will sponsor the new signboards. And it is catching on. Shops lining the markets at Daulatpur Chowk, Chalet and Mawa Kaholan villages now sport these signboards: Archita Navdurga Beauty Saloon, Pallavi Vashisht Auto Care, Khushi Rana Anamika Rana Washing Centre, Meghna Pizza Hut, Nazia Shoe and Chappal House, and many more.
“Dukan meri hai, dukan meri hai (The shop is mine, the shop is mine),” says Riya, a student of Class IV, whose father Kuldeep Sharma changed the name of their confectionery store recently. “She was extremely happy when the signboard of the shop was changed, smiling from ear to ear,” says Riya’s mother Monika Rani.
“We faced a lot of resistance initially. People were reluctant. But gradually, they agreed to name their shops after daughters,” says Satnam Singh, District Programme Officer (DPO), Woman and Child Development.
Officials say this is one among the many initiatives launched by the district administration to “empower the girl child”. Each panchayat has also been told to recommend names of at least three girl achievers from the area, whose photos will be displayed on posters with the caption: “Hamare Gaon Ki Beti, Hamari Shan”.
In Amboa village, for instance, posters have come up of Preeti Sharma, a local resident who has completed her MBBS from Tanda Medical College and is preparing for MD. Nameplates outside houses, too, are being changed to include a woman member of the family.
Says Sangeeta Devi, Pradhan, Mawa Kaholan: “Girls are doing extremely well, and people know today’s time belongs to them.”
Another key initiative is the issue of Deputy Commissioner cards for parents with only girl children. Valid for five years, these cards bear the photos of the parents and promise to “serve the bearer on priority in any government office of district”.
“We have sanctioned solar lights, small pathways to their houses and approved five applications for construction of houses giving them money which is normally available under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. We have also struck a discount deal with a mall and two sweet shops in Una. We are now in talks with private bus operators and trying to obtain some discount in fares for the holders of these cards,” says Deputy Commissioner (Una) Rakesh Kumar Prajapati.
The administration has also sanctioned Rs 51,000 each — from government funds and a local temple trust — for the wedding of nine women, irrespective of their financial condition. The applicants under this scheme should hail from a village that has passed a resolution against female foeticide and in favour of education for girls. Also, the nameplate outside every house there should bear the name of the eldest female member of the family.
Among the DC card-holders is DPO Satnam Singh, the father of two daughters. “I keep telling the DC that I should also get VIP treatment,” says Singh, with a laugh.
Prajapati claims 5,000 DC cards have been issued so far. “They are all my brand ambassadors. They have taken ownership of this scheme,” he says.