Shimla, March 1: Determined to check its skewed sex ratio, the Himachal Pradesh government won't fund panchayats if no girl is born in its domain. But there will be rewards for panchayats with a good sex ratio.
The decision has come from Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh who, at the helm for the sixth time, is sensitive to gender issues, officials say.
At a recent public meeting in Kangra district, the octogenarian got emotional and announced that he would stop grants to panchayats where the sex ratio is declining.
"When he came to know that certain areas adjoining Punjab are witnessing a skewed sex ratio, he got furious," a health official told IANS. "He took the decision to warn the erring panchayats."
The chief minister has also reportedly directed health authorities to keep a close tab on people visiting clinics to kill the girl child.
As per the 2011 census, Himachal Pradesh has 6,864,602 people, of which 3,481,873 are males and 3,382,729 females. The sex ratio is 972 females to every 1,000 males.
Lahaul-Spiti in the state has the best sex ratio among all districts in India in the 0-6 age group -- of 1,033 females for 1,000 males.
At a rally in Dadasiba village February 22, the chief minister said no development grant would be provided to panchayats notorious for sex ratio that favours the males.
But there will be rewards if panchayats show better male-female ratio.
The government would initially honour 50 panchayats which succeed in improving the sex ratio in the 0-6 age group. The first such function will be held in Una district.
"Educating the girl child is the first step to make a society healthy," the chief minister told IANS.
"Even if there are 10 girl students in a village and there is no school nearby, I won't mind opening a school there however remote that area may be," said Virbhadra Singh, who has never taken any salary throughout his political career.
To convey the message of eradicating the practice of female foeticide, the chief minister, his wife Pratibha Singh and youngest daughter Aprajita danced along with over 8,700 women and girl artistes during the Dussehra festivities in Kullu town in October last year.
The chief minister later administered a pledge to save the girl child to thousands of women. He said discrimination against girls would not be tolerated.
A scion of the royal family, Virbhadra Singh's generosity has been an open secret. His aides say that every day a number of people reach his office to get some monetary assistance.
"If someone seeks financial help to provide higher studies for his girl child, the chief minister doesn't mind paying from his own pocket," said an official.
Taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's initiatives, construction of toilets in schools is the top priority of the chief minister.
"I don't want a single school in the state to be without a toilet. The education department should construct them. There must be separate toilets for girls," the chief minister has said.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)