The Uttarakhand state commission for women’s idea to keep a watch on pregnant women through health workers’ groups to check female foeticide, has drawn criticism from activists from across the state.
Women commission chairperson Sarojini Kaintyura said that over 40 such groups had already been constituted in Kotdwar and Yamkeshwar in the Garhwal region.
More such groups, which consist of health workers and village panchayat members, would be constituted soon, she said. The sex ratio went slightly up from 962 in 2001 to 963 in 2011 Census in Uttarakhand. However, the child sex ratio (population of 0-6 age group) fell drastically from 908 in 2001 to 890 in 2011. These groups, she said, will also keep a tab on domestic violence in households and encourage rural women for taking up self-employment opportunities.
However, a section of activists raised doubts on the move and said it would end up burdening health workers with more work. The Accredited Social Health Activist (Asha) workers – who act as an interface between community and public health system – already carry out the task at the grassroot level. Asha workers keep in constant touch with pregnant women, give them tips on healthcare and counsel them against female foeticide.
Dehradun-based activist Deepa Kaushalam said, “The commission is trying to exploit an already-existing system instead of coming up with newer ways of keeping a check on the existing system.”
The commission should rather push for stricter implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT) 1994 with the state and district-level authorities instead, she suggested.
Sarita Bhatt, an Uttarkashi-based activist who works closely with ASHA workers criticised the commission’s move and said, “The ASHA workers, who receive performance-based incentives, are poorly paid. And these groups will only add to their burden.”