The 2011 Census is a rude wake-up call for policy makers, activists and the general public. Despite plenty of schemes and significant monetary incentives, the child sex ratio of the second-most populous country in the world and an emerging economic powerhouse is a shoddy 914, down from 927 girls for every 1,000 boys (2001 census).
This is the worst dip since 1947. After the worrying numbers came out on Thursday, senior government officials and politicians parroted the expected lines: our policies are just not effective enough.
We must thank them for this goldmine of information that our laws lack teeth. Should we now thank the census commissioner for telling us the truth? Are we to believe that India’s mammoth bureaucratic set-up — the rusty steel structure — had absolutely no inkling about what is happening right under its nose? If our babus did know, what were they doing about it?
Yes, we do remember seeing a couple of black and white advertisements released by the publicity department with the photos of some ministers, but probably that’s about it. But you can’t blame them for not changing mindsets.
As we know, it’s always a ‘cultural’ thing. We are sure there must have been Herculean efforts in pockets to reverse the trend at certain places, but clearly they are exceptions, not the norm.
Along with the dip in numbers, it is also the geographical spread of infanticide and foeticide that is worrying. In 2001, the worst-hit states were Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
While the sex ratio has improved a bit in the first two, Punjab and Haryana still remain the worst offenders.
The sad news is that the rest of the 27 states also show a decline in the population of girl children. But don’t only blame the poor for killing girls. The middle and upper middle class families, the educated masses, are equally adept at it. In fact, in certain cities, they are the worst offenders.
It is true that the reasons for killing the girl child are cultural, economic and the well-oiled criminal system of sex determination and termination. For the rich, there is also the option of going abroad for a quick detection and abortion.
But we have to fight this war with all the forces available at our disposal. There is absolutely no other way but to improve implementation of the pre-natal diagnostic techniques law. The law should also be updated and its definition expanded to meet the advances in technology. Also, the conviction rate of people involved is very poor.
But, most importantly, proper and effective sensitisation will be the game changer.