Three years ago the Bihar government launched the Mukhyamantri Ballika Cycle Yojana - the chief minister's cycle scheme for girls. The plan entitled girls in class - IX and X to a free cycle from the state or Rs 2000 to buy one where the girl child has traditionally received discrimination at all levels.
Since 2007-2008 Bihar has spent Rs 175 crores on cycles for 871,000 school girls. Following this, the scheme had a dramatic impact with girls enrolling in schools in the state shot up from 160,000 in 2006-07 to 490,000 now. Dropouts among girls declined to 1 million from about 2.5 million in 2006.
The plan has acted as an instrument of change as the cycles have bridged distances to schools and secondly have given girls in a largely patriarchal society a sense of independence and purpose. The girls are now keen to pursue careers and have become much more confident of their abilities.
Khushboo Kumari a beneficiary of the cycle scheme from Bagaun village in Katihar district came second in her class X exams. Another girl Priyanka Kumari of Khoksa Kalyani village now pedals 8km daily to her school. According to these girls the scheme has really motivated the rural girls and developed a sense of competitiveness.
The 974,000 students who appeared for the state board's class 10 exams, 400,000 were girls. Of these 75,136 got a first class more than double last year's 37,708.Each of these girls are entitled to Rs 10,000.