Jhunjhunu (Rajasthan): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for a mass movement to protect the girl child, expanding the "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP)" campaign from the existing 161 to cover all districts of the country.
He also launched a new programme aimed at to reduce under-nutrition and low birth weight, bring down anaemia among young children, women and adolescent girls and reduce the prevalence of stunting among children.
Modi was on a day-long visit to this Rajasthan district that was in news recently for a remarkable transformation for attaining minimum gender gap - a leap from having the worst sex ratio at birth in Rajasthan seven years ago.
According to 2011 census, the ratio was 837 girls per 1000 boys. Now it is 955 girls per 1000 boys - the best in the state.
Highlighting the details of the "Beti Bachao Beti Padhao" initiative, the Prime Minister said it was about the mindset and that the society needed to jointly battle to come out the problem.
"This cannot happen with the government budget alone. This will happen when there is a mass movement. People are to be educated, made to understand. "It is unfortunate that we have to plead people to save girl child, and use funds from budget separately for creating awareness. Nothing can be more disgraceful for a society that unequal sex ratio.
"We have to make it a revolution that number of girls taking birth should be equal to that of boys, the education provided to boys should also be given to girls, then only we can move ahead."
He said the country in the 21st Century was worse than what it was in the 18th Century when a girlchild was at least allowed to take birth before being drowned in a milk tub.
"Today, the daughter is killed in the womb without either the mother or the daughter seeing each other's face," he told a gathering with a large number of women.
"Those who think sons will help in old age ... the situation is different today. I have seen families where old father-mother spend their old days in orphanages despite having four sons living in luxury. And, I have also seen such families where a daughter takes up job without marrying, so that parents do not face difficulties in old age."
Reminding about more than 100-year-old International Women's Day being celebrated on March 8, he said the gender imbalance in the country can be reduced if the citizens decide to have parity in the birth of sons and daughters.
For this, he said, a major role was to be played by mothers-in-law.
"If a mother-in-law says daughter is required, nobody in the family will have the guts to do injustice with daughters. For this we need to generate a mass movement."
He said the government has now expanded the girl child programme from 161 districts to 640 districts of the country.
Modi also met and greeted a group of 200 little girls, who were all born after January 22, 2015 - the day when "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" was launched in Rajasthan.
He distributed certificates to the best performing districts in the programme and interacted with some of the beneficiary mothers and girls.
Launching the nationwide-wide National Nutrition Mission (NNM) Modi said: "Ignorance is the major reason for weak physical growth of our sons and daughters, and underweight births. Child marriage is another major reason for malnourished children.
"An estimate suggests 30 to 40 per cent deaths of children happen due to eating without washing hands. We have to make our country strong. If our children are strong, then our country would be strong."
He calling out for a movement that leads to happy and healthy children in the country by 2022 when India celebrates its 75th anniversary.
"Let the country see equal number of boys and girls, allow equal number of sons and daughters be born in India. Let the curse of disproportionate society come to an end."
Union Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi in her speech recalled how Modi, who has given so much importance to the International Women's Day, one day called her and "questioned why there is a huge disparity between the ratio of boys and girls in India".
"Put all your efforts to ensure that girls ratio increases there. It was a huge task as it required the change of mindset," she said, adding the government then started strictly monitoring ultrasound clinics to stop them from conducted pre-natal sex determination tests.
"The steady efforts started bringing results and we see India transforming."