- Phoolwali turns JNU PhD scholar
Beyond the Horizon
By Pradeep Kumar
If Haryanvi Poonam Arya and Parvesh Arya as national president and coordinator respectively are whistle blowers of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao abhiyan (BBBP) (Save the daughter, educate the daughter) campaign, Mumbai’s Chatkopar slum born Sarita Mali, 28, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) researcher scholar qualified to pursue PhD from University of California, toeing BBBP mantra is a shining example of “If there is a will, there is a way”.
Comptroller & Auditor General of Indi, quoting experts, attribute the Govt’s inability to release funds efficiently and disproportionate focus on publicity rather than making initiatives in health and education sectors to BBBP’s failure in meeting its objectives, while Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women had informed Lok Sabha that 78.91% funds for BBBP were spent only on ads.
The child sex ratio (CSR), going down constantly in India, was 919 girls against 1000 boys aged 0 to 6 years-old as per 2011 population census. Rates of female foeticide and demand for dowry have led to a sharp drop in CSR in some states in India. Madhya Pradesh recorded rising trend as CSR of 932 girls per 1000 boys in 2001 dropped to 918/1000 by 2011. If this trend continued, the number of girls by 2021 was predicted to drop below 900 per 1000 boys. However, the CSR stood at 1020/1000 by 2021 end.
Such poor state of affair was a gospel truth despite sex determination tests of pregnant women made illegal since 1994 under Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Regulation and Prevention of Misuse Act, 1994 as a defence against female foeticide and amended in 2002. Thus, during 2014 International Day of Girl Child, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the people to help end sexism against girls in India.
The BBBP campaign, launched by the PM on 22.01.15, aimed at addressing issue of declining CSR as a joint national initiative by Women & Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Education Ministries. It initially focused on multi-sector actions in 100 districts across India where there was a low CSR.
Haryana’s Bibipur village sarpanch Sunil Jaglan had taken a selfie with his daughter Nandini and posted on Facebook on 09.06.15 to earn worldwide fame. The GoI gave a new thrust by allotting Rs 100 crore to generate awareness and improve welfare services for girls by targeting UP, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Bihar & Delhi.
A national executive committee set by the Centre to promote BBBP across the country holds several programs to promote “Save Girl Child” and “to Educate Girl Child” since January 2015. Dr. Rajendra Phadke is the National Convener of BBBP campaign, while Sakshi Malik, who won 2016 Olympics bronze medal on 26.08.16, was made BBBP brand ambassador.
“Women being primary caretakers of children and elders in every country across the world, global studies have proven that they take lead role during economy, political and social change. Women role is more important now as India is passing through a critical juncture’, Poonam and Parvesh had told this editor 02.02.20 after conducting an awareness event at Farnama GHSS in Meham block of Rohatak district in Haryana.
They have remained spinsters to devote their lives for spreading awareness across the country, particularly by attending various functions, like National Youth Integration Camp conducted at DNGC during 5-11 July, 2016, “Let all new born girls, would be mothers of tomorrow, get educated and live a dignified life,” they propagate with conviction. Parvesh gives a talk on relevant issue regularly in her YouTube channel aimed at bringing attitudinal changes in India’s predominantly matriarchal society.
Unique example of BBBP success highlighted by Time of India in its 11.05.22 edition – “Jawaharlal Nehru University scholar who once sold flowers heads to US as her PhD dream blossoms”
“Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) research scholar Sarita Mali, 28, would soon go to University of California to pursue PhD”, befits the adage “If there is a will, there is a way”.
Mali as class-V student used to accompany her father to sell flowers on the pavements of Mumbai and even used to run after cars at traffic signal points with bouquets in hands to boost family’s meager daily income of Rs 300 on a good day.
Born and raised in Mumbai’s Chatkopar slum, Mali, native of Uttar Pradesh’s Jaunpur district, has broken social barriers at various levels and has a painful story to recall. “My childhood was filled with sufferings, be it economic, psychological or social because of my gender. A dark-skinned girl of particular sections of society in our country faces many additional challenges,” she recounted.
“Even after overcoming such challenges, there were additional ones, like when I expressed my desire to study Hindi literature, there were probing questions on why I wanted to travel all the way to Delhi for that.” To her good fortune, Mali founded a champion supporter in her father. Remarkably, he himself was unlettered, and according to her, recently learnt how to sign his name.
“It was my father who motivated me despite being illiterate as he had seen in his upper caste people of his village achieves things after getting education. Somehow that stuck to him and decided that though he could not attend school but ensure education of his children so that they bypass the privations he had faced in life.
Mali, after passing class-X from Mumbai Municipal School, started giving tuition classes to children in her locality. She wanted to earn some money as she had not forgotten her father’s wish that she continued studying. She saved money and got admitted to K J Somaya College of Arts & Commerce. Inspired by her, her siblings – an elder sister and two brothers – too climbed the academic ladder, like her offering tuition classes to fund the studies. Her sister earned a MA degree and both qualified brothers are appearing in competitive examinations.
Amid all this even today, the humble father cannot differentiate between a graduate and a post graduate, but all he knows that being educated is wielding power. “The empowerment given by education is something he has instilled in us, Mali smilingly said.
While Mali herself has escaped the vicious cycle of poverty, she gets panicked on seeing street children chasing after cars to sell a host of wares. “Each time I see children on the street, I feel overwhelmed. There must be so many out there who can study and move upward,” the research scholar said.
In our country, not everyone get the most important, which is opportunity. Hence, youngsters from marginalized section even if talented miss out on a progressive life. The Govt should promote free education and set up more public-funded universities”.
Mali, who joined JNU in 2014 for MA course (Hindi literature), said the university shaped up her outlook on life. “It would have been impossible for me to study, had there not been a public-funded university like JNU, she said, adding: “It made me realize that no matter what caste or class you belong to you can get the right opportunity. It changed my thought process”.
“Entering academia to highlight the woes of the marginalized” – is what she looks forward to do in future. “I want to raise my voice for free education for street children. There must be policies that allow such students to study without the pressure of finances. The contribution of marginalized communities in the country building must also be recognized,” Mali emphatically said.