A Tribune Special
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 16
These lines, part of a poem, written by Babu Singh, principal of a school in Khamanon do not belong to a hazy future. Even youngsters like 20 year-old Sharanjeet Kaur in Dera Mir Miran village in Fatehgarh Sahib believes the state would soon establish a “record of unmarried men”.
But there is the other side too.
“Gur khavi, pooni katli / aap na aavi / veer nu kalli”
“Eat jaggery, spin the yarn / don’t come yourself next time/ send your brother”
This verse grew out of the abominable practice of killing the new-born girl by putting her into a pot with a pinch of jaggery and a spool of thread and closing the mouth of the pot.
Experts say it is not enough to just put the onus of change on the woman. It is the mindset of men that needs to be sensitised. Security of the girl is one of the primary issues spoken about.
“When a girl steps out after dark it is not wild animals she is scared of, it is the fear of being bothered by a man,” says Manmohan Kaur, social activist in Chandigarh.
A study published recently says that a society dominated by the male is something to be worried about. According to the researchers, there are an estimated 80 million missing females in India and China alone.
“The growing number of young men with a lack of family prospects will have little outlet for sexual energy. This trend would lead to increased levels of antisocial behaviour and violence, as gender is a well-established correlate of crime, especially violent crime.”
This is certainly being witnessed already since transgressions against women are sharply on the rise. Increased trafficking of women, buying and selling of ‘brides’ for as little as Rs 500, sharing of a single ‘wife’ amongst many brothers in areas where there are not enough girls to marry, these are further eroding the status of women in the social structure.
But it is not just verses that indicate the gravity of the problem. Numerous places of worship believed to ‘grant’ male children exist all over Punjab. In fact, in a study published by the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC) in Chandigarh in 2002, ‘babas’, ‘pirs’, gurdwaras and dargahs known to fulfill the desire for a boy-child have been documented right from Bhatinda to Hoshiarpur, Sangrur, Jalandhar and even Amritsar.
Similarly, myths ranging from eating peacock feathers to eating fruit considered ‘masculine’ in the local language, like mango, papaya,banana and curd to have that male child amongst others also exist says Sangeeta Puri, Research Associate with IDC.
A visit to one such shrine, Baba Taragian Wale, in Wadala Kalan in Kapurthala district elicited a warm response from the caretaker, a wizened old man. “Tie your thread to the door, you will get a boy,” he said kindly.
The place is known far and wide for a fair, held just once a year when one can go and pray for “whatever one desires”. When the wish comes true (and there is no question of it happening otherwise, this correspondent is assured), then the family comes and collects an amulet on a thread (taragian) to tie around the waist of the boy.
And all this exists alongside the Akal Takht ‘hukumnana’ of April 2001 condemning female foeticide!
However, the Punjab government is trying to combat these issues by setting up new strategies to encourage the birth of girls.
The Balri Rakshak Yojna provides Rs 500 on the birth of the first girl and Rs 700 on the birth of the second girl, but after that the woman must adopt a terminal method of sterilisation to be eligible for the money.
Another is the ‘Balika Samridhi Yojna’ which provides for a scholarship for girls born after August 15, 1997, with the objective of reducing school drop-outs amongst girls.
What is more, even panchayats working towards balancing the sex-ratio in their villages are eligible to get Rs 3 lakh for achieving a ratio of 1000 girls to 1000 boys and Rs 2.5 lakh for ratio above 951:1000.
But these schemes have not taken off and much more needs to be done. In Mirzapur village in Rajpura for instance, only three women have taken up the ‘Balri Rakshak Yojna’.
Nonetheless, there are individuals and villages working towards changing the skewed sex-ratio around and stories celebrating the girl-child are coming to flower.
To be concluded