Pushed into action after witnessing a steadily declining sex ratio in India (2011: 918 girls for 1,000 boys), the government launched a Rs. 200 crore project called ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ in October 2014. The programme aims to provide the girl child survival, safety and education, and also fight regressive mindsets by celebrating the girl child. It thus fights gender bias that girls face at all stages of their lives, and offers them inclusiveness benefits.
These efforts seek to end the factors that push families to consider female infanticide and foeticide. Translating to ‘Educate the Girl Child, Save the Girl Child’, these benefits are made popular via mass awareness and improved access to large-scale female welfare services across India.
Benefits of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ program: higher SRB
Globally, the normal sex ratio at birth (SRB) is 100 female babies for 105 male babies. In comparison, India’s “normal” is 950 female babies for 1000 male babies. 49 of the 100 districts covered under the Beti Bachao Beti Padao program showed a positive Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) trend, according to the Ministry of Woman and Child Development. Just one decade ago, India had a showed a steadily declining trend in these regions. The program was formally initiated in January 2015 in Haryana, the state with India’s lowest SRB.
Haryana enforced a 1 lakh Rupee reward for reporting PCPNDT (Pre-Conception, Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique) and MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) Act violations. A year later, Haryana had progressed from 834 girls for every 1000 boys (vs. India’s average: 919) has improved to 903. This marked the first decade of Haryana crossing the 900:1000 ratio.
Improvement over the years
The 2011 Population Census showed 940 female: 1000 males, an improvement from the 2001 data of 922 females to 1000 males. This reveals that India is capable of both creating and sustaining a healthy sex ratio. Over 50 years, India has maintained a stable 930 females per 1000 males.
Puducherry and Kerala see more women than men, and there has been a marked improvement since 2001, especially in populous states. Punjab, for example, went from 775 (1999-2001) to 808 in 2004-2006, and Haryana went from 803 to 837.
Reason for an adverse sex ratio
Increased access to sex-selective abortion techniques, executed after prenatal ultrasound testing led to a fall in sex ratios in the 1970’s as families, driven by regressive mindsets, opted for it. These mindsets include the fear of dowry, a transference of wealth from the bride’s family to the groom after marriage. Upper middle-class Indians, on the other hand, fear transference of ancestral property to another family. For both upper and lower classes, a daughter is like “watering your neighbour’s garden,” according to a common Indian saying. Poorer communities who could not opt for abortion instead chose to use infanticide after the girl child’s birth or to abandon her.
By looking beyond their daughter’s future only has someone’s wife or daughter-in-law, they choose to nurture her and invest in her future. While families opt for female infanticide and foeticide after considering that their daughter will not bring them ‘value’, it is not surprising to note that an adverse sex ratio affects India’s economics. Billions of dollars can be added to India’s earnings, according to the ‘State of World Population 2016’, a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Those who donate money to civil society programs to address the adverse sex ratio are therefore helping ensure a better future for themselves and their future generations.