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Gender crisis continues to haunt conservative Haryana

Stupendous medal haul by girls overshadows female foeticide in a state, where bride price is common. HT reports.
Hindustan Times | By HT Correspondents, Rohtak/karnal
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2011 11:33 PM IST

It’s national integration at it’s best, but for all the wrong reasons. Harnaraian Singh, a farmer in Baliana village in the outskirts of Rohtak in Haryana, has found brides for his three sons from three different states: Haryana, Orissa and UP.

Harnaraian's eldest son Harpal’s wife is from Haryana, second son Rohtash is married to Lakshmi from Navrangpur in Orissa, and the youngest, Ved Prakash found his bride Krishna in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.

In January this year, Bhag Singh, 32, from Popra village in Karnal, married Sunita, 23, from Alipur Dwar near New Jalpaigudi in West Bengal. He claims no money was paid to the family of the poor Bengali girl, as does Harnaraian, who frankly admits that getting Haryanvi brides has become impossible, particularly for the illiterate and unemployed.

Haryana women won accolades at the Commonwealth (CW) Games 2010, bagging 12 of the 37 medals won by women for India, which is roughly one in three. This stupendous medal haul, however, overshadows its gender crisis: foeticide is rising in the state where bride price is common and future generations are doomed to bachelorhood.

Rampant sex-selective abortions has led to Haryana having the most distorted sex ratio in the country: it has 861 girls per 1,000 boys under the age of six, against a national average of 927 girls. And in the year the girls kept India’s flag flying in the CW Games and Guangzhou Asian Games, the sex ratio dipped to 834 girls for 1,000 boys.

In the conservative Haryana, where culture norms frown upon inter-caste and same-gotra marriages, young men travel to Bihar, Assam, Chattisgarh. Orissa, West Bengal and Kerala to find brides. In such cases, caste, culture and affluence is not considered.

With growing prosperity that makes it possible for more young men to pay for brides, agents have set up shop to fix deals for grooms, who usually bear the cost of the wedding and “offer financial assistance to their in-laws”, which is the polite phrase for bride price.

Banning sex-determination and offering cash incentives for a girl’s birth have made no difference to this state obsessed with sons. But with the state’s golden girls shining brighter than the boys, things are perhaps set to change.

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