‘Beti Bachao, Selfie Banao’: Modi finally takes a step in the right direction

Published: July 1, 2015

Mr Modi has suggested that Indians should take selfies.

It’s hard to take Narendra Modi seriously. As a member of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh political party) and a controversial one at that, his election to the post of the 15th Prime Minister of India is more likely to make most people raise their brows in amazement. But every tub can stand on its own bottom even if it wobbles at times, and Mr Modi proves he too has some stable ideas.

Mr Modi has suggested that Indians should take selfies. Not just random selfies but selfies of themselves with their daughters and post these pictures onto any social media platform with a relevant caption. He has promised to repost the best of these selfies on Twitter.

The reason?

To help stop female infanticide in India.

Selfies have been popular for a while. An American photographer produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839, which was also the first photograph ever taken with a person as a subject. More recently, selfies on social media have become increasingly popular. In fact in 2011, when a photographer’s camera was stolen in the wild by an apelike primate called a crested black macaque was rediscovered, it was found to contain hundreds of selfies (of the photographer), and right at the very end, one of the primate itself. Grinning. Interestingly, Barack Obama also made headlines when he was spotted taking selfies with the Danish Prime Minister and David Cameron. All of them smiling widely.

The term ‘selfie’ itself was suggested in 2005, and by 2012 Time Magazine included it in a list of top ten buzzwords of the year. The following year the Oxford English Dictionary acknowledged the existence of the word by including it in its online version.

But this is not about selfies. That short background was given to just explain how things have the capacity to catch on and become big from a humble start. And if they solve a few problems along the way then it’s even better.

Mr Modi’s suggestion regarding selfies is not his own. Sunil Jangat, the head of the Panchayat, of one of Haryana’s villages has been trying to promote these selfies for a while. The Indian Prime Minister decided to capitalise on Jangat’s idea and take it a step forward. It is an idea worth pushing.

Female infanticide, the deliberate killing of a female baby because a male child is considered to be worth keeping and a female is not, is an old crime and is not restricted to India or to this time. It was common in Arabia, and was common and still occurs in China. In Delphi, in Greece at one time, out of 6,000 families, only 1% had more than one daughter. Islam forbade this practice, and the Quran mentions the terrible question the female infant will ask when she is resurrected on the Day of Judgement: Why was I killed?

Today, baby girls are still killed at birth in Taiwan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Singapore, the Caucasus, some sub-Saharan countries, and among some tribes in Brazil. The ways in which these practices are carried out does not bear reading and I cannot bring myself to write about them here, except to mention that one such method requires to feed poison to the baby girl, while breast feeding her for the first time. If this makes you cry, I have made my point.

In India, Sunil Jangat’s province of Haryana has the highest rate of female infanticide in the country. In 2012, Jangat and his sister conducted a survey in which they discovered that from March to May that year alone, 15 girls were born as opposed to 25 boys. There was clearly something wrong, particularly when the overall ratios were analysed as the statistics in 2012 read, 700 girls to a 1000 boys.

Jangat’s sister created a group of educated women in their village, Bibipur, and trained them. Jangat included women speakers at the panchayat, and women have since participated in all the major panchayats across Haryana. He staged a play during which the message against female infanticide was put across. They tried to discover why women were not considered important in an agricultural society. The elderly women of Haryana said it was more than a question of carrying the name forward; it was also because in a society such as theirs, girls cannot provide for themselves. And once they marry, they go away.

By adding his voice to the effort in such a constructive way, Mr Modi has shown that he has taken note of the magnitude of the problem faced by his country and is willing to bring a change. A selfie, a hundred or a thousand selfies may seem like a small effort but who has not seen the selfie taken by Ellen DeGeneres during the 2014 Oscars, the one that contained twelve Oscar celebrities, which eventually became the most retweeted image ever with 779,295 tweets in half an hour?

Especially because everyone carries a powerful medium like the cell phone in their pocket these days, it’s become much easier to push such campaigns.

