Chandigarh: Amid huge fanfare, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched the nationwide Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (Save Girl, Educate Her) campaign from Panipat, in Haryana, in a determined effort to counter the adverse sex ratio in the country.

“India’s Prime Minister is standing in front of you as a beggar. I have come here to beg for the life of the girl child. In nearby Kurukshetra district, a boy called Prince fell into a well, and the whole nation watched the rescue operation on TV. For one Prince, people united to pray, but with so many girls killed, we do not react. We are not worthy of being called citizens of the 21st century. It is as if we are from the 18th century. At that time, just after a girl’s birth, she was killed. We are worse now, we do not even allow the girl to be born,” Modi said after launching the ambitious programme.

The campaign, to be initiated in 100 worst districts in the country for child sex ratio, aims to sensitise people about the safety and education of the girl child, skewed sex ratio, prevention of female foeticide, and women empowerment.

“Placing importance on sons above daughters is a psychological illness. Girls are better performers than boys. If you need proof, just look at exam results. People want educated daughters-in-law but think several times before educating their own daughters. How can this go on? If we do not realise the crisis brought by female foeticide, our coming generations will face a major problem. For every 1,000 male child births, there should be 1,000 girl child births,” Modi added urging the nation to take a pledge to oppose female foeticide.

According to United Nations’ data, India’s child sex ratio dropped from 964 in 1971 to 918 in 2011. Between 2001 and 2011, the decline was seen in more than two-thirds of the districts in the nation. A 2011 study published in the British medical journal the Lancet found that as many as 12 million Indian girls may have been selectively aborted between 1980 and 2010.

The programme has been launched from Haryana as the state has the worst child sex ratio in the country. As per the 2011 census, the number of females per 1,000 males in Haryana in 2011 stands at 879. Out of the 100 worst districts in India for sex ratio, Haryana accounts for 12 districts.

Addressing the event, PM Modi said, “as a society we all have a responsibility. We have to be aware. We do not have the right to kill the girl child. What we are pledging to do today will not change things fast, it takes time for people’s mindset to change. The message is for entire nation. The thought that only a son will take care of you during your old age is incorrect. Lets not look back and shift blame, lets wake up and work together to get rid of this scourge. Beta beti ek samaan [girls and boys are equal], this should be our mantra.”

In a direct message to the doctors, Modi said, “to them, I say, the society has made you a doctor to save lives, to get rid of pain, illness not to kill girl children”.

The issue of decline in child sex ration is complex and the scheme will address the issue within the broad framework of survival, protection and education of girl children.

Modi flagged 72 campaign vehicles on Thursday.

Evergreen Bollywood diva Madhuri Dixit has been roped in as the brand ambassador of the ambitious campaign. Dixit took to Twitter to announce the news and her happiness to be the face of the campaign.

“We have reached the Moon and the Mars, but sadly, still some view the daughter as a burden. I am proud that in its first year in the office, the government started this initiative. I have immense expectations from this,” Dixit, who attended the event, said.