Haryana battles to save its girls as gender bias weighs on sex ratio numbers
The sex ratio at birth (SRB), according to sample registration system (SRS) statistical report 2012, ranked Haryana at the bottom amongst all states with an SRB of 857.Updated: Feb 01, 2017, 10:27 IST
About three months ago, on reaching a house in Mahendergarh in Haryana after stealthily following its woman decoy and a quack gang involved in sex determination, a team of Haryana health department officials stood aghast. Apart from some jelly bottles, there lay a mouse-like gadget attached to a laptop to carry out the so-called sex-determination.
There could not have been a bigger sham of a “diagnosis” than this. The gang had been duping its gullible customers who had no idea of what medical gadgets and technologies are supposed to be used for the test.
The quacks’ is a simple modus operandi: lure gullible pregnant women for test, tell them it is a girl child and get it aborted — all for anything around Rs 25,000.
Although the two persons, identified as Taruna and Narender, were booked under pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic techniques (PC-PNDT) Act on October 26, 2016, Bhiwani and Mahendergarh civil surgeons Dr RS Punia and Dr D N Bagri pressed the panic button to not only highlight the extent of the rampant illegal act but also the level of ignorance of gullible people desperate to have male child.
And it is for such illegal practices and gender biases that Haryana’s head has hung in shame for years, dragged down by the lowest sex ratio in the country.
Though the PNDT Act was enacted in 1994, Haryana, which was ranked second lowest in child sex ratio (CSR) at 819 in 2001 census, slid further to the lowest rank amongst states in 2011, despite an increase in numbers to 834.
The sex ratio at birth (SRB), according to sample registration system (SRS) statistical report 2012, also ranked Haryana at the bottom amongst all states with an SRB of 857.
On January 22, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ (B3P) drive from Panipat exhorting the state to wake up. The state had (and still has) a humongous task ahead. It had to particularly fight the people’s crass preference for sons and rigid biases against daughters.
Alerted by the call, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar set up a B3P secretariat in May 2015 to monitor the drive against female foeticide. The result: 400 FIRs under various provisions of PNDT Act and the medical terminal of pregnancy (MTP) Act.
The crackdown exposed the nexus of more than 1,000 unscrupulous elements who included doctors, quacks, touts, patients and their relatives, cases against whom are currently on in lower courts and the Punjab and Haryana high court. Several quacks or untrained paramedics were found rampantly using portable, affordable, handy ultrasound machines for sex detection.
The state also undertook several successful inter-state raids to prevent touts help women from accessing sex detection facilities in bordering states and has lodged 75 cross border FIRs (Delhi - 17, Punjab - 15, UP - 37 and Rajasthan - 6).
And for the first time, the sex ratio at birth (SRB) in Haryana has shot up to 900 in 2016, up from 868 in 2013, 871 in 2014 and 876 in 2015.
At least 12 districts have a sex ratio of 900 or more, a figure Haryana had never touched; neither in the decadal CSR in the state since 1901 nor the yearly SRB since 2000, nor the monthly SRB since January 2005.
Haryana now aims for an SRB of 950, considered ideal by international public health experts.
Raids and awareness dissemination notwithstanding, Reicha Tanwar, director, women’s studies research centre, Kurukshetra University, however, stresses the need for long-term efforts to change the mindset of the people who take the girl child as a burden because of the ills of dowry, social insecurity in society, school, college and even in service.
“State government’s crackdown on people involved in crime is praiseworthy whereas even films like Dangal and achievements of our daughters in sports and other fields are and would be instrumental in bringing about the much required change in the mindset of people,” she said, espousing the need to give them the right kind of support.