Jhunjhunu (Rajasthan), March 8: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for a mass movement to protect the girl child and to promote healthy children in the country, even as he expanded the "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP)" campaign to cover all districts of the country and launched a new programme, National Nutrition Mission (NNM).
Highlighting the details of the initiative, and talking about the mindset and misconceptions leading to a low sex ratio and malnourished children, Modi said: "We need to come out of this problem. Yet, I say this cannot happen with the government budget alone. This will happen when there's a mass movement. People are to be educated, made to understand."
The Prime Minister said the country in the 21st century is even worse than the 18th century when the girl 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 said, adding the country needs to come out of this mindset.
"Those who think son will help in old age... Situation is different. 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 single daughter takes up job without marrying, so that parents do not face difficulties in old age," he said to a gathering with a large number of women.
Reminding about the more than 100-year-old International Women's Day being celebrated on March 8, the PM said the gender imbalance in the country has happened over the last five-six generations and if the citizens decide to have parity in the birth of sons and daughters, the much-required gender balance can be achieved in two-three generations.
Modi said a major role can be played by the mothers-in-law. "If a mother-in-law says daughter is required in the family, nobody in the family will have the guts to do injustice with the daughters. For this we need to generate a mass movement."
Talking about improvement in sex ratio at birth in Haryana -- where it was alarming two years ago -- on account of BBBP, he said the government has now expanded the programme to protect and educate the girl child from 161 districts to 640 districts all over the country.
Modi also distributed certificates to the best performing districts in the BBBP programme as he interacted with some of the beneficiary mothers and girl children.
The Prime Minister launched another ambitious programme -- National Nutrition Mission (NNM) -- nationwide from Jhunjhunu. The mission strives 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.
"Ignorance is the major reason for weak physical growth of our sons and daughters, and underweight births. Enough food is not adequate if the water is bad ... we cannot change malnutrition. Child marriage is another major reason for malnourished children," he said, adding that timely medicine and breastfeeding at birth is a must, but it does not always happen.
"An estimate suggests 30 to 40 per cent deaths of children happen due to eating without washing hands. Even the mother needs to wash her hands before feeding the child. Who will teach them? It's all our responsibility," he added.
"We have to make our country strong. If our children are strong, then our country would be strong," he said calling out for a movement that leads to happy and healthy children in the country by 2022, when India celebrates the 75th anniversary of its independence.