One should try to change the mindset first which actually takes years to be changed. Butthen somebody has to take the initiative. Daughters are Precious™ (DAP) campaign was a very honest effort on our part to launch, says Naveen Jain, Mission Director, National Health Mission & Secretary, Medical, Health and Family Welfare, Government of Rajasthan,in an Exclusive Interview with Kartik Sharma of Elets News Network (ENN).
Q While taking reins as Mission Director of National Health Mission in Rajasthan, did you imagine saving daughters in female foeticide incidents will be the biggest mission for you some day?
When I joined as Mission Director and Special Secretary, Medical Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Rajasthan, in 2014,I never had such an idea. I had noinkling that I would work on the assignment of saving daughters from female foeticide. While working as Mission Director, I was always lookingfor some workable solutions that canwork to bring positive results.
Q Spread over thousands of kilometers and having a huge population, Rajasthan is indeeda vast State. Isn™t saving girls from female foeticide a daunting task here?
Rajasthan is the largest State of India in terms of area. It is spread overfrom Thar Desert to Chambal areain eastern side. There are differentcustoms and different historicalbackgrounds.
In this wake, someone™s claim thathe or she can ensure girls won™t bekilled in one™s womb is unthinkable.We are finding solution for the same. PC-PNDT Act alone, which wasintroduced in 1994, was not sufficientto do this job.
So, we thought of some out ofthe box ideas. It provided us many inputs. We started implementing the Act through PC-PNDT Bureau of Investigation. Then, we revamped the Mukhbir Yojna, that is sharing information with the administrative system by commoners about occurrence of any such incident i.e. gender selection and sex selective abortions. After revamping the scheme,information has started pouring in.
In addition, a prize was also declared even for decoys. It was because the pregnant women were feeling insecure or they were notfeeling motivated to give their best. When Mukhbir and Decoy Yojna were advertised very well by using good means of ICE, information poured in.
Many decoy operations wereconducted. With the help of poweraccorded to PC-PNDT bureau ofinvestigation by the State Government,we would also visit neighbouringStates. In this way, the entire processwas started. We were able to savegirls not only in Rajasthan but inneighbouring States as well.
Q Did you undertake any other initiatives other than PC-PNDT Act or enforcement?
In 2016, we realised that enforcementof PC-PNDT Act or enforcing theMukhbir Yojna or decoy operationwere not enough to make a dent. Weneeded to go further. In September, 2016, we started Daughters arePrecious™ campaign.
The campaign was flagged off bythen Minister of State for Health inCentral Government at 2nd HealthcareSummit Rajasthan organised byElets Technomedia. Since then, theprogramme has gained popularity,reaching youths, schools, colleges,university and medical colleges. Thephilosophy behind entire campaignwas that only youth could bring thechange and they evoked the biggest rayof hope. It is like when these youthswould achieve parenthood, theywould not discriminate between sonand daughter. This would make thereal difference. In a civilised society,social problems should be solvedwithin the society.
One should try to change themindset first which actually takesyears to be changed. But thensomebody has to take the initiative.Daughters are Precious™ campaignwas a very honest effort on our part tolaunch the drive.
Q Kindly shed some light on Daughters are Precious programme. How did it clickin Rajasthan?
When awareness programme– Daughters are Precious (DAP)campaign was launched by us, wenever thought that it would be a bigsuccess within two years. Initially,some health department officials and “Many decoyoperations wereconducted. Withthe help of poweraccorded to PCPNDTbureau ofinvestigation by theState Government,we would also visitneighbouring States”
PC-PNDT Cell used to visit differentinstitutions on Saturdays so thatother works won™t get affected. Weapproached educational institutionsand requested them to conduct ourprogrammes. We apprised themabout laws and historical data andinformed them about various reasonswhy daughters were consideredunwanted in families. Then, wesought youths™ feedback. Somevideo films and educational contentwere created for maximum publicawareness.
Youth attended various programmesconducted by us. They used to beinvolved in the process. Then we cameout with the idea of Daughters arePrecious (DAP) Rakshak in 2017.Slowly, we found that many youths,NGOs, even retired persons wereinterested to be part of this mission.The age ranged between 17 to 70 years.
Right from a student to a retiredperson, all were ready to becomea DAP Rakshak. That was biggest turning point. On 24 January, 2018, the biggest event took place whenwe approached 6,400 institutionsacross the State. Over 11,72,000students attended our DAP Rakshakprogramme which was a world record!We were able to convey the messagethat public awareness was the rightway to bring the ultimate change inpublic perception.
Q How do you perceive success and foresee the future of DAP Rakshak?
The biggest success of DAP programme is that it is not apure Government programme. It is a programme where thereis mobilisation of power of theGovernment. The entire programme isowned by DAP Rakshaks. Nobody isforced or given any kind of incentive.Here, people join the programme willingly.
