Centre to collate data to study sex ratio trends
The Union ministry of women and child development (WCD) plans to collate data from several ministries and departments to study sex ratio trends across the country in an attempt to reconcile fluctuations in various data sets and arrive at a clearer understanding of the numbers that are skewed in favour of male progeny.
The ministry, which relies on health ministry data to determine trends up to the district level, will now study more detailed data sets. “We will go into more granular data up to the household level, collate it and study the trends that emerge,” said a ministry official who didn’t want to be named.
The move has been prompted by fluctuations in sex ratio rates in different states that emerged from different data sets.
The ministry of women and child development will now collate information from central bodies like the ministry of home affairs, under which the Registrar General collects data for the decadal Census, the Department of School Education and Literacy under the ministry of human resource development and the health ministry’s Health Management Information System (HMIS) demographic data.
It will also study data on minorities and marginalised population gathered by the tribal affairs ministry, social justice ministry and the minority affairs ministry. The WCD ministry plans to study these data sets through an artificial intelligence and put it up online.
Last month, according to Sample Registration System survey data released by the government, the sex ratio at birth (SRB) had gone down from 898 girls for every 1,000 boys born to 896 between 2015 and 2017. This translated to 12 million missing girl children within a span of three years, said Alok Vajpeyi of the Population Fund of India (PFI). The calculation is based on the rate of decline of girl children over the two years when compared with against the growth in India’s population, Vajpeyi said.
At 961, Chhattisgarh reported the highest SRB and Haryana, at 833, the lowest.
Haryana has always had a skewed sex ratio because of a preference for male children in a society in which the authorities have been struggling to root out practices such as prenatal screening and female foeticide.
In June this year, the WCD ministry, quoting the health ministry’s HMIS data, told Parliament that SRB had increased from 923 to 931 between 2015-16 and 2018-19..
Before that, in January, data collated by the Registrar General of India from the civil registration system (CRS) showed that in 2016, 877 girls were born in India per 1,000 boys. Additionally, according to the policy think tank Niti Aayog’s “Healthy States: Progressive India” report for 2018, a report card of the performance of states on 21 indicators, the SRB for 2017-18 was pegged at 913.
Traditionally, demographers rely on Census data, or the RGI’s SRS data, or the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, said Vajpeyi. His colleague, Poonam Muttreja, executive director at PFI, said the comparative trends in these three data sets are similar. The NFHS 5 data is expected late this year or early next year.
A senior health ministry official,who didn’t want to be named, said that without reliable data sets on the child sex ratio, crude birth rate and infant mortality, it would be difficult to compute the actual sex ratio between two Censuses.
The health ministry has now written to states for verifiable data, as the HMIS depends on data self reported by states, which poses the risk of exaggeration.
“For instance, Tamil Nadu started collating data only on the basis of birth and death certificates issued by the RGI, which is more liable as institutional deliveries have now crossed 80% across the country. Other states can perhaps devise such ways,” said the official cited above.
In general, data collected by states cannot be relied upon as the sole criterion for determining the sex ratio, said Haryana-based activist Jagmati Sangwan.
An alternative set of data collated by the network of angwanwadis, or women and child care centres run under the Integrated Child Development Services programme, can perhaps be looked at in the interim period. “This data should be computed for a real picture to emerge,” she said.
She cited the example of data put out by an ICDS implementing officer in Rohtak of the sex ratio of 220 villages, which pegged it at 550 girls per 1,000 male births.
In Punjab, the role of panchayats and religious leaders has made a tiny impact, according to Muttreja.
“The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, should be implemented more robustly and under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme, the idea that [it is] the chromosome of the man [that] leads to a girl child should be propagated,” she said.