Sex ratio at birth sees a quantum leap

From 884 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011 to 934 girls per 1,000 boys in 2012; baffled activists cautious about calling it a welcome reversal yet.

A huge jump has been seen in the sex ratio at birth in the city, from 884 girls per 1000 boys in 2011 to 934 girls per 1000 boys in 2012, reveals Pune Municipal Corporation birth registration department records, much to the bafflement of activists who have been decrying the dismal female to male ratio at birth in many areas of the state. They said it was to early to call it a welcome reversal, and would prefer to wait and watch.

Health officials at PMC, however, attributed the improved figures to awareness drives and consistent raids on Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) and sonography centres to put a check on abortion of female foetuses.

As per the records available with the birth and death registration department, the ratio has been improving gradually, with a dip in 2011. In 2007 the ratio was 871:1000. The figures marginally rose to 876 in 2008 and improved further to 886 in 2009, before dipping to 884 in 2011.

The 2012 ratio, although shows an improvement, is still below the normal of 952 girls for every 1000 boys.

Dr Anjali Sabne, acting Deputy Medical Officer, Health, PMC, said the impact of the drive against sex-determination tests had led to the positive trend while Dr Kishore Pakhare, the appropriate authority for implementing the Pre-Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act said strict implementation of the Act put a check on the medical fraternity who realised that the law was a tough one. "We have now introduced the parctice of filling Form F online to make it easy for doctors to report the medical history of pregnant women," he said.

When contacted Dr Vaijayanti Patwardhan, who heads the Garima unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said there was strict implementation of the Act and the medical body too had taken stern measures to deal with complaints. In Pune, 40 cases were filed against doctors for flouting the PC-PNDT Act. So far 17 cases have seen verdicts while 23 are pending.

While the 17 cases pertained to non-registration of ultrasound machines for which 18 doctors were pulled up for non-maintenance of records, the remaining pertained to advertisements claiming to help couples get a son. One doctor was caught in check sex selective practice case in which a decoy was used.

State's drive to enforce PCPNDT Act lauded

Maharashtra's efforts to strictly implement the Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) Act reportedly found appreciation in the Supreme Court on February 12 at the hearing of a PIL filed by Voluntary Health Association of Punjab (VHAP). SC bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra had summoned the health secretaries of seven worst performing states to provide details on action taken to implement the Act.

NGO VHAP had in the PIL highlighted violation of Act and told the court through their counsel Colin Gonsalves that any figure below 900 girls per 1000 boys should be viewed seriously.

Maharashtra where average sex ratio at birth had dipped to as low as 883 girls per 1000 boys had taken a series of steps to strictly implement the Act. According to health officials at the State Family Welfare Bureau, 8,413 sonography centres have been brought under the registered category until December 2012 and 38 raids using decoys have been conducted. During an inspection of sonography and Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) centres in June last year, action was taken against 291 sonography centres and 341 MTP centres.

On the basis of complaints registered on the website seven sonography machines were sealed. Complaints on the toll-free number led to sealing of 28 machines.

There were 400 court cases and 98 of them have been heard. A total of 45 cases have ended in conviction and in 29 cases 33 doctors were imprisoned and in 16 cases penalties were imposed. The names of 75 medical practitioners against whom charges have been framed have been communicated to the state medical councils as per Section 23 (2) of the PCPNDT Act. Registration of at least 20 doctors has been suspended by the Maharashtra Medical Council.

The counsel for the petitioners also lauded the role of 'Lekh Laadki Abhiyaan' launched by Advocate Varsha Deshpande whose NGO was involved in the maximum of decoy cases and sting operations to check sex selection.

Unique study to unravel 'daughter preference'

A unique study is being being taken up to unravel not only many people's 'aversion to daughters' an area that has been more or less mapped but more importantly cover the unchartered territory of identifying families that do not have a 'son preference' and gauging their underlying reasons. This is expected to help draw a plan to improve the sex ratio at birth.

Pune-based Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics (GIPE) will cover three states for the study titled 'Reversing the Son Preference'.

Researchers will take up two districts each in Maharashtra, Punjab and and Tamil Nadu for the qualitative study, which is being supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and will be conducted for a year-and-a-half.

"Not everyone really wants a son. So we have a situation where sex selective practices are conducted in an area which also has couples who value daughters. Hence, we want to draw a connect between the two and identify the root causes for discrimination against the girl child," Prof Anjali Radkar, Associate Professor and one of the coordinators of the study said.

Prof R Nagarajan, project coordinator for the study, said it was a crucial exercise and the first multi-centric study to identify factors to determine reasons for the decline in sex ratio at birth and find measures.

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