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Sharad Vyas,TNN | Oct 4, 2011, 04.24 AM IST
MUMBAI: Four decades ago, India was introduced to the government plea—Hum Do Hamare Do (We Two, Our Two), Horn Ok Please—through highway trucks. The state government now plans to rethink the campaign, and incentivize the birth of a third child—but only if it is a girl. The idea is to narrow the state's child sex ratio, among the worst in the country at 883 girls for every 1,000 boys. The national average is 914:1,000.
The proposal will soon come to the cabinet. It seeks to reward couples who give birth to a third child, a girl, by taking care of her education and giving other financial rewards on the lines of those being offered under the Rajmata Jijau Malnutrition Free Maharashtra programme. The existing laws will be tweaked to ensure government employees or elected representatives at all levels, including the gram panchayats, are not disqualified for giving birth to a third girl child.
Senior Mantralaya officials on Monday convened a meeting on effective implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PC-PNDT). A consensus was achieved on introducing the new changes as part of a new proposal for amendment which will be forwarded to the cabinet soon, said officials attached to the chief secretary's office. "We all agreed that if the third child is a girl child, it could be safely assumed the couple did not go for a prenatal sex selection," said a senior official confirming a need to strengthen the information network to curb the practice of prenatal sex selection, increasingly being embraced in remote parts of the state. An awareness campaign will be launched in the seven worst-affected districts of the state soon, he said.
However, the changes could raise the hackles of sociologists who feel by saying that it is all right to have a girl child as the third child, the state government seems to be going against its own law of banning sex determination. "Prima facie, it looks like a ridiculous idea. How can the government work on the basic premise that the third child could be a girl child?" said A L Sharada, director of Population First, an NGO that has been working on population and health issues, especially those related to the girl child.
There are also those experts, activists and lawyers who feel the state intervening or influencing a personal decision is against the basic principle of human rights. "The concept of family planning itself is flawed and indirectly promotes sex determination. The government should undertake an integrated, healthy and non-discriminatory approach in making the state gender friendly. Right now, everything it is doing in this regard is piecemeal," said advocate Varsha Deshpande, a Satara-based advocate and activist who has been conducting sting operations on radiologists and doctors practising sex selection technique.
Lakshmi Lingam, professor in women's studies and deputy director of Tata Institute of Social Studies, Hyderabad, said: "People have their own reasons to have more or less children. One needs to look at what incentives are being offered because penalties and incentives are two sides of the same coin."