By – D.K. Malviya,Bhopal : March 10:"Woman is the builder and moulder of nation’s destiny" – Rabindranath Tagore Girls in Madhya Pradesh have a valid reason to smile – and so do the parents, courtesy the slew of measures taken by the state government towards women empowerment in all its dimensions. How civilized a society is measured by the status of women in it. In ancient India women enjoyed a very dignified and lofty status. According to Manu, the Hindu Law Giver, "Gods dwell in the households where women are respected". They used to play an active role in all spheres of life. However, for historical reasons the women lost their pride of place, getting condemned to an undignified and ignoble life. The situation continued to worsen to such an extent that being a woman became a curse, literally. Even women themselves began to lose the sense of self worth.
However, in modern India the situation is somewhat changing for the better. Now women are making their impressive presence felt in all the spheres, even in the ones traditionally considered to be male domains. Just name any field and they are there. But this welcome change is, unfortunately, largely confined to urban and urbanized areas with women in rural and far-off areas still living in quite pitiable condition. The birth of a girl child is considered a curse. The girls face discrimination at every stage, taking a backseat at home. The discrimination begins even before birth. Female foetus is terminated after sex determination test. The fortunate ones who do take birth are discriminated against in every respect, especially in matters related to health, nutrition and education. The situation prevails in almost all states of the country. And Madhya Pradesh is no exception.
However, now a considerable difference has been made following effective intervention of the state government. The well-conceived measures taken by it at the initiative of the Chief Minister Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan are sure to secure women their rightful place in society.
The Chief Minister Shri Chouhan has started a novel practice of holding panchayats of different sections of society to enable them to voice their concerns, problems, and suggestions. His concern for empowerment of women is shown by the fact that very first panchayat he held was those of women. The participants shared their views on various burning issues. After minute study and analysis of these suggestions and views, he introduced a number of novel schemes to take care of girls and women right from birth. These initiatives aim at changing the mind-set in which a girl is considered to be a burden.
Beginning from the beginning the state government has ensured a more effective implementation of the PNDT Act to put a firm check on sex determination tests. A Rs. ten thousand cash award has been instituted for giving information of embryo sex determination test.
Deeply concerned with the general tendency of considering a girl child as a curse, the Chief Minister Shri Chouhan resolved to change it. He introduced a very well contemplated Ladali Laxami Yojana to take care of girls. Under this, a National Saving Certificate is purchased in the name of a girl at the time of her birth. More importantly, it has been connected to their education. On admission in the VI the girl is given a cash amount of Rs. two thousand and on admission in IX Rs. four thousand. When she clears X examination and gets admission in XI she would get Rs. 7500 cash and Rs. two hundred per month to cover the expenses on education of XI and XII classes. On attaining the age of 21 years she would get Rs. 1 lakh 18 thousand cash. Over 14 thousand girls have already benefited under this unique scheme.
Again at the initiative of Shri Chouhan the state government has implemented a novel Kanyadan Yojana for marriage of girls belonging to poor families. Over 62 thousand such marriages have already been solemnized at government expenditure so far in the state.
The state government has taken special care of the health problems of girls and women. In order to bring down the maternal mortality rate (MMR) and infant mortality rate (IMR) a Janani Suraksha Yojana has been introduced to promote institutional deliveries. About 12 lakh women have already benefited from it. Under the scheme, Rs. 1400 is given to a pregnant woman for delivery in a hospital. As a result of this, now the percentage of institutional deliveries has increased from 26 to 55 percent in the state. The IMR has also come down from 80 to 70 percent and MMR from 498 to 379 per lakh.
With a view to enhancing awareness about proper care of pregnant women and nursing mothers and nutrition to them and children, a number of innovative schemes have been introduced in Anganwadis. These include Godbharai, Annaprashan, Janm Diwas, Balika Suraksha Yojana and Matra Suraksha Card.
The number of Anganwadi centres has been increased from 65 lakh to 80 lakh and the nutritious food policy has been introduced in Anganwadis after 35 years. Instead of Dalia now 20 dishes are served at Anganwadis according to the local food habits. Malnutrition is also a major area of concern addressed by the state government. As many as nine campaigns have been carried out under Bal Sanjivani Abhiyan to curb malnutrition in the state. This has led to a reduction in the rate of malnutrition from 57.57 percent to 48.47 percent while serious malnutrition percentage has come down from 5.50 percent to 0.78 percent.
A 161 crore Tejaswimin Project has been implemented in six districts for economic empowerment of rural women. Steps have also been taken to provide institutionalized support to women?s self-help groups.
The state government has is well aware that women can play an effective role in matters concerning society if provided opportunities. Taking a lead in the country Madhya Pradesh government has given a 50 percent reservation to women in panchayats and civic bodies and in recruitment of contract schoolteachers. A thirty percent quota has been given to them in admission to medical education courses and ten percent in police force.
To ensure women the full benefit of schemes and programmes for them the gender budget, which was introduced in 12 departments last year, has been extended to 21 departments from this year. The interests of Anganwadi workers and assistants have been safeguarded. Fifty percent posts of contract Surveyors have been reserved for Anganwadi workers.
The importance of education in empowerment of women cannot be overemphasized. Realizing the need and significance of girl education, the state government has taken well-conceived initiatives towards promoting girl education. The scheme of providing free bicycles to schoolgirls has been extended at the initiative of the Chief Minister Shri Chouhan. The Scheme of providing bicycles to rural girls getting admission in IX in some other village was introduced in year 2005. The Chief Minister extended it to provide the same facility to girls of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes getting admission in VI in other village. Free textbooks and uniforms are being provided to girl students. The stipend and scholarships for girl students of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been increased considerably.
In order to encourage rural girls to pursue higher education the state government had implemented a novel Gaon Ki Beti scheme. At the initiative of the Chief Minister Shri Chouhan now it has been extended to maximize the number of beneficiaries. Under the scheme, earlier, a girl of every village who passed the XII examination in the first division and scored the highest number in the XII examination was given a scholarship of Rs. 500 to pursue higher education. Now all the girls of villages passing the XII examination in the first division are given this facility. Similarly, to encourage the urban girls of BPL families for higher education a Pratibha Kiran Yojana has been launched with a provision of scholarship for girls passing the XII examination in the first division.
One would thus see that a congenial atmosphere has been created in Madhya Pradesh for the women to keep pace with the times, thereby contributing significantly to the progress of the state and the nation.