Panipat, Jan 22: Denouncing the practice of female foeticide, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the discrimination against girls reflects "mental illness" and displays a mindset worse than that in the 18th century.
Launching 'beti bachao beti padhao (save daughter, educate daughter)' scheme in this district of Haryana, a state with one of the poorest sex ratio, Modi also slammed doctors indulging in female foeticide, saying their "sin" was a "betrayal" against society.
In a hard-hitting speech, he said, "we cannot call ourselves citizens of 21st century by practising such a crime and we were by our mindset belonged to 18th century when daughters were killed soon after they were born."
Administering a pledge to the gathering that they will work to end female foeticide and discrimination against girls, he said, "We are in fact worse than that. In those times, (in 18th century), girls would be allowed to be born and live for some time. We kill our daughters in the wombs of their mothers... In the root of this is our mental poverty."
Noting that in the Indian society, sons are considered very important, he said there is a belief that "daughters are a property of some other house where they would be married. This disease is not of Haryana alone but this mental illness ails the whole country."
Pleading to end this ill practice, he said, "The Prime Minister of this country had come to them like a beggar and was begging for the lives of daughters."
Referring to Haryana, he said it was very painful for him to see that in a state which produced a woman like Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to have travelled in space, "other Kalpana Chawlas are killed in the wombs of their mother".
He also launched Sukanya Samridhi Yojna (girl child prosperity scheme), under which girl children below 10 years will have bank accounts with more interest and income tax benefits.
A host of Union ministers, including Maneka Gandhi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani and J P Nadda, Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar joined Modi as he launched the scheme. Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit was also there to promote the drive against female foeticide.
The campaign will be initially implemented in the 100 districts, including 12 in Haryana, across country where sex ratio is rather poor.