Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Oct 19, 2022 Updated 7 Days ago
Despite the BBBP scheme bringing much-need attention to gender discrimination, the scheme in its present form is at risk of failing its central objective due to poor implementation and monitoring
‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme: A critical analysis Gender parity in terms of survival and education is essential to equitable economic development and a cornerstone for ensuring basic human rights. Through Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 (Quality Education) and 5 (Gender Equality), there has been a persistent push for better policies aimed at bridging gendered gaps in critical areas of healthcare and education for girls and women. In India, patriarchal social norms such as son preference and regressive power structures continue to pose hurdles for young girls in terms of survival and education, leading to multiple barriers and missed economic opportunities throughout their lives. According to the United Nations estimates between the years 2000 and 2020, India became one of the countries with the most skewed child sex ratio(CSR), driven by the after-effects of the abortion legislation and the introduction of prenatal diagnostic technology in the 1970s. The trend of sex-selective abortions saw an upward trajectory till about 2011 when India witnessed an overall high of 111 males per 100 females in the 2011 census. However, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (2019-21)the gap has reduced over the last decade, to about 109 males per 100 females and further to 108 males per 100 females. A similar trend has been observed in terms of female literacy rates in the country. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2022, India was placed at 107th rank among 146 countries in female education which covers literacy and enrolment rates in primary, secondary, and tertiary education. India’s position has seen a relatively upward trend since 2018 which can be attributed to massive campaigns and interventions run by the government under its flagship programme ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (BBBP). The Government of India together with the Ministry of Women & Child Development (MoWCD), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoH&FW), and Ministry of Human Resources Development (MoHRD) launched BBBP in 2015 with the key quantitative objectives of improving the Sex Ratio at Birth(SRB) in selected gender critical districts by two points in a year, reducing gender differentials in under five child mortality rate from 7 points in 2014 to 1.5 points per year and increasing enrolment of girls in secondary education to 82 percent by 2018-19. The scheme was initially launched in only 161 districts and eventually covered all 640 districts of the country. The BBBP scheme has been quoted as a proactive initiative for dealing with gender-based discrimination against the girl child as the 161 districts that have been a part of the initial implementation of the BBBP scheme have witnessed an improving trend of SRB in 104 districts. Source: Global Gender Gap Reports (2015-2022)

A critical perspective

Despite the overall positive assessment of the scheme, there exist gaps in terms of budgetary planning and lack of monitoring. A parliamentary committee led by Heena Vijaykumar Gavit, in December 2021, while discussing the report titled ‘Empowerment of Women through education with special reference to ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ noted that out of INR446.7 released under the scheme during the period from 2016 to 2019, a large portion, nearly  78.91 percent, was spent only on media campaigns and advocacy alone. The committee found that the overall utilisation of funds under the scheme was below par. Since the inception of the scheme, the total budget allocation under the scheme came down to INR848 crore—this excludes the financial year 2020-21 when the country was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount released to the states was INR622.48 crore but the amount spent was only INR156.46 crore which was only 25.13 percent of the funds allocated to the states and union territories. The committee also noted that huge spending on national-level media campaigns for the scheme was a clear violation of the INR50-lakh provision earmarked for each district under the scheme for six different components consisting of innovation and awareness building, intersectoral consultation and capacity building, monitoring evaluation, and interventions of health and education.

The committee found that the overall utilisation of funds under the scheme was below par. Since the inception of the scheme, the total budget allocation under the scheme came down to INR848 crore—this excludes the financial year 2020-21 when the country was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A 2017 Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) Report, reiterates the issue of the inefficient allocation of funds and claims that the scheme fell short in social, economic, and general sectors. The report, while highlighting the cases of Punjab and Haryana, claimed issues of under-utilisation of funds, non-compliance to guidelines and infrequent task meetings. In the case of Haryana, from 2015 to 2016, out of the 20 districts in which the scheme was active, three were audited to reveal that only one state meeting took place and none at the district level. It was also noted that instead of awarding schools in the three districts with INR15 lakh only INR1 lakh was awarded. In Punjab, monthly progress reports, and infrequent meetings delayed the proper implementation of the scheme in the year 2015-2016, with only INR 0.91 crores being spent out of the allotted INR6.36 crores.

Evaluation of BBBP

A study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research to evaluate whether BBBP programmes had been able to bring about the desired change in the 161 early-implementation districts found loopholes in the implementation process and identified structural barriers to girls’ entry and retention in schools. Presented below are school-level indicators such as initiatives undertaken by the schools to identify the constraints faced by girls in continuing their education as well as to ensure the retention and continuation of girls till the completion of secondary school education. In the survey, 73.5 per cent of schools out of the total surveyed pointed towards the dual burden of care responsibilities, unavailability of clean functional toilets, inability to buy uniforms or books, and lack of safe commuting options as key constraints to girls’ education. The study inquired into the levels of awareness among the sample group and also takes into account the objectives of the scheme and grass root implementation of initiatives under the BBBP scheme such as the formation of “Balika Manch<1>”, activated school management committees, and linking out of school girls with back to school alternative education for bettering the enrolment rate, etc. Based on the findings of a comprehensive survey across urban and rural areas of 14 states, the study recommended hiring staff to regularly conduct field inspections and review the implementation at a grassroots level.

Recommendations for better Implementation

 1. Digitalisation Mobile and internet penetration rates have almost skyrocketed since the pandemic. While technology has become essential for most basic functions such as education, payments, and communication, leveraging technology for monitoring and evaluation purposes is imperative. While media campaigns under the BBBP have had exemplary results in raising the issue of son preference, proper monitoring such as regular sampling, and quarterly progress reports on implementations would be essential for forming better state-level and district-level policies aimed at improving the primary conditions that affect the health, survival, and education of girls. 2. Increasing the number of female teachers  Incentivising educated females to join schools as teachers could ramp up female enrollment in schools. It would help in bringing in gender parity in terms of staff as well as ease of communication and comfort for female pupils. 3. Female participation in the community-led scheme Implementation of a gender-sensitive scheme should also involve gender representation. Community-level workers who often work in a close nexus with the people and know the community quite well should be the face of this scheme. Local frontline workers such as ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and Mahila Mandals should be key players in the implementation of the scheme. 4. Training for on-ground personnel involved in community outreach activities  Refresher training and capacity building of the personnel employed on the field for community outreach is also important as they are more aware of the ground realities. Gender sensitisation training for personnel along with basic digital upskilling would go a long way in ensuring better implementation of the scheme. 5. Provision of clean, functional toilets  According to a study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research, the unavailability of toilets on school premises has been observed as a major cause of high dropout amongst female students. Ensuring the availability of toilets on public properties such as schools would help boost the enrolment rate. 

Conclusion 

Despite the BBBP scheme accomplishing the major task of bringing the issue of son preference to the forefront, the scheme in its present form is at risk of failing its central task due to poor implementation and monitoring. The lack of frequent meetings at the district and state levels can lead to the scheme losing the momentum it has created in the past few years. It is, hence, imperative for the district- and state-level action committees to have representation from community-level workers, cognisance of the challenges faced by the female students such as unavailability of toilets and adept monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in place to have measurable outcomes indicative of the progress made on the objectives of the schemes.
<1>Balika Manches are platforms created at government schools in which girls from senior secondary and higher senior secondary classes come together, participate and find a solution to issues that confront adolescent girls.
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Contributor

Avni Arora

Avni Arora

Avni Arora was a Research Assistant with the Center for New Economic Diplomacy at ORF. Her key areas of research are Gender Development Policy and ...

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