Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Lohri to fight the darkness : FAZILKA AGAINST FEMALE FOETICIDE

Times of India, Chadigarh, 10th January, 2008

Anilesh S Mahajan TNN
Chandigarh: The cold, dark practice of female foeticide in Punjab is about to find resistance in the warm glow of the Lohri bonfire. In Fazilka subdivision of Ferozepur district, a local tabloid, Sarhad Kesri, is going to celebrate this festival for the girl children of the area. Lohri, which marks the last day of Paush month in the Vikrami Samvat calendar, is traditionally celebrated only for newborn boys. Fazilka is a far-flung, lessdeveloped area of Punjab. But this celebration can bring it to the forefront of spreading awareness against the killing of girl children and female foeticide. The local tabloid with it's small office here, will hold the celebrations for about 100 newborn girls. This would be the largest such programme to celebrate Lohri for girls in Punjab. That too without government support. "I have details of all the 937 girl children born this year in the sub-division, but we had limited resources, so we decided to keep it a low key affair," says Rakesh Nagpal of Sarhad Kesri. They have asked the families of the newborn girls to register themselves and they will be made part of the celebrations on a first come first serve basis. "We have already exceeded the 100 mark, but will accommodate the additional entries," said Rakesh. He said they had budget of Rs 35,000, which he was putting in from his own pocket. "I might not save every girl child in the state, but I am sure my small effort would encourage others to accept them," said Rakesh. The sex ratio of Punjab is 874 females per 1000 males, much below the national average. Ferozepur also comes low on the national district wise sex ratio chart. Punjab has also received criticism for not controlling the decline in sex ratio. Nagpal said the traditional song of the festival, 'Sunder Mundriye' also carries the message to save the girl child. Nagpal said that is what inspired him, "The whole song is based on a girl, and is sung by girls. It will be very unfair if we do not celebrate this festival for girls," he said. Wife of local MLA Surjit Jayni, Nirmala, is helping Nagpal in this effort. "The celebrations in this programme for newborn girls will be the same as they are traditionally for the boys. Every child will be given new clothes, and sweets like gachhak, rewri apart from peanuts, popcorn etc," said Nagpal. It can be added that in the recent times this area has shown improvement in sex ratio, especially infant sex ratio.

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