sulabh swatchh bharat

Friday, 20-July-2018


The trend of falling sex ratio is being noticed in the state and it does not want a scenario to evolve as in north India where polygamy has become an option

Two brothers in Rohtak district of Haryana have decided to marry the same girl. At Bibipur in Sonepath district close to Delhi, there is an acute scarcity of girls who could be married off to boys. These are not figments of imagination but facts.
Looking at current trends of falling sex ratio, and anticipating a similar scenario in West Bengal in the near future, the health and education departments have decided to include this highly vexing issue in school curriculum. Because students are the future parents. 
Blame it on the traditional psychology of the average Indian couple, birth of a girl in a family is hardly welcome specially if it happens to be a nuclear one. Dowry accompanied by a sense of insecurity among the parents for their girl children is often blamed among others, for this social evil called female foeticide. 
The trend was rampant, thanks to mushrooming nursing homes where sleazy doctors or even quacks merrily performed abortions throwing all qualms to the wind. This has led to an alarming situation, especially in Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where the male:female ratio has sunk to an abnormal level.
If in Delhi, the ratio of girls is 857 against per thousand boys, it is 863 in Pumjab, 874 in Uttar Pradesh and 883 in Haryana; Bengal is little better according to a statistics of the union family welfare department recorded in 2015. The overall national ratio isn’t heartening either; it is 919 against per thousand boys. 
More than a decade back, the union government has in 1994 come up with The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques Act to arrest the trend. However, an act is one thing and its implementation is another. Naturally, the gap has continued to widen, resulting in the current state of affairs.

Bengal Bouncer
“We’ve found out that the act has worked to a limited extent while the custom of dowry is still very much in practice. If we have to achieve some positive result in this respect, we need to go beyond the box,” explained West Bengal additional health director Aditikishore Sarkar. He came up with the idea of introducing a chapter in the 10-plus textbooks to highlight the alarming scenario in some of the states of the country and make the students aware of the fallout.
Sarkar, who led the initiative, held several meetings with his counterpart in the education department to prepare the academic material on this for inclusion in the texts. “Not only that, now we’ve begun sensitization programmes in the schools to drive home the awareness where it matters the most – in the psyche of the students,” he said.
The two departments of the state government have joined hands to conduct awareness-raising programmes in such district headquarters of Bengal as Suri, Berhampur, Rampurhat, Jiagunj, Howrah, Barasat, and Barrackpore. “And the response of the students is so impressive that we’re currently exploring if we can extend the programme to important block headquarters and schools as well,” Sarkar said. 
His department has so far covered some leading schools in eight areas spread over five districts and plans are on the anvil to pack five or six schools under one roof in the minority-dominated districts in northern and southern parts of the state.
But why should the issue of female foeticide be part of the text when there is a full-fledged law in this regard? Isn’t the health department equally responsible to ensure that the law is implemented in letter and spirit? 

Law Not Enough
“The law is definitely there and notices banning sex determination tests in hospitals, nursing homes and diagnostic centres have been made compulsory across the country. But if someone is bent on conducting the test and that too secretly, it’s quite difficult to stop him/her. It’s a matter of individual psychology and we have little control over it,” Sarkar argued. 
And in support of his argument, he cited the national statistics. The male-female ratio which was 967 females against per thousand males in 1991 in West Bengal (national average 945), slid to 960 (national 927) in 2001; and nosedived further to 950 (Bengal against 919 nationally) in 2011. 
“The figures only reveal that despite the law being in force, the incident of female foeticide has only kept rising. That’s why, we’ve to think of alternatives and the idea of making it part of the syllabi has struck us,” claimed the additional health director. 
Besides this, so far as the existing infrastructure of the state government is concerned, policing all the private ultrasonography clinics across the state is physically not possible. The total number of such registered clinics is 2446 of which Kolkata alone accounts for more than 500. To keep a tab on all of them in order to detect female foeticide will be a wild goose chase.
There was also a proposal last year from the union women welfare department to keep a strong vigil on the count of female foetus across the country to ensure that any attempt to resort to any abortion to purge the female foetus is immediately detected.
Hence, the effort by the authorities in West Bengal has been welcomed by the students and their guardians in a big way. Even the teachers in the schools have also participated in the sensitization programmes.“I hope our initiative, the first in India, becomes a model and is emulated all over the country,” Sarkar contended.