No country for old menís values

In our previous article 'Here comes the girl child' (IE, November 5), we had presented evidence to suggest that the decline in the sex ratio at birth may have been arrested. Further, that amongst the many issues facing the Indian economy and polity, gender imbalance is a problem that may be on its way to getting resolved.

This optimistic conclusion has turned out to be controversial. As expected. For the question of missing girls has haunted many sections of academia, civil society and the government during the last two decades. The child (0-6 years) sex ratio (CSR) had dropped alarmingly, especially in northwest India. Large scale interventions to have a son (read murder of the girl child) had meant that approximately 4 to 5 per cent of all boys born each year were extra. There was hope that all the efforts made to reverse the dismal decline in the number of daughters would bear fruit and positive results would be seen in the 2011 census. This hope was based on evidence from the Sample Registration System (SRS) that the sex ratio at birth had begun to improve since its trough in 2004.

These hopes were dashed when Census 2011 revealed that the CSR had declined from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011. [Note that the biological norm is 950 girls born for every 1000 boys]. However, this decline tells us relatively little about recent changes in the sex ratio at birth (SRB). Census 2011 has yet to release the information on a closely related variable, the sex ratio for children of zero years of age (0-364 days, SR0).

There is considerable evidence that the pace of change in India has accelerated in the last decade. The Census CSR is an average of the SRB for children born since February 2004. Since then, per capita income in the country has increased by close to 60 per cent. There are alternative sources of information for the sex ratio ó namely, the SRS and the periodic data compiled by the NFHS (National Fertility Health Surveys). The last information published by the SRS is for 2006-08; the last NFHS survey is for 2005-06. The NFHS is much relied upon by social scientists for its trustworthiness.

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