Rajasthan – a state that was infamous for female infanticide, discovered a new way to beat this challenge. In 2016, Rajasthan Health Department proposed the Ashray Yojana or cradle scheme to rescue abandoned female babies in the state.

Ever since Vasundhara Raje government launched it in 2016, around 14 girls have been rescued within 12 months of its inception. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for Rajasthan that was initially struggling with fast-declining child sex ratio. The 2011 Census revealed the estimated number of live births as 883 female for every 1,000 boys– a shocking, but inevitable truth.

Here’s a brief insight into Rajasthan’s journey from an ‘unsafe state’ to a girl-friendly state in just one year.

Rajasthan Government’s PCPNDT Restricts Sex Determination of Foetus

A couple of years back, the government had implemented the PCPNDT act (Pre-conception pre-natal diagnostic technique) to prevent female foeticide. This act strictly prevents prohibits the hospitals from conducting sex determination activities through Sonography.

Till date, about 1,540 ‘government-tagged’ Sonography machines have been installed in government hospitals and 10,625 inspections were conducted. Following these inspections, 475 Sonography machines were seized from illegal abortion centres and 419 centres had their registrations cancelled.

After Prohibiting Illegal Abortions, Child Abandonment Turned out to be a More Serious Issue

Since the government had exercised strict control on abortions, child abandonment turned out to be yet another problem. The findings of Directorate of Child Welfare revealed that 674 infants were deserted between 2017 to 2011. From 2013-2016, 300 children were left to die in shady places.

Last July, a newborn with an infected umbilical cord attached to her abdomen was found in a critical condition outside Janana Hospital, Bharatpur. One week later, another infant was found deserted in the bushes in Udaipur. These incidents moved the authorities to tears, which compelled them to take a concrete step in this direction.

Rajasthan Ashray Yojana is the Brainchild of a Local Businessmen

Ashray Yojna was introduced in Budget 2015, to allow deprived or unwilling parents to put their baby girls at cradles set up in major hospitals and centres rather than abandoning them in unsafe places like water bodies, dustbins, hedges or roads.

The idea was derived from ‘Cradle of Hope’, a concept conceived by a local businessman Devendra Agarwal. In April 2006, Agarwal found female foetuses floating in Fatehsagar Lake (Udaipur). This caused him to set up a care centre named ‘Mahesh Ashram’ at Bhuwada. There, they set up ‘Ashray Palna’ to accommodate unwanted girl children.

Thereafter, the cradle was transferred to MB Hospital. Within just a few months, it received 248 infants. This is house the Ashray Palna Yojana originated in Rajasthan. Agarwal, who acts as an adviser to Rajasthan government in the implementation of Ashray scheme designed its credo “Phenko Mat, Humein Do” (Don’t dump, give them to us).

Care and Confidentiality: The Founding Pillars of Ashray

Rajasthan health department identified 65 hospitals, care centres and medical colleges for installing especially-designed cradles. Out of these, 55 hospitals have received cradles so far.

These cradles are installed with automatic alarms that ring within two minutes of placing the infant into the cradle. The bell doesn’t ring immediately to keep the identity of parents confidential. The area is devoid of cameras and watchmen to maintain secrecy.

Collective Efforts show Colours as Ashray Gives Shelter to Little Ones

Ummed Hospital in Jodhpur and Jhalawar’s district hospital were the first hospitals to receive three girls in the months of March-April. These newborns were handed over to adoption agencies and NGOs run by child welfare committees. 37 adoption centres have lent their support to the government.

Rajasthan hospitals are happy with the results achieved so far. Ashray Yojana is a blessing in disguise for rape survivors and teenage mothers who’re forced to abandon their newborn girls due to social embarrassment, financial constraint or family pressure. The scheme provides a second chance at life to countless young buds that will hopefully blossom into a beautiful flower someday.

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