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Missing Girl Child-II
A Tribune Exclusive
Nawanshahr doles out a fair deal
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, April 14
Julah Majra in Nawanshahr district is one of the few villages in Punjab where one gets to savour an unusual sight. As the final bell rings at the government school here, hundreds of girls, clearly outnumbering the boys, tramp out of the classrooms.

“Girls not only outnumber boys but also outshine them. My daughter Deepika has stood first in the Class V examination,” says Makhan Ram, father of three. His two sons, according to him, are just “Ok” but “my daughter is going to make a name for herself and do the village proud,” he adds with a grin.

For its positive sex ratio, the village got a special grant of Rs 3 lakh in 2006 as part of the rigorous anti-female foeticide campaign launched by the then Nawanshahr Deputy Commissioner Krishan Kumar.

The campaign, which consisted of coordinated efforts undertaken by government agencies and NGOs, later became popular as the ‘Nawanshahr model’ of checking female foeticide. Krishan Kumar’s model met with astounding success and the sex ratio of the district went up from 808 to over 900 in just two years.

“The programme included awareness campaigns led by NGOs and enforcement drives led by health authorities and the police. All NGOs were brought under a body called Upkar. We started medical and social audits of pregnancies in towns and villages,” said Jaspal Singh Gidda, Upkar president.

As part of the social audit, every pregnant woman in the village was monitored by a volunteer from the village. Not only did the volunteers keep tabs on pregnant women but the health authorities also ensured that the ultrasound testing facilities were not misused.

Though the method worked, it invited criticism too. “The social audit element of the Nawanshahr model is against the right of privacy of a pregnant woman. The model is anti-women,” says Man Mohan Sharma President, Voluntary Health Association of India.

The most controversial step that was undertaken by the NGOs was the organisation of “shok sabhas” outside the houses of those who allegedly aborted a female child. “These sabhas were not intended to ridicule the family but make them realise that what they had done was wrong,” explained Gidda.

The shok sabhas, however, had to be discontinued as some residents felt the affected families were being ostracised and made to feel like criminals. True enough, despite several requests made by the Tribune team, these families in Naura and Hakimpur villages refused to meet the press.

“The Nawanshahr model was criticised because it ensured that the law was followed. No one likes being shown the ‘danda’ but the end result was that it worked,” explained Gidda.

Now even three years later, however, the model is not being replicated anywhere else in Punjab as it was seen as too DC-centric.

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