Interestingly, the Modi government slashed the budgetary allocation for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) from Rs 18,195 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 8,335.77 crore in 2015-16.
Heard of King Midas of the ‘golden touch’ fame? We seem to have someone similar closer home (no, not M.S. Dhoni anymore, you cricket buffs). Almost everything our dear PM ‘touches’, turns controversial. And since he is a politician (an astute one at that), it turns into a political quagmire as well.
In June, Sunil Jaglan, sarpanch of Bibipur village in Jind, Haryana, hit upon an idea to create awareness about the abysmal sex ratio in his state and to generate a sense of pride in having a daughter. It was christened ‘selfie with daughter’ (the name says it all) and the best three selfies sent to him through WhatsApp were to be rewarded. On June 28, in his Mann Ki Baat address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘touched’ upon this beautiful campaign and it became #SelfieWithDaughter.
And he promised to retweet the best ones.
Modi proposes, India (well, not the whole of it) disposes. The hashtag went viral—it was used over a lakh times within the first day itself. Compare this with the 100-odd entries Jaglan got in three days. The question Modi’s detractors are asking is whether this ‘publicity stunt’ would do anything worthwhile to improve India’s—and more importantly, Haryana’s—skewed sex ratio (the country-wide number stands at 943 females for every 1,000 males while Haryana has 877) and dispel the girl-is-a-burden-on-the-family notion in India’s patriarchal society. Modi loyalists say it was not a ‘policy’ but a genuine gesture to take this novel idea to the masses.
Let deeds match words. Isn’t that what Roman playwright Plautus said? Interestingly, the Modi government slashed the budgetary allocation for Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) from Rs 18,195 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 8,335.77 crore in 2015-16. In fact, the allocation for the women and child development ministry was cut by more than 50 per cent from last year’s allocation. Add to that cuts in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (from Rs 27,758 crore to Rs 22,000 crore) and mid-day meal scheme (from Rs 13,215 crore to Rs 9,236 crore). Not to forget that last year the government spent only one-third of the Rs 90-crore budget allotted for the child sex ratio programme.
The whole episode followed the expected script on Twitter. People like actor Shruti Seth (she even called the PM #selfieobsessed, no less!) and activist Kavita Krishnan who ‘dared’ to voice their differences in opinion were abused, bullied and even intimidated with threats of rape. After all, the campaign was about realising the importance of ‘your’ daughter… it did not say anything about denigrating other's daughters, did it? Ah, the irony of it all.
Days later, the prime minister did ask the twitterati to restrain from using abusive language and be positive on social media. He said this to a group of 100-odd social media influencers at an informal interaction at his residence. Wonder what stopped him from giving this piece of advice directly to his 13.8 million followers on Twitter.