In an event replete with pomp and glamour and attended by thousands of women, Madhya Pradesh chief ministerShivraj Singh Chouhan transferred the first instalment of the state government’s ambitious Mukhya Mantri Ladli Behna Yojana in Jabalpur on June 10. Married women – including widows, divorcees, separated women and single mothers – will get Rs 1,000 per month. While releasing the amount, Chouhan said this was just the beginning. This amount would be increased to Rs 3,000 per month in due course of time. He also announced the setting up of Ladli Behna Sena which will ensure the implementation of the scheme throughout the state. Talking to Kumar Shakti Shekhar on the sidelines of the event, Chouhan, who is the longest-serving CM not just of Madhya Pradesh but also of the BJP, explained the need to launch the scheme. He denied that his government was facing any anti-incumbency sentiments. Excerpts.
How many women will be transferred the amount in the first instalment?
Today, 1.25 crore women have been registered under the scheme. We first transferred Re 1 to their bank accounts because several transactions do also fail. We found that 1.20 crore transactions were successful. So, Rs 1,000 will be deposited in the accounts of 1.20 crore women in a day or two. The remaining 5 lakh cases will be sorted out soon.
Why did you choose Jabalpur for the launch of this scheme?
We chose Jabalpur because we had launched the filling of forms for the scheme in Bhopal (on March 5). Jabalpur is the cultural centre of Madhya Pradesh and is known as ‘Sanskar-dhaani’.
Why did you think of focusing on several schemes for women?
What I observed was that injustice was done historically to women. Boys were showered with more love than the girls. There used to be celebrations on the birth of a baby boy but there would be sadness on the birth of a baby girl. Sons used to get special facilities while the daughters used to make cowdung cakes or make rotis. This was the general mentality earlier, with some exceptions. Husbands would thrash their wives whenever they would want. This was the situation in the villages. Women were being treated as second grade citizens. A smaller number of girls were being born. Injustice was being meted out to them. I used to feel this pain since my childhood. Even before becoming the chief minister, I used to marry off poor daughters. Immediately after becoming CM, I decided to end this injustice. Sons and daughters are equal and there should not be any discrimination against anyone. This is how a series of schemes for daughters and sisters started.
It is believed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wins due to the support of a large section of women. Will it be the same in your case in the forthcoming assembly election?
I have always got the support of my sisters. Will get more this time.
Opposition leaders such as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal say like his government, which gives free electricity to the people, governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are also giving freebies. The BJP is against freebies. Will the Ladli Behna Yojana weaken the BJP’s stand?
Ladli Behna Yojana is not a freebie. It is a social revolution. The standard of nutrition will improve. The education of children will improve. The basic needs of the children will be fulfilled. If you take the example of the Ladli Laxmi Yojana, I have put conditions on it such as they will get money only if they study. Kanya Vivah also does not fall under the category of freebies. It is a social change. What I have implemented is for social change.
The Congress has also promised to give Rs 1,500 to women if they come to power. How do you view their promise?
Their promises are a bundle of lies. The people have seen it. We are already providing benefits while they are just promising. Moreover, when we said we will give Rs 1,000 to women, they said they would give Rs 1,500. It’s all bunkum.
Since the issue of love jihad also concerns the girls, what do you have to say about it?
Love is allowed in Madhya Pradesh, not jihad.
Do you think your government in Madhya Pradesh is facing anti-incumbency sentiments?
The love and respect for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the schemes of the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh are changing the lives of the people. Therefore, there will not be anything like anti-incumbency in the state. There is neither anything anti nor incumbency in Madhya Pradesh.
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will sound the poll bugle from Jabalpur on June 12. What do you have to say about that?
I do not have anything to comment on her. Let her and the Congress leaders do what they like.
How did you conceive the idea of Ladli Behna Yojana?
The sex ratio in Madhya Pradesh was 912:1000. This was constantly deteriorating. Daughters used to be considered a liability. I thought till daughters would be considered a burden, people would not allow them to be born. On several occasions, they were killed in the womb. After considerable deliberations, I prepared the Ladli Laxmi Yojana in 2006. It was ascertained that the moment a daughter is born, a certain amount would be credited to her bank account. It was linked to her education – that she will get Rs 2,000 on reaching Class VI, Rs 4,000 on reaching IX, so on and so forth. Then we added a part in 2021 that she will get Rs 12,500 when she gets enrolled in a college and another Rs 12,500 on passing out from college. Now we are adding the provision that the government will bear the cost of her education if she gets enrolled in NEET (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test) or JEE (Joint Entrance Examination). It means a daughter is no longer a burden. I say daughter has become a boon. She will get Rs 1 lakh when she attains 21 years of age. This is one scheme.
On several occasions, people used to consider even marriage of a daughter as a burden because of dowry, other expenses and related matters. That is why people wished to have only sons and not daughters. Therefore, I launched Mukhya Mantri Kanyadan Yojana in 2006. Lakhs of daughters have been married off under this scheme.
Then I thought that till daughters and sisters assumed political leadership, they would not be empowered in the true sense. We introduced 50% reservation to women in the local bodies’ election in 2007-2008. Earlier, not even 5-10% women would get elected to the local bodies. Now 56% women have been elected as panch, sarpanch, councillor, corporator, municipalities, municipal corporations and at several places.
Madhya Pradesh was the first state in the country to give 30% reservation to women in the police department. This decision was strongly opposed. People doubted and questioned whether women would be able to handle law and order situations. The police officers also opposed it. But I put my foot down.
Then I reserved 50% seats in the recruitment of teachers. Further, property used to be bought largely in the name of males. In a significant step, we decided to impose only 1% stamp duty if any property such as land, shop or house is bought in the name of a female. The duty is higher if a property is bought in the name of a male. Therefore, the family started buying property in the names of females to save money. At the moment 45% properties have been bought in the name of females in Madhya Pradesh. That led to a unique social revolution.
Further, for a poor sister who is a labourer, we decided to give Rs 4,000 when she is pregnant and Rs 12,000 after she gives birth to a boy or a girl so that she is able to give nutritious food to the baby and can herself take rest for some days after giving birth to a child. Sambal Yojana was also implemented to give bicycles to daughters. There are several such schemes.
Therefore, the Ladli Behna Yojana has not been implemented just like that. There is a chain of schemes for women empowerment in Madhya Pradesh. If the impact assessment of Ladli Laxmi Yojana is done, you will find that 956:1000 daughters are now born in place of 912:1000 born earlier.
In 2017, we prepared a scheme for the Baiga, Bhariya and Sahariya sisters who belong to extremely backward tribes. They suffered from malnutrition and faced several other problems. I thought to straightaway give them Rs 1,000 instead of providing them nutritious food. When money will go to a mother, she will feed her children and will not indulge in wasteful expenditure. However, the Kamal Nath government scrapped that scheme. Later, when I got its impact assessment done, we found that the standard of nutrition improved in the families which had got the money because the mothers spent the money on buying milk, pulses, vegetables and fruits for her children. Then it occurred to me that if this scheme was expanded to include all poor and backward class sisters, it would work wonders and would lead to a social revolution.
Therefore, this Ladli Behna Scheme was conceived on January 28. We decided to transfer Rs 1,000 to the bank accounts of poor and backward class women. Today is the beginning of that transfer of money.

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