Son preference is a well-documented phenomenon in India, with a report saying an estimated 500,000 female foetuses are aborted in the country every year. So when Bollywood’s first family, the Bachchans, welcomed the birth of a daughter with open arms, they may have given a huge fillip to the girl child.
Nearly a week after the event, the Bachchan family was still gushing about the newborn Tuesday when they finally brought her home from hospital.
“Goddess Lakshmi has come to our home and we have brought home Lakshmi ratan,” said Amitabh Bachchan about his granddaughter, born to son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya.
The message could be lost to none.
Celebrities are often used as brand ambassadors by NGOs to drive home a point. And there can be no better example of that in India than Amitabh Bachchan, who was once successfully roped in for the polio vaccination drive.
What’s more, the birth of a girl child in his family has been hailed by other celebrities too, promising a larger impact on Bollywood fans.
Soon after Aishwarya gave birth Nov 16, TV host Mini Mathur tweeted: “My heart warms up 2 see the nation welcome a baby girl with so much love. Hope it learns 2 give the same affection to all our tiny angels.”
Gul Panag wrote: “Here’s hoping the little Bachchan baby girl will give many others a reason to let their baby girls actually BE born. In a country where #femalefoeticide is widespread, a baby girl born to celebrity parents will hopefully have some positive effect.”
Both Abhishek and his mother, Jaya Bachchan, were keen on a girl child.
“I wish for a healthy baby, hopefully, a daughter who looks just like Ash,” Abhishek said in an interview, while his mom expressed her desire to welcome a “poti” (granddaughter).
Naysayers had once wagged their tongues against Amitabh and accused him of being biased towards the male child when at a gathering in Varanasi in 2006 he said he wanted his son to get married and produce a son.
But they were proved wrong when an excited Big B tweeted after his granddaughter’s birth: “I AM DADA to the cutest baby girl, A dada ji … Ecstatic.”
The 69-year-old’s mega success on the big screen turned him into an icon and his celebrity status worked wonders when he was roped in to campaign for polio eradication in 2002.
The country has recorded a worst decadal child sex ratio since independence as per the Census of India 2011. According to a report, since 1991, 80 percent of districts in India have recorded a declining sex ratio with the state of Punjab being the worst.
The decline in the child sex ratio in India is evident in the census figures. In 2001, the figure was 927 girls to 1,000 boys. Ten years later it has fallen to 914 girls against 1,000 boys.
Haryana is said to be the worst affected state – grooms have to travel thousands of kilometers in search of a bride as there are not enough girls there.
“Most of the time when celebrities of high stature like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan or Shabana Azmi promote a social campaign, it becomes the movement of new India as people start following them. Let’s hope that Abhishek and Ash’s baby girl creates the positive influence on all those families who are against the birth of the girl child,” said Meghna Rao who runs an NGO called Breakthrough.
“It might change the way people welcome the baby girl in India and I am hopeful that she will also change the rude attitude of people,” she added.
A study commissioned by the Health Ministry and Unicef and conducted by the Social and Rural Research Institute found that 73.6 percent guardians with children under the age of five in lower socio-economic categories could recall the television advertisement featuring Big B.
“The Bachchan family has always been responsible citizens, starting from the late Harivansh Rai Bachchan to Amitabh Bachchan and this is not only because of their status in society but because of their social responsibility towards society,” said designer Anu P.D., who is associated with NGO The Earth Foundation, which contributes to different healthcare segments.
“Aishwarya and Abhishek are blessed with a baby girl and I am sure this will increase awareness among the masses,” she said.