If selfies of people with their daughters become the ‘in thing’, and some of them are even retweeted by the prime minister, the images will hopefully not fall on deaf ears. So well done, Mr Modi. Few people may agree with your sartorial sense but you’ve clearly got a point this time.


Rabia Ahmed

The author is a freelance writer and translator.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Critical

    Some pseudo intellectuals like Kavita and Shruthi always want to find fault in whatever Modi does,whether its good or bad and then play victim card when questioned back…

    I agree that taking a selfie alone cannot cure the problems of Indian women but it was part of ‘beti bachao,beti padao’ and Modi adopted the sarpanch’s idea and was able to convey the message instead of using billboards and national ads…

    What next?? if Modi promotes Rakshabandan, would they start supporting incest???Recommend

  • Maverick_NZ

    By reducing female infanticide? By banning the RSS? By reducing powers of hindu extremists involved in female infanticide? No, by taking a selfie with his daughter.Recommend

  • wb

    “It’s hard to take Narendra Modi seriously. ”

    You’re either being facetious or being stupid. Either way it’s not going to affect anyone else. Please don’t think that because I’m commenting, I’m affected. I’m not, just as much a fisherman is not affected by the millions of fishes he catches.

    A man elected by the largest democracy can hardly be a joke. You can take it as a joke, only at your own peril.

    Coming to the point, Modi has taken the most correct steps since Indira Gandhi. He’s the best PM India has since Indira.

    Nobody can match Indira. She’s the best.

    Now, I have a lot of reservations and even fears regarding Modi. I’m afraid that he might turn out to be the dictator we feared for 80 years(Not that he would last with my own onslaught). I’m also afraid that he might turn out to be the next Indira (post 1975).

    However, both ways, he’s the one that the entire world has to take seriously.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Modi finally takes a step in the right direction”

    Modi has become such a dogma among some that even if you have to say something good about him, it is important you remind your speakers that you are no fan of him.

    The same people do not mind being proud of those who have been responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands. I guess this is nationalism for some, “your nationalist is my enemy and it does not matter what you think of mine”.Recommend

  • Critical

    Modi launched “beti padao,beti bachao” campaign to reduce female infanticide and gives cash incentives to families who put their daughter in school..

    By using the selfies,he has spent zero rupees on the campaign and advertisement costs…Normally magazines like BBC,Time,Reuters will not cover schemes launched in India but the twitter buzz with #Selfiewithdaughter helped them notice and gave more advertisement than Indian govt could have done using PRs,Billboards etc…

    By the way,would a blog be written in a pakistani paper had the Selfie trend not gone viral????Recommend

  • wb

    Let’s not call them pseudo intellectuals. If they’re pseudo-intellectuals, then I’m also a pseudo. No matter if I’m an intellectual or not.

    I’m opposed to Rakshabandhan myself. Doesn’t matter if it promotes incest or not.

    In South, we have a much stronger tradition that is beyond tying flimsy threads. That still reflects brother-sister relationship.

    So, let’s not get tied up in these nonsense. The fact of the matter is, some of Modi’s acts are worthy of emulation and the rest are worthy of condemnation.Recommend

  • DK

    It may amaze the author to know that Modi has always advocated women empowerment and girl child education. As Gujarat’s CM, when he was not “massacring Muslims”, he was creating programs to empower women at the village level, hiring female forest rangers and focusing on school attendance. I’m sure a few Muslims may also have benefited inadvertently. His hand picked successor in Gujarat is also a woman and a tough one at that.

