Punjab, Haryana finally wake up to female infanticide

THE HAND that rocks the cradle, rules the world! Marilyn Monroe was asked how does she feel being a part of a man’s world. She said as long as I am a woman in it, I don’t see a problem. Alas, if she were an Indian girl, her reply would have been different.

Welcome to ‘Incredible India’. Our Constitution grants equal rights and privileges on the basis of sex. But as Amartya Sen had written in ‘Argumentative Indian’, the biggest crime begins against women, at the place where they are meant to be the safest, in their mother’s wombs. Women don’t go missing as young girls, wives or mothers but they go missing even before they are born. And it is the society that is to blame for this, for the real perpetrators of the crime are amongst us and they go scot-free every time.

Female FoeticideThe states of Punjab, Haryana and Jharkhand have the worst sex ratios in the in the country. According to the 2001 census, there are only 874 women with respect to 1000 men in these states. The national average was 933. In fact, the sex ratio of Punjab has never gone above the national average. According to the 2001 census, the worst sex ratio in any state was Haryana’s. It had only 861 women per 1000 men in the state. What is shocking is that at the time of Independence the sex ratio stood at a healthy 946, but over the last 60 years it has fallen to 933. Thus, instead of improving it is becoming worse.

Finally the states of Punjab and Haryana have woken up to this crime. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee called for a Samaj Chetna Lehar (Social Awareness Campaign) to encourage young couples to have a girl child. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had earlier announced that they would be putting up cradles outside the Gurdwaras, so that people could come and leave their girl children instead of killing them or abandoning them in the open. Chandigarh, which is one of the richest cities in India, has one of the most skewed sex ratio that you would ever see.

The figures are shocking to say the least. It is 777 females for a thousand males. In these states, female infanticide has been on the rise and drastic steps have to be taken to curb this crime. In temples and Gurdwaras in Chandigarh, after the morning prayers the priest will have the job of preaching to the devotees about saving the girl child. Being done at religious places, it will definitely have an impact on young couple’s minds.

The Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act (PNDT) was implemented in the year 1994, but is misused in all parts of India. Abortion rates are increasing by almost 80 per cent in some states like Punjab and Haryana. Figures by United Nations say that about 7,50,000 female foetuses are aborted every year in India. And these figures only constitute cases, which come out in the open, otherwise female infanticide continues unabated in the dark by bribing taking doctors.

The government has also thought of chipping in by trying to bridge the gap between the two sexes in parts of Punjab and Haryana with the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme as it is followed in many other Latin American and Central American countries. In districts, where the sex ratio is really poor, the government will be offering cash incentives to families that have a girl child. Every newborn girl who has been registered will be given Rs 5000. And this won’t be the end of the largesse, at various stages of her education also, she will be given incentives. This scheme may work for the poor, but alas! Illegal sex determination happens among the affluent as well. This is where one believes the society needs to make a change. Some of the richest couples in Punjab and Haryana are guilty of killing their girl children. This is the mindset of the people, which only we can change.

India as a country reveres more goddesses than any other in the world. Even when female infanticide occurs right in front of our eyes, we stand mute and indifferent. We say ‘Vande Mataram’, we award movies like Mother India, but when it comes to having a girl child, even some of the richest couples refrain from doing so. It is really tough being a girl in a man’s world in India because her very right to live or be born is not granted to you.