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Female Foeticide
Conflicting data call Punjab’s bluff
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 3
After a decade of efforts, a couple of national awards and spending lakhs of rupees, Punjab’s sex-ratio report card looks nothing like what it should have been.

In 2001, the census of India recorded Punjab’s sex ratio at 876 females for 1,000 males, one of the worst in the country. The preliminary findings of a Lucknow-based agency AMS engaged by the government to assess the current situation shows that sex-ratio in many districts of the state has plummeted further.

While AMS’s first take on the situation has left a lot of red faces around, it has also brought into focus the government’s data, gathered painstakingly over the years showing an unbelievably rosy picture of the situation.

For 2008, the at-birth sex ratio (0 years) according to the Social Security Department was about 837 for the areas covered under the Integrated Child Development Scheme while the Health Department puts it at 877 for the entire state.

“Our data cannot be relied upon,” admitted a health official adding that the figures gathered by the department through the auxiliary nursing midwives (ANMs) and the one gathered by the Department Of Social Security through the anganwadi workers for the same areas too did not match.

Though the AMS’s final report for the entire state is still awaited, it has submitted its provisional analysis of some districts to the Health Department. The AMS began its work with Faridkot district, constituency of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, which despite the government’s “bloated” data was showing alarming signs of a fall in the number of girl child deliveries.

Here the sex ratio has declined from 883 in 2001 to 844 at present, reports AMS. In child sex ratio (0-6 year) category, the data shows a sharp decrease in the number of girls in Faridkot’s rural belt. In 2001 the child sex ratio in the rural areas was around 820 and now it is 800. The urban areas here, however, have shown a marked improvement from 797 in 2001 to 833 now.

The AMS data for Ropar shows no improvement in the sex ratio in the past 10 years. The 2001 data for the district stood at 871 and now it hovers around the same figure. For Patiala the data shows a slight decline in sex ratio from 2001 when it stood at 868 and now it is just above 860.

The AMS has also submitted unanalysed raw data for several other districts based on 25 per cent sample population.

The state health officials, however, continue to be upbeat about the final pan-state outcome. “The SRS data which is gathered by government of India for 2007 ending shows that sex-ratio in Punjab has improved to 838 from 796 in 2001 for the 0-4 year age group,” said Dr VK Goyal, state nodal officer, PNDT Act, Punjab.

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