Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Adverse Child Sex Ratio in Shivpuri, a Cause for Concern

This story is online on a recently launched website as the week's exclusive.

BHOPAL July 16: A recent survey shows that the child sex ratio is massively adverse in Shivpuri, a district headquarter in Gwalior Division with a population of 1.10 lakh. The 2001 Census reported the child sex ratio of 904 girls per 1000 boys in the age group 0-6 at Shivpuri. A recent survey conducted in this district headquarter by the district administration shows that there has been a fall of 58 points and now the town has a child sex ratio of 846 girls per 1000 boys. The Government of India had issued directives to keep a monthly tab on the child sex ratio to keep a check on the alarming drop in the number of girls as reported by the 2001 Census. The Registrar-General of India has also asked its State offices to prepare a monthly report of the births to monitor the sex ratio. The adverse child sex ratio in Shivpuri is indicative of female infanticide and shows that foeticide is being practiced.

The recent behavior of society could be judged by comparing the sex ratio at birth and the overall child sex ratio. The small sample surveys in Shivpuri have reported low sex ratio even at birth. On the basis of these surveys, conducted in Government hospitals and private nursing homes, it has been found that Shivpuri has a birth sex ratio of 942 to 955 girls per 1000 boys. The 2001 Census showed that there were 22744 children in the age group 0-6 in Shivpuri. Of these 11944 were boys and 10800 girls. A recent door-to door survey showed that there were 20498 children in Shivpuri town in the 0-6 age group. Of these 11103 were boys and 9395 girls. The adverse child sex ratio in Shivpuri is indicative of a shift from son preference to daughter discrimination and it is important to note that the epicenter of the problem is the urban affluent society and not the SC/ST, other backward classes and the weaker sections.

Of the 531 births recorded in private hospitals at Shivpuri in the last one year period, 297 were boys and 234 girls. This gives a sex ratio at birth to 787 girls per 1000 boys born in private hospitals. In sharp contrast, of the 6088 births recorded in district hospitals, 3156 were boys and 2932 girls. In the case of government hospitals, where mostly the weaker sections go due to various incentives and low delivery cost, the sex ratio at birth went up to 929 girls per 1000 boys. Taking a closer look at this malaise, the obvious conclusion is that there should be effective enforcement of Pre-conception pre-natal diagnostic techniques (regulation and prevention of misuse) Act (PCPNDT). The enforcement authorities should also guard against the trend "to misuse" certain provisions of the "liberal" Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 (MTP). There has to be a correlation between PCPNDT and MTP. While safe and legal abortion is the right of women there is need for having a relook at MTP which allows medical termination of pregnancy due to various reasons, including "failure of contraceptive devices". In Shivpuri and elsewhere in the State and country, there are many private hospitals registered under the PCPNDT Act but not under MTP. Many of these hospitals have ultra-sound facilities and could be involved in termination of pregnancy.

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