In freezing Kupwara, Pune medico leads women’s march to ‘Save the Girl Child’

By: Quaid Najmi/IANS

Kupwara (J&K)/Pune: Over 2,000 people, mostly women, led by Pune gynaecologist Dr Ganesh Rakh, trooped onto the streets of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara town for a march in the freezing temperature, raising slogans of ‘Beti Bachao’, the organisers said on Tuesday.

The event – which saw the first of its kind biggest procession in Kupwara – marked the 11th year of Rakh’s ‘Beti Bachao Janandolan’ (BBJ) and the 192nd birth anniversary of Savitribai J. Phule, the legendary social reformer of Maharashtra who inspired the unique campaign.

The marchers, with more than 90 per cent women in the age group of 18-40 marched down the Kupwara road with Rakh at the helm, carrying banners, placards and posters to save the girl child and raising slogans, in the town with a population of around 100,000.

The procession later culminated into a public meeting that was addressed by Kupwara Deputy Commissioner Sagar Doifode, Chief Medical Officer Dr Basir Ahmed, Government Degree College Principal, Prof Mohamad Shofi, Medical Officer Dr. Firdoz Ahmed Bhat, Asha worker Raffika Lulabi and social worker Fayaz Ahmed, besides Rakh.

Citing shocking figures, Rakh said that as per the 2001 Census, the male:female ratio of J&K was 1000:892, but in 2011, it fell to an abysmal 1000:889 well below the national average of 1000:940.

“The figures of the 2021 Census are not available, but there are indications that the situation may become more alarming this time all over,” warned Rakh.

Doifode appreciated the efforts of BBJ and Rakh in creating awareness and the importance of “celebrating the girl child” and said that in the coming days, similar programmes shall be organised in the entire Jammu & Kashmir.

Lulabi fervently called upon the people and parents to “treat all daughters with dignity and equal as the sons,” and emphasised that this was imperative to protect the girl child for a better future.

“The girl child is our tomorrowa She is not a burden on the family, without her the family, the community and society cannot flourish or progress,” she said.

Bhat pointed out how people say that Islam allows more than one marriage, “but if the current trend persists, boys will find it difficult to get a girl for even one marriage in the near future”, and urged the need to protect girls.

The landmark event was organised by the Kupwara Divisional Commissionerate, the District Health Department along with ICDS, GDC, Shakti Mission, and Asha Workers, besides other local organisations and NGOs, said Rakh.

The Pune medico launched the BBJ at his small Medicare Hospital, a maternity hospital on January 3, 2012, by waiving all bills if a female infant was born.

Initially labelled as the ‘Mad Doctor’, the trend soon caught on and till date, Medicare Hospital has notched 2,450 free deliveries of baby girls, along with celebrations, cutting cake, distributing sweets and merry-making for all, in the past 11 years.

After IANS first highlighted his venture a decade ago, the BBJ movement shot into global limelight and Rakh was invited to launch it in several African countries, besides pending invites from Europe, USA, Canada, Gulf countries, Asia and Far Eastern nations, owing to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“In the past 11 years, the BBJ has attracted over half-million medicos, 13,000 social organisations, and 2.50 million volunteers who are working in their own ways to save the girl all over India, and we have conducted over 1,000 marches/rallies in the country and abroad for the humanitarian cause,” he said with a tinge of pride.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])

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