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Infant Mortality in Punjab
Shamefully high
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 23
Prosperous Punjab is poor as far as saving lives of infants is concerned. In spite of lowest percentage of poverty-stricken population in the state compared to other developed states, Punjab’s infant mortality rate continues to be shocking.

For 1,000 live births, infant mortality in Punjab is 44 compared to Kerala’s only 14. Even states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu with very high percentage of poverty-stricken population are better in the care of their infants compared to Punjab. In overall deaths, including infants, children, adults, middle-aged persons and the old, share of infant deaths is shamefully high in Punjab. It is 12 per cent compared to Kerala’s figure of only 3 per cent. However, it is less than the national figure of 18 per cent. These figures are official, based on the latest sample registration system, Registrar General of India.

“Barring Punjab, all developed states in the country were able to reduce their infant mortality level between 1981 and 2005. During this period, for instance, infant mortality fell by 62 per cent in Kerala , 47 per cent in Gujarat, 45 per cent in Tamil Nadu and by 39 per cent in Maharashtra. However, it fell by 39 per cent in Punjab,” says Aswini Kumar Nanda, a renowned demographist.

Punjab’s bias against female reflects from the number of deaths. Female death rate in Punjab is 1.17 per cent, which is more than that of male death rate. It is even above the national average. At the national level, the percentage of female deaths is 1.09 per cent more than that of male death rate. That shows that the girl child continues to be on the receiving end in Punjab.

Punjab’s dismal picture with regard to infant mortality rate becomes more glaring on comparison with states like West Bengal etc. In Punjab, percentage of poor people is just 6.2 per cent of the total population.

However, infant mortality rate is 44 per 1000 live births. In West Bengal, percentage of poor population is 27 per cent but infant mortality rate there is 38 per 1000 live births.

In Tamil Nadu, percentage of poor population is 21.1 per cent but infant mortality rate is just 37 per cent. Compared to urban areas, situation is rather bad in rural areas of Punjab. Of 1,000 live births, 49 infants die in rural areas of the state. However, the figure is 37 per 1,000 live births in urban areas.

In Kerala, 93 per cent deliveries take place in hospitals compared to Punjab’s figure of just 37.5 per cent. Poor health services in the countryside and gender bias are said to be main reasons for high infant mortality rate in Punjab.

The Union Government had kept the target to bring down the infant deaths to 30 per 1000 live births by 2010 and to 28 by 2012. Will Punjab achieve the figure, that is a big question, which only time will tell.



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