If you thought Punjab and Haryana were the only concern areas in terms of low sex ratio, many other states too are showing long-term ominous trends.
Bihar — the only major state apart from Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat that saw sex ratio decline from 2001 to 2011 — has silently slipped from a leading position on the key gender indicator to a worrisome situation.
In 1901, the sex ratio of Bihar was 1,061, 57 points ahead of present frontrunner Kerala, and behind Goa. This is higher than the sex ratios of US (1,025) and Japan (1,055) today.
Today, Bihar has a sex ratio of 916, standing 25th among 35 states and UTs. This figure is a decline of 3 points from the 2001 figure, and part of an almost consistent century-long decline.
“Bihar is falling in the same trap as the north-west with dowry, preference for the male child and use of prohibited technologies in the recent times,” said Praveen Jha, who teaches economics at JNU.
Gujarat — which had a sex ratio of 954 in 1901, itself not too impressive — saw a consistent decline which continues. Its present figure of 918 is lower than 920 in 2001, which in turn was lower than 934 in 1991.
Punjab has been a historical culprit in sex ratio. If one takes 1911 as the base — when its sex ratio was a mere 780 — the state has had constantly low but gradually increasing sex ratios. Its present sex ratio of 893 is an improvement over the 2001 figure of 876. While this figure was below the 1991 figure of 882, figures in all previous decades, while being very low, showed gradual improvement.
“Punjab had already gone down so much that a correction was expected,” said Jha.
If Bihar sticks to its trend and Punjab to its present performance, the two could be competing in 2021. Haryana— another historical culprit — maintained abysmal sex ratios in the mid-800s till 2011, when it has made a small improvement of 16 points to a still abysmal 877.
However, West Bengal has shown consistent improvement in recent decades, from a worrisome sex ratio post-independence.
Bengal’s sex ratio was 865 in 1951, 6 points below Haryana. It remained low in coming decades: 878, 891 and 911. Now, the state is showing improvement: its sex ratio of 934 in 2001 rose to 947 in 2011.