The Haryana government’s flagship programme to stop female foeticide has registered an eight-point dip in sex ration at birth (SRB) in 2021, according to official data.
It is for the first time that the SRB, a critical indicator of gender equality, has dropped by eight points after the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ programme was launched in January 2015 from Panipat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The health department data showed that the SRB stood at 914 female births per 1,000 males in 2021 even as it was 922 in 2020. In 2019, Haryana’s SRB at 923 was the highest the state had achieved in a decade.
The SRB of Haryana was recorded 833 in 2011, 876 in 2015 and 900 in 2016. In 2017 and 2018, it remained 914 and registered nine-point growth by jumping to 923 in 2019.
The first signs of slip in the SRB had emerged when the cumulative SRB till June 2021 had dipped to 911, from 920 in the corresponding period till June 2020.
Later, Haryana had registered another dip in the SRB between January and September 2021 as 906 girls were born per 1,000 boys till September in comparison to 915 during the corresponding period in 2020.
According to Dr Amit Kumar Agrawal, additional principal secretary (to CM) and nodal officer ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, one of the key reasons behind this dip are issues related to birth data registration which are causing this variation.
“The decline (in SRB) is evident, but it is a minor dip,” said Dr Agrawal, blaming the glitches in the birth registration system for the SRB dip.
Health officials attribute the inability to meet the SRB targets to multiple factors, including the touts involved in gender determination tests taking advantage of the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has been posing to the field staff, besides the steps taken to eliminate possibilities of manipulation in birth registration data.
Total 5,27,967 births were registered in 2021 which included 2,75,911 male births and 2,52,056 female births. In 2020, total 5,37,996 births were registered including 2,79,869 male births and 2,58,127 female births.
Hence, the number of total births registered in 2021 were 10,029 (6,071 females and 3,958 males) less than the total births recorded in 2020.
Officials said steps have been taken to deal with the malpractice of sex determination and female foeticide in the last five years during which about 1,000 raids were conducted. Of these, over 275 were inter-state and about 970 FIRs were registered with regard to sex determination and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act.
Dr Agrawal said the true picture will emerge after the census data is released this year.
“We should wait for another three-four months… There is a delay in registration of births as well. Nevertheless, we are doing our best to catch people involved in gender determination tests. We are on our toes and maintaining pressure on the touts,” Dr Agrawal, added.
Rohtak leads, Sonepat lagging
The SRB of 10 districts last year ranged between 914 and 945, while the SRB of nine districts was between 903 and 913. The SRB of three districts slipped below 900.
Rohtak led the state with an SRB of 945, followed by Panchkula 930, Sirsa 929, Nuh 926, Hisar 925, Jind 923, Kurukshetra 921, Charkhi Dadri 919, Panipat 918, Yamunanagar 914, Kaithal 913, Karnal 912, Gurugram and Ambala 908 each, Palwal 907, Mahendergarh and Bhiwani 904 each, Faridabad and Rewari 903 each, Fatehabad 899, Jhajjar 895, and Sonepat 888.
In 2020, Sirsa was leading with 949 SRB, while Charkhi Dadri was at the bottom with 891 SRB.
Kaithal, Ambala, Fatehabad and Sonepat districts were among the top 10 best performing districts in 2020, but in 2021 Sonepat and Fatehabad were at the first and third slot from the bottom, while Kaithal and Ambala slipped to the 12th and 14th positions, respectively.
Rohtak improved its SRB from 912 in 2020 to 945 in 2021, while Gurugram’s SRB was 921 in 2020 and dipped further to 908 in 2021.
In Muslim-dominated Nuh district, the highest 55,293 number of births were registered followed by Faridabad (45,696) and Gurugram (38,241).
Haryana’s spirited fight to save the girl child suffered setbacks which became evident when in a recent interaction with journalists in Delhi, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had admitted that the state government could not maintain its focus on improving the sex ratio in last two years due to the Covid-19 outbreak, despite registering around 300 cases against those conducting sex determination tests.