Monday, 12 May 2014

Conditional Cash Transfer for Empowerment of Girl Child in Haryana

Haryana has been witnessing a steady decline in the sex ratio over the past three decades. Matters worsened with Haryana showing the lowest child sex ratio (0-6 years) in India (Census 2011). However, the 2011 Census data shows that in spite of worst sex ratio, Haryana has improved its child sex ratio in the last decade by 15 points from 819 girls per 1000 boys in 2001 to 834 girls per 1000 boys in 2011. In the last two decades, Haryana has initiated and implemented several policies to increase the value of girl child among communities and to change community’s attitude towards girl child.  One of the strategies in this line adopted by the Haryana state has been to provide financial incentive to girl child to ensure birth and development of girl child.
Haryana was the first to initiate a conditional cash transfer scheme for the girl child. This scheme was called Apani Beti Apna Dhan (ABAD) in 1994, which operated between 1994-1998, aimed to enhance the value of girls. Under this scheme poor households and disadvantaged caste groups, were offered a saving bond of Rs.2500 in the name of the daughter which was redeemable at a maturity value of Rs.25,000 when the girl turned 18, provided the girl was not married. Impact evaluations study of the scheme by Sinha and Yoong (2010) using NFHS data of three rounds found that the scheme had positive implications on girls’ birth and survival. However, the scheme had inconclusive effects on mothers’ preferences for a girl child. The first batch of ABAD beneficiary will turn 18 in 2014 and will be able to cash in their bond. Another evaluation of the scheme by Nanda et. al (2014) in its preliminary finding reveals that the scheme helped beneficiary girl to stay in school for longer time. According to the study “A larger proportion of girls who were part of the program (beneficiaries) remained in school than those who were not (non-beneficiaries)”.
Both the studies mentioned above have shown positive impacts of the schemes on development of beneficiary girls. But what is not clear from both the studies is whether it has improved social mindset towards girl child and whether it has contributed to an increase in the number of births of girl child. In addition to the ABAD scheme the Haryana government introduced a similar new scheme called Ladli in 2005 aiming to combat the menace of gender biased sex selection. The conditions of the Ladli scheme are such that it encourages families to have two daughters and assures a bond of Rs.25,000 which at the time of maturity (after attaining 18 years of the age of second girl child in family) becomes approximately Rs. 96,000. Since its inception 183,069 families have been included in the Ladli Scheme and so far the state government has invested Rs. 254.82 crores under the scheme (GoH, 2013).  Impact of the scheme against its expectations is a matter of study but the recent Census data gives hope of improvement.
Other than these two specific schemes to reverse declining sex ratio, Haryana government has been implementing various incentive based schemes for the development of girl child. Monthly stipend is given to school going girls of socially and economically disadvantaged sections under various schemes. Normally stipend amount is higher for girls as compared to boys in such schemes. Education is one the important indicator of empowerment and it remained core condition of every kind of conditional cash transfer schemes for girl child in Haryana.
School Education Data indicates that though there is marginal increase in girls’ enrolment in secondary schools in Haryana but the dropout rate of girls has decreased substantially. For Class I-X, the girl’s dropout rate decreased from 39.15 in 2007-08 to 16 in 2010-11. The retention of scheduled caste girls in school has improved much faster in this period. The dropout rate of scheduled caste girl students of Class I-X has decreased from 63.93 in 2007-08 to 16.4 in 2010-11 (MoHRD, GoI). The educational indicators are evident that survived girl children’s conditions are improving faster in Haryana. With improved health service delivery in the state, the survival rate of girl children has also increased in last one decade. According to Sample Registration System, female Infant Mortality Rate of Haryana has decreased from 70 in 2001 to 44 in 2012.  
Thus, the recent history of public policy interventions in Haryana to empower women and girl child resulted in improved social conditions. The social indicators for girls such as education, health, immunization, survival and fertility have improved in last one decade and  various studies in Haryana have attributed this change to both, conditional cash transfer schemes and other policy interventions. The larger goal of the conditional cash transfer scheme such as ABAD and Ladli is to influence social and cultural values of individual and community and hence end gender discrimination. There are no evidences and studies to claim that such policies are influencing human values and helping girls to have higher status in the society. Declining sex ratio is the outcome of complex social, religious, cultural and structural arrangements in our society. Any policy intervention to address this issue needs to be carefully designed and implemented. Thus, possibly greater involvement of people is required in policy planning and implementation to alter prevalent gender biased practices. It is high time to review such conditional cash transfer schemes to understand their impact in changing gender biased mindset of society.
Jeet Singh

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