Falling sex ratio - a prolonged state of shame
Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ Zee Research Group
India’s depressing girl child ratio has got worse with five of the nine states surveyed under the newly published Annual Health Survey (AHS) 2011-2012 recording further fall during the last two years.
The states to have observed a fall are Bihar, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rajasthan. According to AHS 2011-2012, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand at 875 and 880 sex ratio levels respectively emerged as the worst performers among the lot.
However, three states namely Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh performed relatively better on sex ratio count than they did in 2011. Assam has maintained its sex ratio level seeing no change since 2011 Census.
AHS is funded by the ministry of health and family welfare and implemented by the Office of Registrar General in all the 284 districts (as per 2001 Census) in eight Empowered Action Group States (Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan) and Assam. The fieldwork for AHS was carried out during November, 2011 to April, 2012. The nine states included in AHS 2011-2012 are the high focus states in view of their relatively higher fertility and mortality. These states account for about 50 percent of the total population, 60 percent of births, and over 70 percent of infant mortality, less than age five mortality and maternal mortality in the country.
While sex ratio in Jharkhand fell from 943 in 2011 to 938 in 2012, Bihar observed a slide from 933 in 2011 to 925 in 2012. The sex ratio has also fallen in Rajasthan from 883 in 2011 to 875 in 2012. The national sex ratio average as per Census 2011 was 940.
The data has disturbed the activist community. Dr Hemlata S Mohan, chairperson of Commission for Women, Jharkhand said, “Our inspection suggests that districts like Bokaro, Dhanbad and Jamshedpur have the worst sex ratio scenario. To tackle the same we have formulated a separate crisis intervention wing and through this wing we ensure the proper implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNDT) by conducting various capacity building workshops.”
Similarly, Uttarakhand and Odisha also observed a decline in sex ratio from 886 to 880 and 934 to 932 respectively.
Commenting on the skewed sex ratio scenario in Uttarakhand, Sushila Baluni, chairperson of Commission for Women, Uttarakhand said, “According to our reports, districts like Haridwar and Dehradun have registered underperformance with respect to sex ratio. The declining sex ratio of the state as a whole is a matter of concern for the state and for the commission as well.”
The UPA government has made claims in regard to having adopted a multi-pronged strategy entailing schemes and programmes and awareness generation/advocacy measures to build a positive environment for the girl child through gender sensitive policies, provision and legislation.
The Centre formulated the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIMC) that conducts inspections of ultrasound diagnostic facilities. It reconstituted the Central Supervisory Board (CSB) under the PC & PNDT Act to put a check on the declining sex ratio in the country.
The Ministry of Women & Child Development has been running “Dhanalakshmi” – a scheme for conditional cash transfer for the gird child in seven states - since 2008-09. The scheme provides for cash transfer to the family of a girl child on fulfilling certain conditionality relating to registration of birth, immunization, enrolment and retention in school till class VIII; and an insurance coverage if the girl remains unmarried till the age of 18.
Many states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have their specific schemes like Mukhya Mantri Kanya Suraksha Yojana, Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana, Mukhya Mantri Kanya Suraksha Yojana, Mukhya Mantri Kanya Vivah Yojana and Shubh Laxmi scheme respectively.
A look at the past depicts that sex ratio in India has shown a secular decline since the beginning of the twentieth century, barring some improvement during 1951, 1981, 2001 and 2011 Census.