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Concern over fall in child sex ratio

By Mandira Nayar

SALCETE (GOA), DEC. 9 . For most people gathered at the Old Anchor Resorts on the quiet Cavelosim beach, the lush green palms or the bright blue sea did not matter. It was a question of survival. With the child sex ratio in the country falling from 945:1000 in 1991 to 927:1000 in 2001 according to the Census, there is a silent crusade to eliminate girls from the race. An alarming trend that has already led to a generation of girls being denied a chance to be born. But unfortunately, most people are still unwilling to face the disaster the figures really spell out.

"We really can't afford to wait for the next Census to find out whether the sex ratio at birth has improved. The situation is very alarming. The sex ratio for children under the age of six years has fallen very rapidly since the last Census in 1991. The worst offenders are Haryana and Punjab and the ten districts that have the lowest sex ratio for this age group are from these two States. Seventy-five per cent of the villages in Punjab have a sex ratio that is below 850 girls per 1,000 boys. Even the top ten districts in the country where the sex ratio is healthy are either inaccessible or with tribal areas,' stated J.K Banthia, former Census Commissioner, at a sensitisation workshop on "Sex Selection and Female Foeticide" organised by the Centre for Advocacy and Research here this past week.

While there is plenty of evidence that girls are "missing'' in the population, there is very little work being done on the ground to stop the discrimination. And with appropriate authorities in States only to willing to hide behind an "unimplementable'' law, many more girls are being lost.

"It is not easy to take the doctors to task. We managed to conduct a sting operation using a pregnant woman as a decoy and catch the doctor telling her the sex of the baby on tape. However, now there is pressure on me by powerful political forces to drop the case against him. He has already managed to get back the ultrasound machine that was seized by the appropriate authority,'' said Varsha Deshpande, an activist lawyer from Satara in Maharashra.

Fighting a battle against patriarchy is not easy, and with age-old mind-sets unwilling to change, the daughters of prosperous India are being lost to new technology -- and at the moment no one is even willing to listen.

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