Empowering the girls is the biggest challenge for any government, especially with our conservative society in rural areas. Besides sprucing up infrastructure in schools, what is important is that it is effectively put to proper use. Mai Bhago Vidya Scheme which was implemented with a purpose of encouraging families to send their daughters to schools has started yielding its dividends.
A state like Punjab which mainly comprises of rural areas, an effective mechanism was required to encourage families to send their daughters to schools. It was 5 years back that Mai Bhago Vidya Scheme was introduced with an objective of ensuring there are no drop-outs of girls in Punjab schools and today the enrolments are rising and dropout figures are dropping.
The Rs 42 crore scheme proved to be successful as in the first year soon after announcing the scheme a total of 1,11,049 bicycles were made available in the launch year 2011-12. In the second year (2013-14) the number rose to 1,52,330 and in the current financial year 60,000 bicycles have already been provided.
Recently Bikram Singh Majithia, Punjab Revenue Minister had distributed 395free cycles to the needy students in schools of Tahil Sahib, Chawinda Devi and Kathunangal.
Under the scheme 4.86 lakh girl students of Classes XI and XII have been provided with free bicycles, the Punjab Planning Board vice-chairman Prof Rajinder Bhandari had recently stated.
The state government also started Mai Bhago Armed Forces Preparatory Institute for training those girls interested in joining the armed forces (http://goo.gl/jc3gth) which was the first of its kind in the country.
The societal changes in Punjab can be seen by the response this institute got from girl applicants. There were 1658 applications in the first batch and only 25 were selected after going through tough physical and psychological tests.
Since it involves three years training and the institute has a capacity of 75, every year 25 girls will be taken. There besides military training they are also groomed by undergoing training for personality development, etc.
“A path-breaking initiative, this will go a long way towards women empowerment”, says ANI in one of its reports (http://goo.gl/x6r6ol). The Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had also lauded the efforts made by the Punjab government while inaugurating the institute in Mohali last year.
The admission to the institute comes with a commitment as well from the girls, who have to join the armed forces after completion of their training or else the entire amount spent by the government on their training will have to be paid back by them.
This has been done to ensure genuine candidates are enrolled and also that each year the state contributes to the building the strength of nation’s armed forces. The institute derives its name from Mai Bhago, a Sikh woman warrior who was known for her bravery in the Sikh history. In fact the entire scheme has been framed on her name, making this initiative a success story of Punjab.