Handing over my room key at the reception counter of Ashok Hotel, Delhi, I counted the backpacks lying next to the baggage of each woman at the check-out counter, help desk or the hotel’s impressive lobby.
The Ashok is a historic hotel, the first-five star in Delhi built at an approximate cost of Rs 1.5 crore in the year 1955. The backpacks were all the same size, in two different colors, blue and red. Color didn’t matter, what mattered was that 250 women journalists were carrying with them a power-pack to change the destinies of millions of people in nook and corners of the country.
Women journalists had descended in the capital of India from 30 states/UTs representing 120 media organizations, proficient in 11 languages for a historic moment - ‘First All India Women Journalists Workshop’ on a collaborative invite from Ministry of Women & Child Development (WCD) and Press Information Bureau (PIB).
The central government embarked on this novel idea to tap the massive human resource of women journalists for their power and reach via their respective media to plug loopholes found due to lack of information and proper implementation of schemes, alongside real time sensitive monitoring.
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, the minister for Women & Child Development (WCD), addressed women journalists as the Ministry’s “secret agents army”, the “Gulab Gang”, “agents of change” and “information multipliers” and rolled out various schemes, merely heard on radio or TV with less than satisfactory implementation in the crannies of the nation.
With recent instances and incidents, the interactive session took on a lively note and in return created a brigade of monitoring agents for various schemes that were otherwise being availed mostly in metro cities.
“What Ministry wants to focus is on bringing a paradigm shift from welfare schemes to disseminating rights of vital sections — education, health, employment opportunities, safety, protection from violence, trafficking,” Maneka, together with Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, told women journalists at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan.
Fortunately, Jammu Kashmir, with its own constitution, having adopted the central government schemes, too was a partner and a beneficiary.
Few in India may have any clue about placing a missing child’s report in the “Khoya Paya Scheme” of the government at ‘khoyapaya.gov.in’ where the website columns segregate as “My child is missing” or “I have sighted a child” and even “Search for a missing child”.
In the past two decades, Kashmir has reported a sizeable number of missing children, runaways, many in illegal detentions, many crossed over the LoC, and others just vanished. I would hope the government could extend this facility for missing persons too.
About 500 families of missing persons including Kashmir’s half widows have failed to locate their missing husbands, dead or alive. In two districts of Bandipora and Baramulla in Kashmir more than 100 have gone missing. Alternately, families of missing have demanded DNA tests on unmarked graves to establish identities as a fair process of justice. Cases of illegal detention too can be curtailed thus in the country as a whole, if the center takes the lead.
Beti Bachao Beti Padhao
The center’s “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” (BBBP) scheme comes to the aid of unborn girl child, to eradicate the skewed gender ratio in favor of male child. “Jammu Kashmir has one of the worst track records of female gender ratio. It could be, as they consider themselves in a war-zone and wouldn’t want girls to be taken hostages,” Maneka stated.
However number of families of women having two or three children, were seen seeking ‘sterilization’ in a Kashmir government hospital. The reason was ‘fear that these women may be impregnated by militants or army personnel’. Both have a free run in Kashmir with militants running amok and army protected by AFSPA.
Government is already coming upon heavily against offenders of sex selective abortions under PCPNDT Act, 1994 regulating ultrasound scan centers and doctors, identifying gender critical regions and focusing on 100-districts with abysmal records, besides placing DMs to network with Ultrasound centers to monitor.
“Interestingly the new lingo in such centers has become ‘ladoo’ for boy and ‘barfi’ for a girl”, Maneka said.
From 1000:976 in 1961, the National gender ratio average has fallen to 1000:918 in 2011.
A new application hardwired into mobile phones to send alerts to 10 people around the affected area in distress situation for women on a press of a button. Digit ‘5’ and ‘9’ are being contemplated as SOS buttons.
The government has woken up to the fact that the power and talent of nearly half the population of the nation remains untapped and underutilized. Breaking shackles of slavery and becoming self-reliant is one of the biggest dreams of a woman.
To market her products that she prepares in the home space like sehras or garlands, buttons, various masalas, warian (salty cookies), papad (poppadums), chutneys, jams, baskets, sherbats and pickles, growing organic vegetables besides services like mehandi designing, fruit pickers, tiffin box services, flower bouquet, cake or candle business or as in Kashmir, dried vegetables like tomatoes, turnips, brinjal, even fish, could unfailingly reach people around or countrywide through a free service of E-Haat with complete marketing facilities as an e-commerce platform.
