There are lakhs of abortions every year, but do the economists ruling the country care about the growing gender deficit?
The murder of Arushi Talwar has shocked the nation, which is still agonising over the killing and the subsequent defamation of a whole family. No one believes that a father or a mother could do such a gruesome act.
But according to a study by PM Kulkarni of the Department of Social Sciences in Jawaharlal Lal University, every day 1,900 Arushis are murdered before they are given a chance to be born.
It's estimated that there were 6,82,000 abortions of girls every year between 2001 and 2005. The killers were parents and helping them were greedy doctors armed with ultra sound machines for whom every sex determination test and sex-selective abortion was a means to get richer.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is losing sleep over the nuclear deal, recently expressed concern over the dwindling population of girls. He said he had three daughters and he wished the same for the girls in this country as he did for his children.
But did he lose sleep over them? If at all he did, it does not show in the way the law against female foeticide, the Pre-Natal Sex Determination Act, is implemented.
The law makes the district collector the authority responsible for the implementation of the Act. But hardly a handful of them have heard of the Act, not to speak of implementing it. Had the girls been a priority with the government, this would not have been the case.
The enormity of the situation is encapsulated in the response of mothers to a question put by the National Family Health Survey of 2002 on how many of them did not want any children.
So long as they had a son, or two sons, or a son and daughter, over 90 per cent of them didn't want more children. But if they had two daughters, the number of those who wanted more children went up. Bihar, in fact, showed the highest number of women wanting more children. It also had the lowest number of mothers who didn't want children under the three conditions mentioned above. But if they had two daughters, only 20 per cent said they did not want more children. The figure for Punjab was 45 per cent, Madhya Pradesh (37.6 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (90 per cent).
The figures indicate the time-bomb on which some of these states are sitting.
Analysts like RG Mitra, formerly with the Registrar General of India, see in this potential elimination of the girl child in states like Bihar at the touch of a button. The button in this case would be any drive to bring down population. Madhya Pradesh, for instance, has linked the two-child norm to a Rs 100,000 insurance policy offered to parents having a girl child.
If something like this happens in a state like Bihar, the casualties will be girls, he says, making it as bad a scenario as Punjab, where the sex ratio has plumbed down below 700 in some districts.
While the sex ratio came down in India from 962 in 1981 to 927 in 2001, barely three doctors were arrested for violating the PNDT Act. And violations could range from not keeping proper records of patients who take ultra sound tests or not reporting these records to the authorities every month.
A regular medical audit could work miracles, like an annual accounts audit does. The slightest effort to distort evidence could get top doctors caught. But do the economists ruling the country care about the growing gender deficit?
6 months ago