Mumbai is justifiably proud to celebrate the recent surge in the birth of girl child but the trend, unfortunately, is not consistent with rest of India. The 2015-2016 National Family Health Survey (NFHS) findings show that India’s “Tinseltown”, along with five other Maharashtrian cities, has crossed the shining mark of 1000 girl child. Thus, the coveted quantitative equality between the male and female population has been reached there. However, a closer look at the NFHS report, beyond the narrow confines of city limits, reveals a different story. A story that is grim and more consistent with India’s past record of low sex ratio for girls.
The decrease is most stark when we consider the sex ratio of the total population, and not only data on children. Indian states of Maharashtra, Assam, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka, to name a few, show a decline in the number of recorded females. Optimists may point out that, except the states of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, all the above mentioned states exhibit a “healthy” sex-ratio of more than 950 females per 1000 men. But the most disconcerting aspect of the issue is that, instead of improving, or at least holding on to past achievements, these states are all sliding, as is evident when we compare the present with the situation a decade back.
Contrary to popular assumption that female-male sex ratio is skewed more in rural India, it is in the urban milieu that we see a sinking number of females.This is equally true for the BIMARU states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, and not so obvious states of Assam and Karnataka. It is particularly disconcerting to see the Indian state of Assam in the list because the north-eastern parts of India have been traditionally known to have a favourable sex-ratio for girls.
This declining rate of girl child and women in the national population have created an all-round anxiety. Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has coined the term “missing women” to underline how silently, imperceptibly, albeit dangerously, an increasing number of women are lost through sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, inadequate health care and undernutrition. The Indian census data of 2011 on male-female ratio vindicates Sen’s theory.
According to the 2011 Indian census report, there were 943 females for every 1000 males - a gap of 57 person. Instead of the ideal 1:1 ratio, this number implies that 5.70 per cent of India’s 1.311 billion population is “missing”. This sums up to a staggering number of 37,363,500 missing women.
While India’s shining image of an economic superpower is projected worldwide, its female population by and large continue to suffer from various forms of discrimination, neglect and even violence. Perhaps, the most repulsive aspect of the whole story is that much of the violence against Indian women, which translates into a skewed sex ratio, largely stems from the intimate circle of family members. While the Indian state watch helplessly.