“We are shortly going to connect with online business portals such as Amazon and Flipkart,” revealed Maneka.
To support women affected by any kind of violence through a range of services-police assistance, medical aid, legal, psycho-social counseling and a short stay shelter home — under one roof.
Anganwadis, fulfill nutrition, pre-school and other needs of children uptil five years of age, are aimed to fight malnutrition, lack of education. With total lack of monitoring the Anganwadi as providers have turned into corruption dens, however, to garner results for its core activities and to stem corruption government has come up with an idea to make these tech savvy with tablet recordings, finger print attendance and standardized nutritious food for children.
“However CCTV were not cost effective for the huge number and widespread centers”, said Maneka, in answer to a query.
Sukanya Samridhi Yojana
Opening an account in any of the 28 banks or post offices for a girl child upto 10 years of age and maturity at 21 years of her age with a maximum deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh per year in a girl’s account would give benefit of interests rates of 9.2 percent plus 100 percent tax exemption yearly as well as on the amount at maturity to parents. The money could be used for higher education or during the time of marriage.
Kashmir raised a query on Juvenile justice like “Why a number of kids are kept without trials for months in the Harwan Juvenile Home in Srinagar?” Maneka answered, “The children’s plight in Juvenile home, should be immediately brought to notice of Justice Madan B. Lokur, who would be shortly inspecting juvenile homes for justice trespassed.”
Special provisions in law have been made in Juvenile Justice Law to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences after the infamous Nirbhaya Case of Delhi gang rape in a moving bus.
Jan Dhaan Yojana
Open bank accounts with any bank with zero deposit; get life cover of Rs 30,000 and accidental cover of Rs one lakh besides debit card.
Childline to help children in distress/ track/restore/rehabilitate missing children; Posters in rail bogies to report abandoned child or child in suspicious circumstances; Railways alerted on 20 railway stations infamous for child trafficking including - Howrah, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Varanasi. Recently 56 missing children were recovered thus from Itarasi; 33 percent reservation of women in police – to make police services more gender sensitive; Adoption and fostering- Easy legal adoption. If you foster a child, government bears expenses; Rastriya Mahila Kosh grants loan at six percent for women NGOs; More “Balika Vadhus” (child marriages) due to rampant eve teasing, stalking, harassment, molestation of adolescent girls; Government contemplating free bus passes for women over 60 years; Maternity leave for women in all work places for six and a half months; For ending discrimination against women during recruitment due to mandatory maternity leave ensured by government, it was suggested to give ‘paternity’ leave to the father, to bring both partners at par in the home and work space; Contemplating declaration of sex of unborn girl child to village would ensure safety and security of female fetuses; A 1000 bedded ‘Swadhar Greh’ at Vrindavan for abandoned widows. Puri and Varanasi recorded largest number in this inhuman practice of abandonment. Vegetable garden, cowshed, skill development centers would be included in it for making abandoned women self-sustaining; As many as 1363 missing children were found through Khoya Paya web portal and mobile app; Crèches in Haryana under Anganwadi programs were adjudged the best; Child rights email firstname.lastname@example.org; All deliveries mandatory in hospitals to keep track of childbirth and gender count; In collaboration with Facebook, Ministry of Women and Child Development is running a contest for the first time to select 100 women achievers; Skewed sex ratios are leading to social upheavals including increasing crime against women, besides kidnapping and smuggling of ‘prospective wives’ from places like Uttrakhand for Haryana, Rajasthan grooms; Panipat in Haryana has lowest female sex ratio; Through public nominations and voting on Facebook, women improving their community and making an impact on people shall be felicitated by government; ‘Sabla scheme’ for providing life skills, supplementary nutrition and basic health check-up facilities for adolescent girls, aims at all round development of 11-18 year girls; Contemplating ‘Adopt a Home’ scheme by big companies under corporate social responsibility to avail tax benefits; National Children’s fund for Brilliant children in orphanages scoring above 70 percent marks to get scholarships till college; Sweeping adoption reforms to make the process easy, transparent and quick; Matrimonial websites regulated to thwart complaints of stalking and harassment of women registered on sites; Mandatory mention of widow’s name in death certificates; Jeevan Jyoti Bima (Insurance scheme – for (18 to 50 years) enrolled in this scheme a holder would pay Rs 330 as premium annually (about a rupee daily) would be covered for life insurance at Rs two lakh. ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ scheme - For smoke free homes in rural India, to provide 5 crore LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the next three years.
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