    As far as the RSS is concerned, they will not harm you if you are well behaved and not naughty.Recommend

  • rohit950723

    When Hindu became extremist…India has produced Gandhi, Buddha and Mahavira…RSS is a right wing organization which preach violence only if attacked… Look at the history…Recommend

  • someone

    “its hard to take Modi seriously” . Well lady ,not sure which planet you belong to but billions of Indians do take him seriously. That 1/5th of the Earth’s human population. And certainly your country’s army and civilian government does take him TOO seriously and so do your country’s news paper because every day there is an editorial or blog about him every day, just like yours. Mere name of Modi in your blog is enough to attract the readership and you know it too damn well.Recommend

  • swamy

    Get the message and do not judge messenger. I can understand some having opinions on Modi, right or wrong. But the subject is GIRL CHILD. Selfie is not just photo it is a message it is communication. One has to see the reaction and enthusiasm in #sefiewithdaughter to believe. No dogma, no doles will change unless there is change of mindset. The social engineering done with voluntary participation is revolutionary. The problem of sub continent is we confuse ourselves, When girl child is to be encouraged we start talking of 2002 riots or on RSS or some vague reasons. If we only compartmentalize our thoughts we will be the developed countriesRecommend

  • someone

    You are a joke Sir. Pleas do not comment about things you do not know about. There is not one reason to ban RSS. Female child killing is not limited to “Hindus” only. May you missed the lines where bloggers mentioned “Pakistan” as one of the country where female child killing is rampant as well. Don’t tell me those are “Hindu” extremists too in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Headstrong

    What did you expect? This paper represents a nation wholly obsessed with Modi, and India in general, and give less coverage to their own PM. Modi must be doing a lot right if he is represented as the bogeyman for pakistan. And this writer has the gall to start her article with “It’s hard to take Narendra Modi seriously”! Ma’am, please do ask the rest of your country folk. They’re getting nightmares because of modi, even if you don’t take him seriously. As for Modi and the rest of us Indians, we give two hoots for your certificate.

    But let’s also be patronising here – a good article, as far as it goes…Recommend

  • Gujesh

    Modi finally takes a step in the right direction. It is not finally. He has been doing it in Gujarat since last ten years. Sex ratio in the state has improved and it is expected that it will be 50:50 in next ten years or so.Recommend

  • ajeet

    I’m sure Nawaz has bigger problems than selfie as he visits and gets Raheel’s permission before his every action. Democracy Pakistani style

  • kartikey

    SO are U trying to say that modi is not a right minded what he has done in 1 year is basless….Recommend

  • mimi sur

    This writer says it is hard to take NM seriously, while others say “He is a no-nonsense leader” . He has become a such a cult for few that many start their article with a disclaimer “He/She is not a fan of Modi” . BTW, I am also a RSS member .Recommend

  • Nomad1412

    Those who are not Indians talk of RSS as if it is some sort of Taliban or one of the many proscribed organizations that run rampant in Pakistan.

    That is not at all true. In all my life in India, I have come across the RSS only once and that was in Kollam, Kerala where they were holding a multi-day meet near the place where I was staying. A few times I passed by, some were making speeches and other times they were doing exercises. Nothing untoward happened the entire time I was there. As a minority myself, I did not feel the least bit threatened.

    Your line “By reducing powers of hindu extremists involved in female infanticide?” also makes no sense at all.Recommend

  • saswath

    Dear author although we should not expect tolerance from you considering from where you are coming..but at-least be honest of your instincts…you don’t have hatred because he is inefficient but for the religion he represents which is far tolerant then those who claim to be most tolerant but act otherwise evidently. And when you get same treatment elsewhere you keep crying victimization and segregation. Can u vouch for any of your leader who is half credible, honest and sincere for your country like Mr. Narendra Modi is for India?Recommend

  • saswath

    Yes they would undoubtedly…even yechuri type will go for bestiality as medical cure for all diseases.Recommend

  • saswath

    She’s trying to compare her good for nothing PM.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    The people who are proud of Jinnah calling him a Muslim nationalist for creating a country out of blood bath have an issue with a Hindu nationalist Modi suggests that it is not the ideology that some in Pakistan are unhappy about but the person using that ideology, there simply is no place for a Hindu nationalist who are expected to be ashamed of who they are, the fact that this man has been given an overwhelming majority in the parliament and he is making the best use of it vis a vis Pakistan is even more difficult to digest for them.