Now, people are visiting the field,they are targeting institutions. Wehave conducted one more phase inSeptember, 2018. We have decidedto do the programme in all theGram Panchayats of Rajasthan asBeti Panchayat™. It was the third phase of DAP. First phase was heldon 17 November, 2017. The secondon 24 January, 2018 and third wasin September-October, 2018. Theresponse has been overwhelming.
Our DAP Rakshaks were initiallyapprehensive, thinking villagersmight not be interested to listen tothem or they may have different takeabout female foeticide. We, however,found the urban concerns and ruralworries were similar. All of us wereon the same page, that daughters weremissing not only from urban areas butalso from rural areas and we neededto work on the issue. The response wastremendous. Over 8,00,000 peoplefrom 9,890 Panchayats joined the programme. Many more were madevolunteers.
If we keep on doing the programmein such a way so that the youths andvillagers are engaged, which is doneon State-level, I think we can witness alot of improvement. In the next phase,we should talk to urban population.In urban areas, the child-sex ratio isworse than rural areas. We are planningto talk to urban resident welfareassociations, urban rotary clubs, andother NGOs. We should spread themessage that daughters are preciousand everybody has to work for theirbetterment. They are the God™s biggestgift and we need to work to protectthem to exist.
Q What factors actually workedin terms of challenges of Rajasthan?
As per 2011 Census, the child sex data has reduced to 888. It meansin the age group of 0 to 6, on every1,000 boys there were only 888 girls.While in 1981, 30 years ago, it was954. In 30 years, we have lost 66 girlsper 1,000 in the age group of 0-6.
It means we killed so many daughters in the womb. There hasbeen a lot of female foeticide in Rajasthan.
Now, when you see the child sexratio or sex ratio at birth, we believethat in last five years a lot of work hasbeen done. In 2021, we are confidentwhen next census will be done, childsex ratio in the State would be one ofthe best in India. We will be able toshow that numbers have improved alot. We have a rough idea that childsex ratio will be somewhere 925 to930, that is 37 percent increase of 2011census at that time.
This decade will see an increasein the sex ratio in comparison to last30 years. It is not due to enforcementbut also because of daughters areprecious campaigns. Rajasthan willtell the world that daughters canbe saved by changing the mindsetand it can be changed with publicawareness programme. If we explainthe youth the logic behind anythingand with due examples, they will understand and follow the suit.
Q Do you feel there is a need to implement such a campaign inmany other States in the countryas child sex ratio is big issue in some other States as well?
PC-PNDT Act is national act anddaughters are to be saved in allStates of India. Women and ChildDevelopment (WCD) Department ofthe Government of India has starteda programme, Beti Bachao and BetiPadho programme. I think if thatprogramme can be combined withmedical and health department,a very good model will emergeout of it. It has started happeningin Rajasthan. If WCD along withNHM and PC-PNDT Cell, workfor an enforcement and awareness,it will work wonder. It has workedfor Rajasthan. If these departmentswork together with proper strategies,keeping aside the ego, daughters willbe definitely saved.
Q You started the campaign two years ago. Despite many responsibilities and lots of other works, what inspired you to start the campaign to make it a big success inthe State like Rajasthan?
I got married in 1998 and soonwe had a daughter. When mydaughter was born, I suddenlydecided to appear for the CivilServices Exam, though that was aweird idea at that time. A sectionof people holds opinion that one can™t explore options after marriageand having children. One goes withnormal life and existing career aftermarriage and all. But I thought toappear for Civil Services Exam. Atthat time there were very few seatsin Civil Services. Still I appeared andcleared the exam to become an IASofficer. Birth of my daughter wasbiggest reason behind all this efforts.My daughter inspired me.
So, I have a special place fordaughters in my mind. I think ourdaughters inspire us to do many goodthings whether we may acknowledgeor mayn™t acknowledge. When I gotthis opportunity, as a collector, I triedto do my bit. Then, in 2014, when Igot the chance at State level, I knewthat this was time to make the biggesteffort and things worked well too.
Q The problem is prent notonly in villages or limited torural areas only. Even amongthe urban population and educatedclass, the issue persists. What is your message to youth set to achieve parenthood soon?
This problem is more common inurban areas, among educated andrich families. The issue is becauseof the preference to have a son. Theperception is that a son will take careof the aged parents till their last time.Then there are some social customsof being cremated by son only,some religious taboos and a sense ofinsecurity about daughters, all thesefactors are responsible for decreasingchild sex ratio.
Urban areas are prone to femalefoeticide. I wish to tell the youththat the Government has lots ofexpectations from you. You can bringa great change in the society. I appealto them not to go for sex check-ups.Be it a daughter or son, both are yourchildren. Groom them to becomebest citizens of India. They should beencouraged and empowered to excelin different walks of life.