That daughters are not preferred by many couples in India despite rising education levels and income is known. The State’s inability to tackle this problem has led to a nationwide decline in the number of girls born per 1,000 boys from 909 during 2011-13 to 906 for the 2012-14 period . The fall is the steepest in Delhi — from 887 to 876. Uttar Pradesh comes next. The findings of the sample registration system (SRS) 2014, released last week, indicate that sex selection isn’t limited to the Hindi heartland but is spreading to states such as Tamil Nadu, where the number dropped to 921 from 927.
While socio-economic conditions and lack of job opportunities for women — and not just gender discrimination or patriarchy — might have contributed to fewer families welcoming a girl child, the key problem seems to be that the states have been unable to implement the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994 (PCPNDT Act) in letter and spirit. Under the Act, determining the gender of an unborn child is banned to stop sex-selective abortions. Many of the cases related to this fall apart in court, often with witnesses turning hostile. A few months ago, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi opened a can of worms when she proposed the introduction of mandatory tests to determine the sex of an unborn child bid to counter female foeticide in the country. While obstetricians and radiologists welcomed the proposal, saying restrictions are not a solution as ultrasounds are a medical necessity, women’s rights groups condemned it because such a move could lead to victimisation of women and lead to more unsafe abortions.
A recent Comptroller and Auditor General report charts the anomalies in the implementation of the PCPNDT Act in UP, but it holds true for other parts of India. The report unveils that the law has been compromised due to lack of regular inspections, under-utilisation of funds meant for implementation of the Act, and failure to conduct sting operations. Auditors noted that only 52 decoy operations were undertaken in just 1% of the 4,622 registered centres during 2010-15. Unless the Centre declares foeticide and the declining sex ratio a national emergency, it will be difficult to overcome these basic issues and improve the sad scenario.