a two year old article in the indian express:
Poverty alleviation is but a small aspect of social justice. A just society provides equal opportunity to all members of society—all religions, all castes, and both sexes. India’s record of ill-treatment starts before birth—we kill the girl child before she is born. After birth, there is at best benign neglect and later on, especially among poor families, the girl child is needed to work at home. As she grows up, she becomes an increas-ing burden, and parents worry about raising a dowry for her marriage. And the cycle continues.
There’s a need for accountability in our poverty schemes; the government is not being held responsi-ble for its failures. Can this centuries old discrimination practice be broken? Yes. Here is how. There are approximately 120 million girl children in the school-going age of five to 14. About 80 million live in rural areas. Each girl child in the rural areas is entitled to Rs 300 a month if she attends school. Total expen-diture? Less than Rs 30,000 crore, and less than the just introduced employ-ment guarantee programme.
What kind of ‘leakages’ can occur here? There will be a market for fake education certificates. True, but we also observe that the poor are spending a fair amount of their hard-earned money to send their kids, even girls, to school. For just Rs 300 a month, they are not going to jeopardise the future of their children. But let us assume they do; so let us modify the scheme thus: every girl child in the age group five to 14 receives Rs 3,600 a year. Period. No ifs, ands and buts. Now where is the leakage? Other than an increase in sex-change operations, I cannot foresee any. This plan might encourage movement from urban to rural areas. Good. The parents will find that the girl child is ‘profitable’, so more girl children will be born. Good. More girls will be educated, more girls will become pro-ductive, and the dowry system will begin a slow death. Good. So why has such a plan not been thought of, let alone implemented? Because it is more profitable for the government to spend about 10 times the money, Rs 200,000 crore annually, on various ‘in the name of the poor’ schemes than to imple-ment policies that will actually help the rural poor. (italics mine).