Wednesday October 17, 2018

Girls Count: Uprooting patriarchy by recognizing the role of civil society

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By Rukma Singh

In 1901, there were 3.2 million fewer women than men in India – a hundred years later the deficit increased over 10 times to 35 million at the time of Census 2001. The most disturbing decline is seen in the age group 0-6 years. The sex ratio (number of girls for every 1000 boys) within this age group plunged from 1010 in 1941 to 918 in 2011.

To recognize and mobilize support for the broader problem of gender-based discrimination, many organizations have sprung up in the past few years. But one organization which has concentrated focus on the utmost important issue of sex selection is Girls Count.

Girls Count is a coalition of organizations :  NGOs, Activists, individuals working all over the country around the related issues of gender discrimination, gender inequality and various forms of violence against women. The main motive of setting up the organization was to address the decline in the number of girls. It is very important to understand the role that the state, the media, and most importantly the civil society has played, to tackle the problems of sex selection.

Recognizing the role of civil activism

To create a cohesive strategy to tackle an issue as pressing as sex selection and declining sex ratio, the wisest thing to do is to build a base in the civil society. Instead of having a dispersed group of people who don’t know about the activities of each other, it’s better to create an interconnected team that can plan and execute the strategy.

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Girls Count decided to focus on challenging patriarchy and effective implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Technique act. They had carried out country-wide dialogue with civil society, media and government officials.

Usage of Media and communications

When it comes to reaching out to people, sensitizing them at a large scale, it is imperative to bring about the proper usage of media and communications to get the right message across. Girl Count recognized the power of media to send messages across effectively. People were mobilized, petitions were signed, an online country wide community was built.

Geographical variations
The problem of sex selection is more prevalent in the Northern region of India as compared to the other parts. One would argue that the main reason behind this is the difference in literacy rate. However, the main issue is prosperity which gives more choices to the people. They have a greater decision-making power. So the main problem comes not from the absence of literacy, but from the abundant presence of prosperity. 10687034_681213801976573_2942313692869556197_n

What adds to it is how the two don’t go hand in hand. In today’s time, one does not have to be literate to be prosperous.

Cultural differences
There are several culture-based differences between North India and the rest of the country. In North-East India, for example, the condition of women and preference given to them is better and higher.  Some states in North East also break the age old custom of dowry and decline it. Females aren’t considered an economic liability in most of the North East.

The sex selection practices started from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, and soon extended to Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh etc.

Following a lot of protest and agitation, the PNDT law was first passed in Maharashtra. But it was a state specific law.

Usage of advertisement


Equipments relating to sex selection, like sex selection kits and books teaching methods to increase chances of having a boy are very easily available. Girls Count decided to look at e-retailers to find out how easy it is to source ‘Sex selection publications’ in India. To everyone’s surprise, there were four e-retailers who were dealing in the sale of such products, which included some big names like Flipkart, Naaptol, Amazon.

For mainstream e-retailers like these to be dealing in the sale of such publications was a huge encouraging factor for people who’re used to shopping online. For public, if it can be bought, it’s legal.

With the continued efforts of Girls count in the form of a petition and mobilizing support for it, the websites were pressurized to take these products down. This was one of the biggest successes of the organization.

Pre-Natal sex determination continues to be a pressing problem all throughout the country. But with the combined efforts of organizations like these who understand the true essence of activism, as well as continued participation from the civil society, it is a problem that can hopefully be uprooted.

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Rajnath Singh: Government is Willing to Double The Healthcare Budget

Government may soon double the healthcare budget, says Rajnath Singh

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh
FILE IMAGE- Rajnath Singh.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said the government is willing to more than double the share of healthcare sector to 2.5 per cent of the country’s GDP.

“Currently, the government spends 1.16 per cent of the country’s GDP on the healthcare sector. However, the Prime Minister has said the budget for healthcare can increase up to 2.5 per cent of the GDP,” Rajnath Singh said at the 64th Founder’s Day celebrations of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here.

He said providing healthcare facility for the population of 125 crore “is not easy”. Challenges relate to both medical infrastructure and services including severe shortages of doctors, nurses and hospitals, he said, giving out comparative statistics of healthcare in India and the world.

Budget of Healthcare for 2018
Healthcare Budget 2018.

In India, for every 1,000 persons, there are 0.6 doctors, 0.8 nurses and 1.5 beds, whereas the world average is 1.2 doctors, 0.8 nurses and four beds, said the minister.

Citing Ayushman Bharat that promises to provide health coverage to 10 crore vulnerable families with an insurance of Rs 5 lakh per family per year, Rajnath Singh said: “This would require infrastructure. The government is working towards it so as to ensure affordable and universal healthcare.”

“Heavy investment would be required. The government will increase its investment in both preventive and promotive healthcare. But it is not possible for the government to do this alone. We are encouraging the private sector. We see them as strategic partners,” he said.

Also Read: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh approves use of chilli-based PAVA shells as alternative to Pellet Guns for Crowd Controlling

Stressing that a “Healthy India” is a must to build a strong and prosperous India, he said that the Narendra Modi government is trying to provide free diagnosis and free emergency care at all government hospitals, even as it is planning big on medical tourism for people coming to India for treatment.

The Minister said several steps have been taken towards boosting medical tourism such as extending e-Visa to 161 countries and extending the duration of stay on e-Visa from 30 to 60 days allowing for triple entry in e-Medical Visa cases.

On Sir Ganga Ram and his hospital that was first established in Lahore in 1921 and later in Delhi in 1954, Rajnath Singh said: “He had a big heart. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital is the only institution that exists by the same name in our country and neighbouring Pakistan.”  IANS