Mothers-in-law should take the lead to protect the girl child, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday, calling upon them to lead a “social revolution”. He made the statement in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu city, where he launched an expanded “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” scheme and the National Nutrition Mission.

“If she [a mother-in-law] says she wants a daughter in the house, then no one will be able to hassle a daughter,” Modi said. “Mistakes committed by generations against the girl child have resulted in a kind of imbalance in society, and this needs to be corrected by new generations.”

Gender equality, Modi added, helps a society progress and prosper. “Let us resolve that there will be the same number of girls born as the number of boys,” he said. “Both boys and girls are equal.”

The prime minister said it was painful that appeals to protect daughters and the girl child still have to be made. “I request all state governments to make it [protecting the girl child] a mass movement,” he told the audience.

Modi pointed out that the “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” programme was launched two years ago from Haryana, and the situation in the state had improved significantly since then.

Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, too, addressed the crowd. Gandhi said the government was planning to introduce a bill in Parliament to prevent the trafficking of women and children. Raje spoke about her government’s schemes and programmes, including the Rajshree Yojna for girls.