By Debaprio D. Choudhury
New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) The Tetseo Sisters, an all-girl band from the northeast, has hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign, saying it was a “good move in the right direction” and they will be happy to contribute in highlighting the need for gender equality.
The Delhi-based band, however, cautioned that the scheme should not become “just a political fad riding on sentiments” and sought its “actual implementation” throughout the country.
The group, which performs traditional folk music of Nagaland’s Chakhesang tribe, folk fusion as well as contemporary western songs, has four Tetseo siblings – Azi, Mercy, Kuvelu and Alune – as its members. Founded in 1994, the band is credited with bringing Naga folk music to a larger audience.
“It (the campaign) is a good move in the right direction. Prioritising education for the girl child is a long due measure. We hope it reaches every corner of the country with actual implementation instead of becoming just a political fad riding on sentiments,” the band told IANS.
“We wholeheartedly support the campaign and hope many people will benefit from it,” said the folk quartet, who have performed across the country and even abroad.
Modi launched the national-level ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (Save the girl child, educate the girl child) campaign in January as “a key scheme that aims to address the dipping child sex ratio and empower the girl child” in India.
The drive was launched after census data showed abysmally low child sex ratio of 918 girls for 1,000 boys. It aims to prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination, ensure survival and protection of the girl child and ensure education and participation of the girl child at an estimated cost of Rs.200 crore.
Describing education as the solution for better chances at life for every girl child, the band cautioned: “It shouldn’t be like since you send your girl child to school, you have done a great thing, but rather recognising that every child has equal right to education and healthcare.”
On a question about the need of this campaign in the northeastern states, where there are less reported incidents of female foeticide, the sisters told IANS: “In the northeast too, like other parts of the country, there are two different realities.
“One for the poor and another for the rich and educated. Education and community awareness drives have played a huge role in promoting gender equality but much more needs to be done to bridge the gap and educate more girls.”
“Access to adequate healthcare for women/mothers will also go a long way to ensure a healthy life for every child,” said the quartet.
The band, which sings “Li” (folk songs) in the Chokri dialect of Nagaland, said they also want to highlight the need for environment protection.
“We are not activists of any kind. But we want to highlight the need for environment protection, recycling, and safety for women across the country, besides gender equality,” said the sisters, who have performed with folk musicians from India and outside.
“Our songs don’t talk about racial discrimination but we address such issues by making people more familiar with our unique characteristics or way of life and also remind them that all of us are alike and can connect in most ways, especially through music.”
“O Rhosi”, “Apulio Lizo” (prayer song), “Ohe!” and “Hiyo! Hiyo!” are some of the band’s well-appreciated songs.
Asked about the band’s views on feminism, the group said: “We are all feminists in the way that we believe in equality of the sexes and will always fight to support and ensure gender equality in any way we can.”
On safety of women in Delhi, the folk band told IANS that the entire capital was not unsafe as reported, and there were many good people.
“While there have been a lot of unfortunate incidents in Delhi, the city has been home to us for a long time with not too much for us to complain about.
“Not all of Delhi is unsafe and there are many good people. In fact, it’s only a few that are responsible for the notoriety,” said the sisters.
(Debaprio D. Choudhury can be reached at [email protected])