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The ‘Beti’ issue – Declining CSR (Child Sex Ratio) in India

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In his Radio Address Mann ki Baat, the Prime Minister spoke about the declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in the country and why we should be concerned about it. The CSR has been on the decline since 1991 and currently is the worst since independence.  From 945 girls for every 1000 boys in 1991, it went down to 927 in 2001 and to 918 in 2011. The Government has also identified 100 gender critical districts in the country where the CSR is abysmally low.

In India, while we pray to many female deities and look up to them as embodiments of strength, courage, wealth and education, we still practice deep-rooted traditional preference to the male child or the son. In the recent times, it has taken an ugly turn with innumerable crimes against women, increasing cases of rape and selective abortions.

According to the 2011 census, for every 1000 boys, there are only 918 girls. The child sex ratio in India has been on the decline since 1991 and the worst since independence. According to the 1991 census, there were 945 girls for every 1000 boys and in 2001,927 girls for every 1000 boys. The sex ratio is defined as the ratio of the number of males to number of females in a population set. It is internationally expressed per 100 females but in India, it is expressed as per 1000 males. According to the World Health Organization, biologically normal child sex ratio ranges from 102 to 106 male per 100 females. Converting it to Indian terms would be 943-980 females per every 1000 males.

Even with rise in awareness, advancement of technology and increase in educated individuals; the child sex ratio is this country is dwindling. Several government laws and schemes have focused on curbing female infanticide and incentivizing investing in girls but little seems to have changed. Traditionally, girls and women have been looked upon as a burden in a patriarchal society. Even if they managed to be born, providing nutritious food, sending them to good schools and investing in them on par with the male child is still not a reality in many of villages, towns and cities around the country. Girls are rather looked at as somebody you need to start saving money for, buying gold and able to give a dowry to get her married. And after all this, she does not even carry your lineage or your family name. Thinking on these lines, even as an all women contingent marches at the Republic Day parade and a female officer commands the guard of honor to the visiting American President seems beyond out dated. The problem is more socio-cultural and behavioral and is not limited illegal ultrasounds for sex determination.

STATE_NAMECensus 1991Census 2001Census 2011No. of Gender Critical Districts
STATE_NAMECensus 1991Census 2001Census 2011No. of Gender Critical Districts
Haryana87981983412
Rajasthan91690988810
Uttar Pradesh92791690210
Maharashtra94691389410
Punjab87579884611
Jammu & KashmirNot available9418625
Delhi9158688715
Gujarat9288838905
Madhya Pradesh9419329184
Uttarakhand9499088902
Arunachal Pradesh9829649721
Meghalaya9869739701
Mizoram9699649701
Chhattisgarh9849759691
Andaman & Nicobar Is.9739579681
Pondicherry9639679671
Kerala9589609641
Assam9759659621
Sikkim9659639571
Tripura9679669571
West Bengal9679609561
Jharkhand9799659481
Karnataka9609469481
Nagaland9939649431
Tamil Nadu9489429431
Goa9649389421
Odisha9879539411
Andhra Pradesh9759619391
Manipur9749579361
Bihar9539429351
Dadra & Nagar Haveli10139799261
Lakshadweep9419599111
Himachal Pradesh9518969091
Daman & Diu9589269041
Chandigarh8998458801
TelanganaNot AvailableNot AvailableNot Available1

 When we look at the census data, some of the districts categorized as ‘gender critical’ with  low sex ratio list will shock you. Even thriving states, which are considered quite modern and advanced like Gujarat, Delhi and Maharashtra, have a handful of districts with dismal figures. Actually Maharashtra has up to 10 districts with critical child sex ratio and on par with states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, which have historically had very low gender ratios.

The Prime minister recently lunched the “Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao” (BBBP) campaign to reverse the dwindling numbers. Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save girl child, educate girl child) is a Government of India scheme that aims to generate awareness and improving the efficiency of delivery of welfare services meant for the girl child & women. The scheme was initiated with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore. It is being implemented in the 100 Gender critical districts.

It will definitely be a herculean task considering the many faces of this problem. The campaign aims to ensuring that girls are born, nurtured and educated without discrimination to become empowered citizens of this country with equal rights. Hopefully, this will not be just another girl child campaign but an intervention that could change the course of this country. And this is possible if the campaign and the stakeholders address this at its root. The problem of attitudes, outdated beliefs and perception of the girl child needs to be addressed.

PS: The data presented here is based on the answer given by the Minister of Women & Child Development in the Lok Sabha in response to question number 1132 dated 28th November, 2014.

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