(Maharashtra): If someone casts her away, there will be
others to cradle her. By October this year, cradles will be set up
in 110 locations in 80 villages of Shrigonda sub-district in
Maharashtra to enable new parents to 'drop' a female infant if she
is unwanted - instead out snuffing out her life. The infant would
be immediately picked up by a local policeman, a village volunteer
or NGO workers and taken to the safety of a child care centre, and
the individual would get a Rs.1,000 reward for his/her yeoman
Girish Kulkarni, director of NGO Snehalaya, which has proposed the
scheme, said it is the need of the hour in Shrigonda which has
notched one of the worst sex ratios in Ahmednagar district - 883
girls to 1,000 boys - in the last census.
"In this day and age, many couples still kill a newborn female
child and, the official statistics notwithstanding, we estimate
the real figures could be more alarming," Kulkarni told IANS.
The idea of a 'Cradle in Every Village' is a step forward in
Snehalaya's revolutionary "anti-female foeticide campaign"
launched this January in Chikhali village of Shrigonda.
The village, suffering an adverse male-female ratio of 890-1,000,
in a population of around 6,000, accepted the suggestion to save
the female child. The entire village took a solemn pledge to
prevent sex determination and the killing or abandoning newborn
This, said Ajay Wable, a Snehalaya volunteer, involved taking the
medical fraternity into confidence, including doctors and private
sonography centres, medical termination of pregnancy centres and
The villagers decided to ban any medico who flouted the rule.
"Since February this year, at least six newborn female infants
have been abandoned. We were informed telephonically and we
arranged to pick them up safely. They were not killed, and are now
being cared for in one of our centres," Wable said proudly.
Anant Zende, a bachelor, is another volunteer from Chikhali.
"With women volunteers, we monitor all pregnancies, ensure they
avoid sex determination tests and track them till the child is
safely delivered," Zende said.
Snehalaya's anti-female foeticide campaign is prominent in every
street and alley in the village.
Colourful posters and large banners proclaiming 'Stop Sex
Selection', 'Save The Girl Child', and 'No More Killing The Girl
Child' stare at the people daily and the messages have sunk in,
said another director of Snehalaya, Prajakta Kulkarni.
"For instance, as per the laws in Maharashtra, the daughter has an
equal share in the father's property, plus the husband's property.
Most men feel that daughter gets double the share while the male
child is at a disadvantage and so resort to the practice of female
foeticide," she said.
Shrigonda tehsil is one of the most prosperous, well-irrigated and
developed ones in the Ahmednagar district.
"With prosperity, many private hospitals and hotels have
mushroomed here, besides allied services like sonography centres.
Some are suspected to indulge in sex determination tests or even
abortions of female foetuses," Kulkarni explained.
"Big towns like Shirur, Nashik, Pune and Ahmednagar also have such
centres. Some of them conduct these tests on the sly and are
patronized by many," he said.
Kulkarni feels with the proposed 'Cradle in Every Village' plan,
even if people do not accept the female child, they will at least
let them live.
For this, the government could chip in by making certain
amendments to the law - the sections concerned in the Indian Penal
Code which penalize couples wilfully abandoning a newborn child,
or the Juvenile Justice Act, in which the parents have to justify
why they are abandoning their newborn child.
"There are other mega-social schemes like the Sant Gadge Baba
Village Abhiyan which are very popular. The government could
consider a qualifying clause for the participating villages -
those with an adverse male-female ratio could be summarily banned
from the contest," Kulkarni said.
Kulkarni said the NGO is preparing volunteers to keep vigil on the
cradles and take quick action of transferring the child safely to
a care centre.
"Mostly, locals might drop the newborn infant in a cradle far away
from their homes to avoid detection. Usually infants are bundled
in plastic bags, carried on a bicycle or an autorickshaw and just
dumped in a desolate place. They call us from a public phone and
our volunteers rush there," he said.
At least as far as Chikhali village is concerned, the villagers
are optimistic that they would achieve a male-female ratio of
1,000-1,000 by 2015!
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)