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Beti Bachao Beti Padhao – Under Utilization of Funds & Non-Compliance of Guidelines emerge as key issues

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Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is one of the first major schemes to have been launched by the NDA government after it came to power in 2014. Under Utilization of Funds & Non-Compliance of Guidelines emerge as key issues hampering the implementation of the scheme as per government data & other reports.

Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP), the Central Government’s flagship scheme for the girl child was launched in 2015. The broad goals of the scheme are to put an end to gender based selective sex elimination, ensure survival and protection of the girl child, and also to ensure education and participation of the girl child in all areas. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the scheme in Haryana, the state which had consistently recorded the lowest number of girls per 1000 boys up to 6 years of age. The scheme is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Ministry of Human Resource Development. 

Through the scheme, the government’s overall goal is to celebrate the girl child and enable her education. Districts from across the country which had a low Child Sex Ratio on the basis of 2011 Census were identified for the implementation of the scheme. It is a centrally sponsored scheme with 100% financial assistance to state governments. The key elements of the scheme include the enforcement of Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, awareness and advocacy campaigning, and multi-sectoral action. 

BBBP has been rolled out in 640 districts- at least one in each state/UT

BBBP was initially rolled out in 100 districts and later expanded to another 61 districts in 2015-16. Currently, it is being implemented across all 640 districts in the country. Of the 640 districts, 405 districts are covered through multi-sectoral interventions in addition to media and advocacy outreach. The remaining 235 are covered through media and advocacy outreach, that is through television advertisements, radio jingles, SMS campaigns, social and print media.

Almost 73% of the available funds were utilized for media outreach & publicity 

Since the inception of the scheme, a total of Rs. 928 crores have been allocated till 2019-20, according to a response by the government in the Lok Sabha. However, only Rs. 540.92 crores has been utilized until 02 March 2020, which is about 58% of the total allocation for the scheme.  A whopping 72.6% of the funds released, amounting to Rs. 392.76 crores was spent on publicity & media advocacy. In 2016-17, more than 91% of the fund used was for media and advocacy. 

More than Rs. 160 crores were utilized for publicity & media advocacy under the scheme in the year 2018-19. More than 75% of the total utilization in the years 2017-18 and 2018-19 was for the media advocacy purpose. 

In 2020-21, as on 17 September 2020, Rs. 96.7 lakh has been spent on media advocacy. A total of Rs. 280 crores have been allocated for the scheme for 2020-21. 

Only around 62% of the funds released have been utilized since the inception of scheme

The amount of grant-in-aid sanctioned to states under the scheme includes the cost of activities such as inter-sectoral consultation, meeting of State Task Force, Training and Capacity Building, sensitization programmes, awareness generation activities, monitoring and evaluation and sectorial activities of ministries. State governments are supposed to maintain separate records of expenses incurred for the implementation of the scheme and submit a statement of expenditure along with a progress report for every quarter. Based on audit of expenditure, funds are released to the states after adjusting the unspent amount of previous year. As per the government’s explanation in a response in the Lok Sabha, the total amount available for a particular year includes amount in that year plus the amount unspent from previous year. 

For the year 2019-20, a total of Rs. 123.84 crore was allocated of which only Rs. 67.62 crore was utilized by the states. That is, only about 54.6% of the funds available for the scheme were utilized in 2019-20. This was the greatest amount used by states since the introduction of the scheme. Rs. 91.77 crore is available for 2020-21. Overall, through the six years of scheme implementation, only around 62% of the funds has been utilized by all the States/UTs together.

More than 80% utilization in only 5 States

Only 5 States & one UT have utilized more than 80% of the funds allocated to them in the six years of scheme implementation. These states are Sikkim, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Tripura, and Nagaland. Puducherry is the UT that has utilized more than 80% of the allocated funds. Seven states including the bigger states of Punjab, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, have utilized more than 70%, but less than 80% of the funds allocated to them. Kerala and Karnataka are among the other states/UTs to have utilized more than 60% of the funds. It is observed that majority of the states that have utilized a greater share of the allocation compared to the national average are either the Southern states or the North-Eastern states. 

Odisha and Bihar have utilized only 12 to 14% of the allocated funds

The major states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have utilized more than half of the allocated funds. Alarmingly, Jharkhand has utilized only 37% of the funds, whereas Odisha and Bihar have utilized a paltry 14.6% and 12.2% respectively. 

Further, it is observed that only three states, namely Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh were allocated more than Rs. 20 crores each. The three states alone accounted for 22% of the districts covered under the scheme. These three states are the only states to have utilized more than Rs. 10 crores each. A total of nine states/UTs have been allocated more than Rs. 10 crores each. 

Child Sex Ratio across majority of states has improved

The main objective of the scheme is to improve the Child Sex Ratio (CSR). There has been a considerable improvement in the CSR at the national level, from 918 girls in 2014-15 to 934 girls per 1000 boys in 2019-20 as per the Health Management Information System (HMIS) of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Except for a few, all other states/UTs have recorded an increase in CSR. Assam, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand are the only states that have reported a continuous improvement in the CSR since 2014-15. Other states have witnessed a mixed trend. 

Main challenges include underutilization of funds and non-compliance to guidelines 

The CAG reports of Haryana and Punjab published in 2016/2017 analysed the implementation of the scheme and identified certain challenges in the implementation. 

  • Underutilization of funds- In both the states, this was a common challenge. The numbers presented by the government in the Lok Sabha responses also reveal the same. Moreover, the fund is mostly used for media and publicity. The report submitted by a Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD in 2016 expressed its disappointment over the unsatisfactory utilization trend despite dealing with a grave matter. The committee asked the Ministry to take serious efforts for proper utilization of the funds to benefit the targeted beneficiaries. 
  • The Task Force meetings did not take place frequently which had adverse effects on the implementation. Even monthly reports or statement of expenditure from districts were not submitted on time. Such incidences of non-compliance with the guidelines issued are clear indicators that the scheme is not being monitored properly.
  • Although the government denied the diversion of funds in the last five years, in Haryana, the CAG audit discovered that about Rs. 3 Lakh (of the Rs. 5 lakh released) was spent for the construction of ‘Theme Gate’, the entrance for the scheme launch, which was a clear case of fund diversion. Similarly, another Rs. 21.24 Lakh was used for purchasing thousands of laptop bags and mugs with the BBBP logo. The CAG observed  that such purchase was against the provisions of the scheme. 

Though not directly related to the implementation of the scheme, a private study found that there were unforeseen effects of the scheme implementation. As per an article published in The Hindu,  a study by Foundation for Reproductive Health Services (FRHS) across 6 states & 1500 chemists between January to March 2020 revealed that over-regulation of drugs to curb gender-biased sex selection through programmes like BBBP has reduced the access to safe, legal, and cost effective abortion. 

Strict monitoring & proper co-ordination necessary for achieving the objectives

The fund utilization and the observation of the CAG in certain states clearly indicates that monitoring of the scheme implementation is not up to the mark. Regular audits & real-time updation of activities are necessary to ensure compliance. 

Further,  female volunteers could be identified at the grass roots for the purpose of training & advocacy. These volunteers could be given incentives like certificates etc. Media advocacy & publicity is an important component of the scheme and hence indispensable. However, emphasis on other issues pertaining to the girl-child, like improvement of education & health infrastructure should also be focused upon though not directly a part of this scheme. Here is where inter-sectoral co-ordination might help. 

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