empowering the girl child is the best way to empower the nation
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The Integrated Child Development Programme (ICDS) run by the government is the largest in the world. Government figures show that ICDS has brought down infant mortality rate (IMR) from 55.1 in 1970 to 28.2 in 1992 and in case of female babies from 131 in 1978 to 80 in 1992. Life expectancy of women has risen sharply according to the report and stands at 58.1 years which is higher than that for men at 57.7 years. Statistically speaking, at the beginning of the century, women were not expected to survive beyond 23.96 years. They have, however, still to catch up on the literacy rate which now stands at 39.29 per cent for women as opposed to 64 per cent for men. Keeping in line with the government’s policy on equal opportunity, there are 65 women in senior positions in the Indian Foreign Service. It is commendable that despite various hurdles the government has managed to ensure equal career opportunities for women. The National Literacy Mission through the Total Literacy Campaigns (TLCs) has played a key role in raising awareness on issues of gender equity. The National Perspective Plan for Women (1988-2000) was drawn up as an important strategy to change social attitudes.
The government has taken a number of steps and enacted a number of legislations to protect and safeguard women and ensure that their rights are not abused. One such measure is the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961. Before the enactment of this law, the grant of maternity leave and cash benefits were included in the Factories Act, 1948, Mines Act 1952 and Bidi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966 amongst others. Under the Central Service (Leave) Rules 1972, "female government employees are at present entitled to maternity leave for a period of 135 days from the date of commencement. During such period the employee is paid leave salary equal to the pay drawn immediately before proceeding on leave". But laws, unless enforced, tend to be ignored and abused.
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