    How does it matter to a Pakistani who is being elected by the people of India, they rejected the idea of India in 1947, the fact that they still have to talk about Modi so vehemently proves that Pakistan still remains a negation of India, take that out and it would be left to wonder what is its national identity.Recommend

  • Milind A

    The opening statement “It’s hard to take Narendra Modi seriously.” confirms the bias of this writer… Nobody here in India cares what Pakistanis think of Modi, nor anybody expects them to laud him.. THe writer should be worried about the standing of Pakistanis in the world.. Nobody takes them seriously.Recommend

  • Milind A

    You didn’t get the gist of his argument… Nobody’s forcing anybody (especially you) for rakshabandhan.. However if Modi appeals for the same, then the pseudos he mentioned will try to decipher & attribute malicious intentions to it, in their blind hatred of Modi… And that’s the problem.. Objective criticism is welcome… Blind opposition (just like Blind adulation) does no good.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Er… Indira as best PM… Well if liberating Bangladesh is the only barometer of ‘best PM’ then she is… But she was the one who introduced cynical politics, promoted corruption (by justifying it), created problems (Khalistan, LTTE) etc.
    Lal Bahadur Shastri (no-nonsense/upright), Narsimha Rao (vision), A.B.Vajpayee (statesmanship) were definitely better.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    “It’s hard to take Narendra Modi seriously.”

    Then I would suggest a visit to the shrinkRecommend

  • Critical

    As Milind reiterated,you didnt understand my Rakshabandan statement,I just used it as an example…FYI..Rakshabandan promotes brotherly-sisterly love even between persons who arent siblings….You need not celebrate Rakshabandan but there is no logic to oppose it just because Modi approved it…

    My comment was that anything Modi said or does,there is always a group which either criticizes that or does something opposite to that…just to show that they are not “sheeps” and the only persons who can think straight …Sometimes Its so funny because their bias clearly shows and their rebuttals have no logic..just like Shruthi Seth and Kavita….Recommend

  • wb

    She did many good things that we don’t want to remember. If not for Indira’s green revolution, today we’d be a starving country. If not for Indira’s conservation efforts, today we’d have no lions or tigers.

    If not for Indira’s determination, today Indian Punjab would have been Khalistan. She was the one who killed the Khalistan movement. At least she started the killing process.

    She did not create the problems of Khalistan or LTTE. That’s far fetched and baseless.

    No one can come even close to Indira.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    But I thought the shrink visits Modi, not vice versa haha. He is PM now, com’on!Recommend

  • abhi

    Modi has done lots of good in last 1 year. Selfie with daughter is only one instance.Recommend

  • Ali

    If no one in India cares of what Pakistan thinks about Modi, why are you reading this article. We are just laughing what clown this Modi is.Recommend

  • Ali

    India is a hell for girls and women, taking selfies won’t cure that. How about banning the hindu rituals of murdering daughters.Recommend

  • Sane

    After Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the world needed another clown. Shortly Modi replaced him.Recommend

  • Sane

    Modi is mentally imbalance person and could not come out from his Chaiwala mentality.Recommend

  • Sane

    Your reply proves that every Indian is very seriously taking what Pakistanis are saying and thinking. You also and other Indians take Pakistan and Pakistanis very serious. That’s the reason you are on a Pakistani news site and you start hate mongering against Pakistan and Pakistanis. Note that Pakistan and Pakistanis will keep you pricking all the time. Pakistan will always be a pain for you without any remedy. You and your generations will have to live with this. Mind it …. this pain keeps growing day by day. This is another kind of pain.Recommend

  • Sane

    He did a lot for Gujarat. His very noble and distinguished contribution is killing thousand of Muslims in Gujarat while he was chief minister of Gujarat.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Note that Pakistan and Pakistanis will keep you pricking all the time. Pakistan will always be a pain for you without any remedy. ”

    You are right on the pricking part but wrong on the remedy part, 1971 was a remedy which I hope you do not want to be treated with again.

