Blame it on education and affluence

That’s the disturbing conclusion from the increasing female foeticide


Ajay Singh | May 27, 2011

Technology has come in handy for the educated and affluent Indians to exterminate the female child before birth. This ugly aspect of our society has been laid bare by a study conducted by Lancet which points out that the growing imbalance between girls and boys aged 0-6 is indicative of a trend of selective abortion of female foetuses.

The study mentions that the conditional sex-ratio for the second-order births when the firstborn was a girl fell from 906 per 1,000 boys in 1990 to 836 in 2005. Selective abortion of girls totalled 42 lakh to 1.21 crore between 1980 and 2010, with a greater rate of increase in the 1990s than in the first decade of this millennium. If these numbers are correct, the ancient Indian civilisation which prides itself on having preached non-violence to the world seriously needs to look within. Is this not a systematic extermination of female children even before their birth? Is this crime not worse than any genocide or pogrom anywhere in the world? Is it not a fact that the Indian society as a whole is complicit in this crime?

There many such questions that beg answers. But to say that the Lancet study is startling would amount to underplaying the crime. Several studies in the past have claimed that the well-heeled and educated residents of Bangalore, the IT hub of the country, have been resorting to pre-natal tests to terminate pregnancies of the girl child. Even in 1990, the most posh and affluent pockets of Delhi were found more vulnerable to female foeticide than the rural areas.

There is an obvious co-relation here. The sophisticated medical equipment and tools installed in modern hospitals in these pockets are frequently, and illegally, used for pre-natal sex determination. The poor can hardly afford such medical tools. However, there is a gradual shift in rural areas where some private hospitals with sophisticated equipment for sex-determination have come up.

In western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, which have pockets of rural affluence, such hospitals are found in abundance and are illegally providing services to people at a hefty price. In west UP, some government officers conducting a demographic profile of the state admitted that it is really very difficult to change the mindset of the people who regard the birth of the girl-child as a bane. This trend is no longer confined to the affluent urban pockets but has also pervaded the rural elites.

No political party takes up this issue because it falls in the domain of social reform. In the game of power that modern-day politics has been reduced to, there is no scope for social reform as it does not fetch votes. Even as India’s growth story is looking bright and the literacy rate is going up, therefore, its darker side is growing proportionately. Perhaps that is why Gandhi was always sceptical of modern education. And he always discovered a strand of compassion, piety and non-violence among the teeming millions of ignorant masses. Lancet’s findings only substantiate the Mahatma’s prognosis.



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