From 'unwanted' to most wanted!

From 'unwanted' to most wanted!

When the exquisitely-poised, beautiful winner of the Femina Miss India Earth 2009 title, Pooja Chopra returned home to Pune in Maharashtra this month after her triumph in the contest, she had a fantastic welcome awaiting her. The whole city, it seemed, was in a celebratory mode! Proud citizen groups, her own trainers and stylists — and more importantly — her proud mother Neera Chopra organised parties to felicitate her. Pooja, fresh from her victory, described the thrills of the pageant and the excitement of the keen competition. "But I concentrated on doing my best without worrying about other contestants," she said proudly, "That's how my mother trained me. I won because I was focused on my own goal of winning. If one can dream for success, one can achieve it — I believed this and came up winners!"

Certainly, the person most thrilled at her triumph was her mother Neera, who has single-handedly brought up Pooja and her sister Shubra. Neera's story of how she had two 'unwanted' daughters and was forced to leave her matrimonial home has come into limelight because of her daughter's unprecedented success.

Doomed from day one

"My marriage was doomed from the day my first daughter Shubra was born," says Neera, "My husband began to bring women home and threatened to marry another woman who could give him sons. With the birth of Pooja, his threats came true and I had to leave with my two young girls — Pooja, the younger being only 20 days old — to fend for myself. I have been through hard times bringing them up — working in Mumbai, Pune and Goa — with support from my mother and brother. I have had to bring them up on very little money and leave them alone at home, or with my mother while I worked. Today, I have a home and my daughters are secure. Shubra is married and has a child and Pooja has now brought us this glorious success! I feel I have won the battle of life and proved that girl children are as precious as boys."

Neera's story repeats itself in various forms in homes all over India. As the current popular soaps on several channels show, girl children get inhuman treatment in many states even as Indian laws declare women to be equal citizens in every way. Balika Vadhu, the top-rated serial shows child brides or widows being 'trained' to accept illiteracy and deprivation as their lot. Na Ana Is Desh Lado, another prime time soap, shows infant girl children being killed mercilessly and buried secretly. What's more, all these in-house atrocities are forced upon 'unwanted' or 'inferior' girl children by their ultra-conservative grandmothers who are themselves powerhouse persons in their villages and wield money and community power!

Dwindling numbers

The fact is, in many states of India, the number of women per thousand men is dwindling at an alarming rate. As it is the average all over India has come down to 933 women per thousand men.

In Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab and other states, this ratio is even lower. Despite stringent laws prohibiting pre-natal gender determination tests, these go on secretly and female foetuses are destroyed routinely in small towns and villages. Some communities are known to use cruel methods like dipping a female newborn in milk or feeding her ground glass to kill her instantly after birth.

In some parts of India, as figures show, the gender ratio has even dipped to as low as 870 women per thousand men. The reasons for not wanting girl children are many. Rural or small town communities still hold women as 'burdens' because of the expenses of their marriages with dowries and gifts to be given to the groom's family. The education of a girl child is also considered unnecessary. More alarming is the view that a girl child can bring ill repute to her family.

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