Recently, a report in Times of India suggested that of the 216 children born in the past three months in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, not a single one was a girl. Experts say that the reason behind this could be illegal sex determination tests leading to sex-selective abortions.
The Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 laid in the Constitution of India prohibits the sale of “any ultrasound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting the sex of fetus” to persons, laboratories, and clinics not registered under the Act.
The Government Of India has been professing and initiating projects like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao and citing improvement in the sex ratio of the country. Reportedly, the sex ratio of Uttarkashi was 898 females per 1,000 males, in 2014-2016. It experienced a downward slope in 2015-2017 and fell to 896 females per 1,000 males.
District Magistrate Ashish Chauhan spoke about the situation with a leading daily and said, “The situation is suspicious and has highlighted female foeticide. We will monitor the data and activities of all these villages for [the] next six months and will take strict action against ASHA workers if the situation does not improve. Moreover, we will also take legal action against the family who will be found guilty.”
He has also asked the Health Department to examine the months when pregnant women registered on the reproductive and child health portal and to check the profile of families.
In the global study on female infanticide by Asian Centre for Human Rights, a Delhi-based NGO dedicated to the protection of human rights, it has been revealed that preference of son over a daughter is a major reason for female infanticide in many countries around the world. Dowry system in South Asia, which makes daughters “an unaffordable economic burden”, also contributes to female infanticide.
The government of India also initiated Balika Samridhi Yojana where the mothers of newborn girl children were given a post-delivery grant of Rs 500 each in cash as a gift from the Government. There was also provision for Annual Scholarships to the girl child for attending school.
The government along with the Women and Child Development Organization in India launched the Dhanalakshmi scheme where all girl children born after November 8, 2008, and registered in the scheme and under the government were given an initial cash incentive of Rs 5,000.
This new development from the Uttarkashi district, makes us question the intention and the effect of these schemes.