To correct the male-female sex-ratio and limit the family size the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India has come up with a novel scheme of providing free ships and scholarships to all girls from single child families up to the post-graduate level. Starting from next academic session all single girl children will be eligible for free education from Class VI onwards for graduate and post-graduate studies. The scheme would apply to all government aided or affiliated schools and colleges in the country. If the two children in a family are girls, both will be entitled to a 50 per cent concession in fees.
If there are two children in a family and one is a girl, she will still get the 50 per cent concession. The fee waiver will cover tuition fee but exclude money charged for transport and food. The scholarships for undergraduates will be given for non-medical and non-engineering courses in recognized colleges. At the end of three years, 1,650 students will receive these scholarships. The CBSE, which conducts entrance examinations for medical and engineering students, will also offer 500 fellowships every year for these courses - 350 for engineering students and 150 for medical students. These too will be given on merit. The UGC will give scholarships of Rs 2,000 a month to first and second rank holders among girls in the BA, B.Sc and B.Com courses to pursue higher degree.
On the paper it seems a very generous scheme for universalizing and promoting female education. It is being hoped that it would have positive impact on the status of women by increasing their life choices through free education right up to college. It may also help to change family and community attitudes towards girl's education. But it is doubtful that it would achieve the stated objective of balancing the sex-ratio as the society's bias for male child is deep-rooted and the lure of free education for the girls is unlikely to change easily. Though the scheme aimed at promoting education for girls, it would not benefit the girls belonging to the poor families and those in the rural areas because they generally drop out by high school. It is necessary that the government should improve the educational infrastructure and make it more accessible and meaningful for the girl child. There should be an income ceiling for the beneficiaries as it should be given to girls who have limited resources but are keen to pursue higher education.