Nanhi Chaan. A movement conceived by Harpal Singh, Chairman Ranbaxy Laboratories, and being spearheaded by Ms. Harsimrat Kaur in Punjab with support from SGPC.
Ms. Harsimrat Kaur Badal is the wife of Surjit Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Dy. Chief Minister of Punjab and president of SAD party. Sukhbir Singh Badal is the son of Prakash Singh Badal, the current Chief Minister of Punjab. So the movement receives support from the State machinery as well.
Nanhi Chaan has been started as a movement to tackle the twin issues of Environmental damage and Female Feticide in Punjab. Conceptually, the idea holds lot of merit. Two important issues for the society brought together functionally and symbolically. Equate a woman with a tree: nurturing, caring and providing shade. This equivalence leads to another one of girl as a sapling, which leads to the formula, plant both saplings and girls. (Of course, some may question whether the symbolism instead reinforces the traditional gender roles of woman in the caring role. I believe it does but – in this case – in a positive manner. Why? Because a main reason for people wanting to have a son is their belief that sons look after their parents when the latter turn old. Daughters are seen as ‘paraya dhan’, to be ‘given away’ to her in-laws where she is supposed to rightfully belong. But if daughters too are perceived as trees — strong independent and offering support to their parents — it might help in reducing the preference-differences for sons-daughters.)
Punjab is plagued by both the problems: 1) female feticide leading to low female to male sex ratio, and 2) the Green Revolution leading to environmental damage. Nanhi Chaan aims to bring both these issues on the same platform.
Unfortunately, the various controversies surrounding the Badal family seem to be clouding the Nanhi Chaan movement too: many see it as a political stunt to get coverage for Ms. Harsimrat Kaur who had earlier denied it flatly (“I am not in the fray” for the LS elections). But it turns out that she is after all contesting the LS seat as a SAD-BJP candidate from Bhatinda in the forthcoming general elections. [update: she won the election and is now the MP from Bhatinda.]
The question is, should the fact that she has jumped into politics be held against the Nanhi Chaan movement she helped start and is working for? Much as I do not support the Badal family’s policies (or lack thereof) on the development of Punjab (or lack thereof), Nanhi Chaan however seems to be a project that makes lot of common sense. Full power to it.