    Your comment also proves that your state’s biggest value is its nuisance value and nothing else.

    “This is another kind of pain.”

    Yes the kind of pain you had to suffer when innocent people were massacred in a school.Recommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “How does it matter to a Pakistani who is being elected by the people of India”
    The US and Israel were alarmed when Hamas gained in elections in Palestine in 2012.

    It is only natural that Pakistan look down upon a leader who was banned from entering the US because of his involvement in the Gujrat riots and has ties to the extremist RSS (which still clings to the dead idea of Akhand Bharat).

    Thus I would say that the problem lies with you and Modi’s worldview and past rather than us…Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Ever wondered how does the world look upon your entire country or shall I give you the links, are you now going to look down upon yourself?

    A million people don’t die while creating a country followed by another 3 million for trying to keep it intact if you were surrounded by liberal people, Pakistanis should be the last people to be giving moral lessons on peace.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “We are just laughing what clown this Modi is.”

    Meanwhile the world is rolling out red carpet to Modi, your ‘brotherly’ Muslim nations and deeper than ocean friend China, included.Recommend

  • Milind A

    “She did not create the problems of Khalistan or LTTE. That’s far fetched and baseless”

    Well then you’re not aware of it.. There was always a miniscule minority amongst Sikhs, who clamoured for a separate Sikh lad since independence. However these characters did not have much hold amongst Sikhs and that demand remained latent… Come the 70s, in her bid to break the stranglehold of Janata Party – Akali combine, she courted the most regressive element amongst Sikhs – Bhindranwale, as part of her cynical politics.. The rest is history…Recommend

  • Milind A

    And Pakistan is jannat for girls & women…. How about banning rituals of honour killings, karo-kari, rape with 4 witnesses.Recommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “A million people don’t die”
    You are obsessed with partition. India was born in the same partition violence in which Hindus also took part, which you conveniently forget. Your comment of Nationalism “”your nationalist is my enemy”” just further shows more hypocrisy as you act the same way towards Pakistani nationalists…

    Furthermore India has been involved in massacres against Sikh and Kashmiri people (to keep India “intact) so you really don’t have any right to lecture on moral lessons either…Recommend

  • Prashant

    “You are obsessed with partition. India was born in the same partition violence in which Hindus also took part, which you conveniently forget”

    Hindus did not ask for a separate homeland, you did and neither the call for a direct action was given by a Hindu.

    “You are obsessed with partition.”

    No, I am not. I am just responding to a man obsessed with India and Kashmir by citing partition because no other instance is a better rebuttal than the partition along with the likes of the million dollar bounty man Hafiz Saeed.Recommend

  • Hamid

    Mr. Praashant, please consider, for every 1000 hindu men
    there are only 675 hindu women. The only country in the
    world with this kind of disparity. It is too late already. You
    Hindustanis have committed these mass killings of infant
    girls for hundreds of years. it will take hundreds of years to bring parity again. If ever.Recommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “Hindus did not ask for a separate homeland”
    Nevertheless they took part in partition violence and this is undeniable. Or are you trying to say they were justified for killing Muslims who were asking for their own homeland, free of repression?

    “neither the call for a direct action”
    Again they (Congress and Hindu Mahasabha members) took part in the Calcutta riots (the Muslim casualties are just as high as the Hindu) as well as in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in UP and Bihar.

    “I am just responding to a man obsessed with India and Kashmir”
    Who is that exactly? The author is a woman or do you mean headstrong who is an Indian?…If you mean me then I did not comment until after you. No-one even brought up Kashmir until now. The irony is pretty great considering you have around 2000+ comments on a Pakistani news site.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Your comment proves that you and your so called country is nothing but a nuisance to this world.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Why a Pakistani wrote article about Indian PM?Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Wrong factsRecommend

  • Swaadhin

    “Nevertheless they took part in partition violence and this is undeniable. Or are you trying to say they were justified for killing Muslims who were asking for their own homeland, free of repression?”

