Has Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’s Media Advocacy Focus Achieved The Desired Outcomes?

The improvements in parameters related to the girl child cannot be solely attributed to the scheme’s implementation

A lorry, tempo or auto rickshaw painted with the slogan “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” is a common sight today. Launched nine years ago by the government to improve the child-sex ratio and ensure survival, protection, education  and participation of the girl-child, today it shows poor financial management and monitoring of targets.

Initiated in 100 districts, the scheme now covers every district in the country. The scheme aims to promote a “mindset change” for bettering the lives of girls through advocacy and media campaigns. More recently, the scheme’s focus shifted to “zero budget advertising” as “[it] has been able to create awareness for the cause”. The scheme further envisages “promoting” sports, self-defence among girls, and distributing sanitary napkins in schools. 

One of the main indicators of success under the scheme is the improvement in sex ratio at birth from 918 girls per 1,000 boys in 2014-15 to 934 girls per 1,000 boys in 2021-22 (Figure 1). 

Figure 1: The number of girls born per 1,000 boys has increased between 2014-15 and 2021-22

Source: MWCD Dashboard, https://wcd.dashboard.nic.in/

Improvement in sex ratio at birth, however, cannot be solely attributed to the implementation of this scheme, as I argue. Since inception, the scheme has been riddled with poor financial management and its implementation strategy of media and advocacy does not guarantee achieving targets.

Poor Financial Management

The scheme is fully funded by the Union government and funds are released to districts directly. Over the years, the highest proportion of its spending has been on media and advocacy (Figure 2). The overall expenditure under the scheme increased from Rs 35 crore in 2014-15 and peaked to Rs 245 crore in 2018-19. But, beginning 2019-20, expenditures, including those for media and advocacy, began declining. Only 12% of funds were spent on media and advocacy in 2020-21 and none were spent in 2021-22.

Figure 2: Media and advocacy constituted the highest proportion of total expenditure under the scheme but expenditures have been consistently lower than planned allocations.

Source: (1) PIB Delhi, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1845380 and (2) Annual Report (2022-23), Ministry of Women and Child Development

Further, out of overall planned allocations, expenditures have been consistently low. Only 18% of allocations (Rs 222 crore) were spent (Rs 41 crore) until December 31, 2022. In 2021, the Rajya Sabha Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee report had pointed out the “gross underutilisation” of funds under the scheme. 

The Lok Sabha Committee on Empowerment of Women also noted discrepancies in scheme finances. They found that the Ministry of Women and Child Development did not possess disaggregated information on expenditures under education, heath, and other interrelated interventions under the scheme and, despite this, continued to increase allocations. It is, then, unclear why Rs 222 crore, more than double from the previous year, were allocated in 2022-23, even as the scheme’s implementation strategy shifted to zero-budget advertising since 2021. Even if the focus is now on expanding implementation through more targeted interventions, how are the unspent balances from previous years being accounted for? And, thus, what are the basis for increasing allocations in the context of its “multi-sectoral interventions” implementation strategy?

The Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report in 2017 presented evidence of “diversion of funds” for the scheme in Haryana. Laptop bags and mugs printed with the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao slogan were purchased under the scheme for which there were no provisions. Another report in 2016 found that delayed central releases and poor utilisation of funds in Punjab might compromise the scheme’s foreseeable effective implementation in the state.

Before assigning budgets, ministries assess costs for running any scheme. Every district is eligible to receive Rs 50 lakh which is released in two instalments. Combined, sectoral interventions under the scheme constitute only Rs 10 lakh, with the rest falling under dissemination or awareness generation, consultation, etc., activities. In this context, the scheme’s focussed implementation strategy of media and advocacy, improper use of funds, and missing information on sectoral interventions and expenditures at the state level do not justify the increases in fund allocations. 

Not Just Improving Sex Ratio

In its initial stages of implementation, three Union ministries – Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Education, and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – were tasked with the responsibility of scheme implementation. In 2022, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Ministry of Minority Affairs were included to promote higher education, girls’ participation in sports, and skill development. 

The targets set out under the scheme reflect the role of different ministries. These targets changed when scheme guidelines were revised in 2021 and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao was clubbed under Mission Shakti’s Sambal sub-scheme for “safety and security”. Table 1 maps these different targets. Targets highlighted in green remain unchanged. Six targets were removed in the revised scheme and two were added.


Some of these targets have indeed been met. For instance, according to the National Family Health Survey, 70% of mothers registered for antenatal care check-up in the first trimester of pregnancy in 2019-21, compared to 58.6% in 2015-16. Similarly, the Sample Registration System reported that 33 girl children under five years of age, out of 1,000 live births, died in 2020, compared to 49 girl children in 2014. The scheme’s dashboard on the ministry’s website, at the same time, only shows “monitoring data” on sex ratio at birth at the national and state levels. 

But, can these improvements be solely attributed to the scheme’s implementation? There are multiple initiatives, including laws, schemes, and programmes, that aim to improve health, nutrition, education, and sanitation outcomes for girls. For the targets stated above, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s National Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent Health and Nutrition under the National Health Mission and Ministry of Women and Child Development’s Mission Poshan 2.0 have specific interventions that play a critical role for achieving positive health and nutrition outcomes for women and girls. It is, therefore, ambiguous how and why these “monitorable targets” and objectives were defined under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao which uses media and advocacy as its primary mode of implementation.

The Lok Sabha Committee also raised an important question on the “methodology” of this information dissemination and the activities undertaken under the scheme. The 2022 report noted, “…the government should reconsider spending on advertisements under the scheme and focus on planned expenditure allocation for sectoral interventions in education and health”. 


Better Integration through Existing Schemes

A study conducted by the National Council of Applied Economic Research in 14 states in 2020 found that the scheme had improved attitudes towards the girl child in general. Nagaland, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh had the lowest awareness about the scheme’s objectives. At the same time, since declining sex ratio at birth is only one outcome for measuring empowerment of girls, states such as Haryana, Punjab, and Gujarat with pre-existing poor ratios, cannot solely rely on scheme-related media and advocacy campaigns. The study further noted that the scheme did not “effectively and timely” monitor its targets. It recommended strengthening the participation of multiple stakeholders, including universities, experts, statistical agencies, and NGOs.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development’s own reply to the issues raised by the Lok Sabha Committee suggest that several initiatives such as Ministry of Education’s Samagra Shiksha, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s implementation of the Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act, among others, are relevant to effective implementation of Beti Padhao Beti Bachao. The implementation strategy should focus on strengthening integration with these initiatives. Monitoring of targets and budget prioritisation should be aligned to this strategy.

  • Tanya Rana researches on gender and governance at the Responsive Governance and Transformation Foundation.

Malini Nair (Editor)

Malini Nair is a consulting editor with Behanbox. She is a culture writer with a keen interest in gender.

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