For the Daughtershttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/for-the-daughters-2/

For the Daughters

A former sarpanch in a Maharashtra village celebrates the birth of girls with cash rewards.

Since the last year or so,Kushabhau Gavade has been celebrating the birth of girls in his village. He gives a cash prize of Rs 1,000 to every woman who delivers a daughter at the rural health centre in Vadebolai,his village in Haveli taluka of Pune district. Till date,says the 55-year-old former sarpanch,he has celebrated the birth of 115 girls by distributing over Rs 1 lakh in cash to the mothers.

Gavade was worried about the prevalent preference for boys in his village,which often led to parents going for ­selective abortion of the female foetus. “Many villagers want boys so that they don’t have to arrange for the dowry of a girl. Besides,thanks to the rising price of land,small and medium-scale farmers want to keep the agricultural land ‘within the family’. But people don’t realise that the decreasing number of girls in the village will have long-term repercussions. For one,they won’t be able to find brides for their sons,” says Gavade,who has two daughters and a son. With around 880 girls for every 1,000 boys in the village,the sex ratio is far from satisfactory.

A selective abortion racket in Beed,which created news across Maharashtra two years ago,motivated Gavade to think of ways to encourage people to have a girl child. He decided to celebrate the birth of every girl in not only his village,but nearby hamlets too. “At our district rural hospital,women from 10-15 nearby villages come for delivery. In many villages,the gram panchayat celebrates the birth of a girl by presenting a sari or flowers to the mother,but that hardly motivates people to wish for a daughter. I thought that cash rewards might be an effective motivator,” he says.

Gavade says that unlike government benefits,the cash prize is given to the mother directly,which has an empowering effect. “The government issues cheques in the name of the husband or father-in-law. But the cash reward helps the mother instantly,and in many cases,allows her to ensure her newborn girl is well-fed,” he says. Gavade narrates the case of a migrant labourer who was deserted by her family after giving birth to a girl at the hospital. “For the next 15 days,the cash prize helped provide for the mother and the child. We managed to convince the family to reconcile after talking to them about the equality between boys and girls,” he says.

Gavade’s fund for cash rewards comes from his “own earnings”. “Other than agricultural fields,I also run an educational institute,so I am confident that I will be able to carry on with my work in the future,” he says. Known for his social work,Gavade is a figure of respect in Vadebolai. His sprawling house is frequented by many villagers for help and guidance.

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While Gavade is happy doing his bit for the girl child,he wishes that more farmers promote his cause. He says that he has asked many of his well-to-do farmer friends to follow his example in their ­villages. “But nobody seems interested,” he says.