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PM Modi launches 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' campaign, says female foeticide is a sign of 'mental illness'--BANK/INSURANCE INTERVIEW

PANIPAT: Exhorting people not to regress to 18th century mindset PM Narendra Modi made an emotional pitch to end discrimination against the girl child on Thursday. Modi launched twin programmes of "Beti bachao, beti padhao" and "Sukanya Samriddhi account" in a bid to encourage birth and education of girls and tackle the abysmally low child sex ratio of 918 girls for 1000 boys.

Describing the desire to indulge in female foeticide as a "mental illness" Modi said that if this discrimination does not end it could cause a "terrible crisis" soon because of a lack of women in the country. Incidentally the PM launched the two schemes from Panipat in Haryana that has among the lowest child sex ratio in the country (837 girls to 1000 boys).

The launch was done amid much fanfare with senior Cabinet ministers Maneka Gandhi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, J P Nadda, Smriti Irani, Haryana CM M L Khattar and actor Madhuri Dixit present.

The PM who slammed the audience for "double standards" in killing daughters but desiring educated daughters-in-law also chose to attack doctors who assist in sex selective abortions.

In a speech that was met with much applause, he said, "We cannot call ourselves citizens of 21st century by practicing such a crime and we by our mindsets belong to 18th century when daughters were killed soon after they were born."

Pleading to end this ill practice, he said, "The Prime Minister of this country had come to them like a beggar and was begging for the lives of daughters."

Referring to Haryana, he said it was very painful for him to see that in a state which produced a woman like Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian woman to have travelled in space, "other Kalpana Chawlas are killed in the wombs of their mother".

He also launched Sukanya Samridhi Yojna (girl child prosperity scheme), under which girl children below 10 years will have bank accounts with more interest and income tax benefits.

The campaign will be initially implemented in the 100 districts, including 12 in Haryana, and across the country where the sex ratio is rather poor.

By persisting with such a discrimination against girl child, the nation would not only harm itself but also generations to come, the Prime Minister said, adding it will take a lot of commitment and many years before the imbalance in sex ratio ended.

Urging doctors to shun female foeticide, Modi said they were not given education for killing girl child and that it was their responsibility as part of society to ensure girls' safety and progress. "I want to ask you if this is what you have to do to make money... This sin is a betrayal against society," he said.

Terming as a "myth" that sons take care of parents in their old age, Modi said had it been true, then so many old age homes would not have come up in the last 50 years. "There are countless number of families where parents are unhappy despite having sons and where parents are happy due to their daughter," he said.

Citing the incident in 2006 which a five-year-old boy Prince was rescued in an over 50-hour operation after he had fallen into a borewell in Kurukshetra, he said the whole country had prayed for him. He wondered why the same people become so insensitive when so many girl children are killed around them.

Stressing the need for quality education for girls, he said the fact that parents do not educate their daughters well but want well-educated daughters-in-law reflects society's "double-standard".

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi said the 'beti bachao, beti padhao' campaign was the fourth major initiative of the Modi government after Jandhan Yojna, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Make in India campaign. She added that 2000 girls are killed every day in the country which was "shameful."

A reward of Rs 1 crore will be given for the "innovative" village which attains a balanced sex ratio. Gandhi said there were 70 villages in the state where no girl child had been born for years.

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