When PM Narendra Modi started “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign, it was one of the few things I really appreciated. But going by the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao TV advertisements airing since then, it seems that just like anything else which this Government starts with much fanfare, the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao initiative is not as innocent as saving girl child in womb and ensuring that she gets educated. The initiative is yet another attempt to solicit approval some existing mindset and misplaced notions about why Girls discontinue their studies or never go to school.
Let I give you two examples.
By this advertisement what does the Government want to convey? That when a Girl brings something as dowry, she and her husband has the first right to use it. Or does it mean, dowry is equivalent to purchasing the groom?
If taking and giving Dowry is a crime in India, then what is purpose of an advertisement, where the daughter-in-law tells her father-in-law that he will be allowed to use the scooter brought in dowry, if he requests to use it, in a civilized way.
The Advt. is approving Dowry System.
Another advertisement which is airing these days, on private news channels or may be Doordarshan (but I can’t find it on Youtube), shows a couple of guys in motorcycles, eve-teasing two school going Girls. Seeing them distressed, a few passers-by intervene and give a good thrashing to the eve-teasers (teasing a Girl or woman, the context is sexual).
This advertisement tries to establish an existing stereotype (a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing).
A stereotype that it’s the eve-teasing incidents which compel girls to discontinue education or parents to discontinue their girl-child’s education.
This is a very negative advertisement. As it’s nothing but over simplification of the situation.
Extreme eve-teasing may be one of the many reasons, but it’s not the single reason. More prominent reasons are the parents own views regarding girl’s education, freedom. Parents who are not comfortable to send their daughters to schools, are equally uncomfortable to send them outside the four walls of their house.
To sum up, the advertisement paints a picture that eve-teasing is one of the key reasons why discontinue their education; and the best way to deal with the situation is to give the eve-teasers a good thrashing. We know this is simply ridiculous. As not every man on road is an eve-teaser; and a mob beating someone is no solution.
These are just two examples. The advertisements being shown under Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao initiative are simply not what their purpose wants them to be. There are some good advertisements as well, but the majority of them are plain stupid or mischievous (serving some hidden agenda).
Ideally, such campaigns must give one simple message — Save Girl Child in Womb; and proactively tell the society and future parents that a child irrespective of the gender, gives immense satisfaction to parents. It’s the joy of seeing one’s child grow up into a healthy, educated and independent adult which-every parent cherishes.
To conclude, I now see why “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” was NOT a very innocent initiative. It does have some hidden undertones.