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Telangana: In the 2004 Ashutosh Gowarikar film Swades, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan who plays the protagonist, Mohan Bhargava, is sent on a journey of self-discovery by `Kaveri Amma’ when she sends him to a far-off village and he returns a changed man… the story of Rohit Kulkarni is a little similar. This software engineer working with an MNC dreamt like every other youth in Telangana that he would head for Silicon Valley.His mother asked him to give her one year and serve in the village. It is now three and a half years since he started working as village secretary at Haridaspur and Rohith now does not see himself going away to what was his land of dreams.Lottoland Aaj ka Sitara Rohit Kulkarni is a software engineer who quit a corporate job with an MNC to work in the village. The 30-year-old is bringing about a quiet social change by turning the birth of every baby girl into a village festival and a public celebration. When NDTV visited the village, it was celebration time in the tribal hamlet, at the home of Banoth Saritha and Anand who were recently blessed with a baby girl. Not just tribal lambadas, it was as though everyone in Haridaspur village of Telangana had gathered at their home to welcome the arrival of the little one. The mother and father joined in the dance and so did elders, uncles and aunts. The baby girl was then taken in a joyful procession to the village panchayat so they could be formally honoured.This song, dance and celebration ritual is now a tradition in the village every time a baby girl is born. In the last two and a half years (30 months), they have celebrated the birth of 85 baby girls.”Earlier boys and girls were treated differently. Now girls are also being treated as equal,” says Saritha.Rohit takes us to the home of 30-month-old toddler Bhavayashree. She was born as the third, and unwanted daughter of Nagesh Goud and Satyavati. When Rohit visited their home, he was shocked that instead of smiles of joy, there was anger and tears, a massive showdown in the family, that it was once again a baby girl.Rohit decided that this needed to change and declared that the entire village would celebrate the baby girl’s birth.Satyavati, mother of Bhavyashree, says there was big trouble when her third daughter was born. “All my three children are girls. When the third was born, there was trouble. But now I am happy because the secretary and sarpanch supported us. They counselled family members and said a girl child is like Goddess Lakshmi coming to the house.”Nagesh Goud,  father of the three girls, admits that he had indeed hoped for a son. “We were a little heartbroken. Secretary sir gave me confidence and celebrated her birth like a festival. I saw everyone happy and we were all eating and dancing. I realised it was wrong on my part to mourn the birth of a baby girl.”Baby girls born in the village are invited along with the mother and are honoured. There are sweets, band and baaja. In the name of every girl child, a Sukanya Samridhdhi account, a scheme of the Central government specifically to support the girl child, is opened and as an incentive, Rs 1000 is deposited in it. Rohit says there is a quiet change in the village, in attitudes towards the girl child. “There is a change of mindset. The main focus of this program was behaviour change that having a girl is no less than a boy. Both are equal because the kind of opportunities government is providing, the environment and technologies are helping provide equal platform to boy and girl. They started understanding.”Rohit says what he advocates is to teach every boy to respect and think of every girl child as valuable. “Bete ko padao ki beti ko bachao…” (Educate the boy to save the girl child)Telangana has a child sex ratio of 933 girls for every 1000 boys in the 0-6 age category, whereas adult sex ratio is 988 women for every 1000 men. What Rohit’s initiative has done is not just to make the girl child very visible, but to proactively improve her status, so she has a chance for a better future. 



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