    No Hindus were not justified in killing Muslims but what did you expect after having given the call for direct action and uprooting people from the lands they lived in for generations. The violence was inevitable from both sides.

    Which repression you are talking about, I thought it is the Muslims who took pride in the plunderers and looters of India and identified themselves with them, when the Hindus did not have the political power for centuries, how come they oppressed you?

    “Again they (Congress and Hindu Mahasabha members) took part in the Calcutta riots (the Muslim casualties are just as high as the Hindu) as well as in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in UP and Bihar.”

    There is no doubt the killings happened from both sides, you may have read a different history but the world knows that Suhrawardy had not only instigated but supervised the Great Calcutta riots, the Muslims continued in Noakhali and the reaction was the riots in Bihar.

    “f you mean me then I did not comment until after you.”

    If you give us lessons in morality, we will resort with Jinnah, partition and the likes of Hafiz Saeed.

    “The irony is pretty great considering you have around 2000+ comments on a Pakistani news site.”

    Isn’t it better to comment than sending mercenaries like Kasab across?Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Great analysis. Your country needs a few more brains like you from an Indian perspective.Recommend

  • Ranger

    you cant think better than that ..because of your identity ..that’s where the problem is….Shall we go back into history to discuss the biggest murderers?…. BTW, lets talk about the present , for instance middle east..Recommend

  • Sane

    Innocent students in school were massacred by your security agencies.Recommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “what did you expect after having given the call for direct action”

    Direct action was a call for protests and hartaals. Violence only occurred afterwards and Surawarthy actually had a role in stopping them.

    “uprooting people from the lands they lived in for generations.”

    Uprooting didn’t happen in Calcutta (riots did), and once again you forget that an equal if not greater number of Muslims were killed.

    “the world knows that Suhrawardy had not only instigated but supervised the Great Calcutta riots”

    I wonder what world that is…
    Surawarthy was the one who brought in the army and stopped the rioters by confronting them in the streets alongside Gandhi. Why would Congress agree to work alongside him if they considered him guilty?

    “Suhrawardy, however, was a man of courage. Journalist Nikhil Chakravarty once told me how, once he joined Gandhi’s peace
    effort, Suhrawardy confronted rioting mobs unarmed and single-handed in his distinctive patriarchal style. I remember him visiting our place once or twice to meet my father who also was a part of the peace effort.”
    Ashis Nandy. Schoolboy, Calcutta, 1946

    “Without caring for his personal safety, Suhrawardy helped hundreds of stranded Muslims and also Hindus who needed
    protection. He did not distinguish between Muslims and Hindus. Anyone who needed help in that dangerous situation received due help and assistance.”
    Roquyya Jafri,
    Position. Calcutta, 1946

    Do you honestly believe your own propaganda with no evidence? It is you with a twisted version of history…

    “I thought it is the Muslims who took pride in the plunderers and looters of India ”

    I am in no mood to talk about pre-1900’s. History is history and we feel no need to apologise.

    “how come they oppressed you?”
    In 1945 the position of Muslims was quite weak. That’s why the ML won under it’s mandate for Pakistan.

    “If you give us lessons in morality, we will resort with”
    Of-course we can easily counter with Modi (of the Gujrat massacare). Bose (the Axis supporter), Bhagat (the anarchist), etc which you will jump to defend. I believe you have done so before. Ultimately this whataboutism is pointless..Recommend

  • Hypocrisy?

    “Isn’t it better to comment than sending mercenaries like Kasab across?”
    Are you implying that Pakistani commenters on this site had a role in those events? If you think so, then do carry on… it would be better for you to vent your frustration like this than to carry out your revenge mentality like in the case of certain Indians in the Samjhota Express case…Recommend