NEW DELHI: In many of India’s least developed states, girls are disappearing not so much from foeticide as from infanticide or just plain neglect of the girl child leading to more number of girls dying. This is revealed in the latest Annual Health Survey data of the census office, which shows a substantial fall in the sex ratio in the 0-4 years age group in several districts spread across nine states. Since many of these are the most populous states, this fall would account for lakhs of missing girls.
In fact, in four of the nine states, it is not just specific districts but the entire state that has seen a worsening of the 0-4 sex ratio.
In a majority of the districts in these states, the sex ratio at birth has actually improved. But about 84 of the 284 districts recorded a fall, even if in 31 of them the fall was marginal. The fall in sex ratio in the 0-4 age group is much more widespread, with 127 districts exhibiting this trend, 46 of them showing a significant drop.
The census office has been conducting an annual health survey in nine states â€” Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Assam. A baseline survey conducted in 2007-09 has been followed up by similar ones in 2010 and 2011.
Jharkhand, Rajasthan improve
Jharkhand, which had a relatively better sex ratio to begin with, and Rajasthan, which figured at the bottom of the pile, have shown the greatest improvement in both sex ratio at birth (SRB) and the 0-4 sex ratio. States that started off with high sex ratio in both categories, such as Chhattisgarh and Assam, have recorded the biggest declines in 0-4 sex ratios along with Bihar and Odisha.
In Uttar Pradesh, 30 per cent of the districts recorded a fall in the 0-4 sex ratio. In Chhattisgarh, the ratio fell in 13 out of 16 districts. As a result, the state’s 0-4 sex ratio fell from 978 to 965. Having started with a very high sex ratio, despite the steep decline, Chhattisgarh continued to have the best sex ratio among the states surveyed. The sharpest dip among all 284 districts was in Chhattisgarh’s Kawardha district where it fell from 1076 to 1001.
In Bihar, 21 of 37 districts registered a decline in 0-4 sex ratio. Of these most recorded a steep decline. Darbhanga dipped by 39 points from 908 to 869, Vaishali from 909 to 874 and Sitamarhi from 877 to 855, making it the district with the worst 0-4 sex ratio in the state. In Orissa, the 0-4 sex ratio declined in 21 out of 30 districts.
In Madhya Pradesh, the SRB declined in 20 of 45 districts and 0-4 sex ratio in 17 districts. However, the decline was marginal, except in a few districts. Uttarakhand had the worst sex ratio among these nine states to start with and despite showing some improvement, it continues to be the worst.
While the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) (regulation and prevention of misuse) Act might address foeticide and help improve sex ratio at birth, there is no law to protect the girl child from neglect within her family. And the health survey data reveals that overall improvement in sex ratio often masks pockets of intense and growing skew in the sex ratio.