Raj Kumar Sharma
New Delhi, Jan 23 (PTI) Girl child survival is skewedeven in those areas of northern India having limited access topublic health facilities and modern ultrasound technology asfamilies ''neglect'' them to ensure there are few survivors,says a new study.
Since families can not know the sex of the foetus dueto lack of technology, girls born in these areas facesystematic healthcare neglect, specially in poorer communitiesto ''dispose them off'', says the study.
Allowing the umbilical cord of the newly born girl toget affected, not spending on their healthcare and nutritionand treating their death as ''good riddance'' show the neglectfaced by girls in these areas, adds the study.
''Disappearing Daughters'', the study has been conductedby ActionAid and the International Development Research Centre(IDRC) and has covered more than 6,000 families in Kangra inHimachal, Morena in Madhya Pradesh, Dhaulpur in Rajasthan,Rohtak in Haryana and Fategargh Saheb in Punjab.
The study has found the sex ratio even lower comparedto one recorded in 2001 census in all the rural and urbansites surveyed, except for Rajasthan.
In Kangra, it has gone down from 900 in 2001 to 789,from 765 to 734 in Fatehgarh, 776 from 785 in Rohtak and 842from 851 in Morena.
However, the sex ratio has increased in Dhaulpur from819 in 2001 to 871.
Although there appears to be some improvement in thesurvival rates for first-born daughters but as family sizesget smaller and parents want fewer children, the survivalchances of second and third daughters are plunging, accordingto the study.
In Morena, the researchers found that a third daughterborn into a family now has only half as much chance ofsurvival as a son.
While boy-only families are on the rise, just 3 percent of families in Morena and Dhaulpur, 6 per cent in urbanKangra and 2 per cent in Fatehgarh Saheb have daughter-onlyfamilies.
Data from Fatehgarh Saheb shows that families areincreasingly stopping at one son. The chances of a secondchild being born are disproportionately higher if the firstchild is a daughter.
The problem of declining sex ratios cannot simply beattributed to poverty, says the study. In both, rural andurban sites surveyed, the proportion of girls wassignificantly lower among those surveyed from the upper caste,compared to the lower caste. .
Most shocking of all are the figures for high caste urban Punjab, at just 300 girls for every 1,000 boys.
Doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners werefound to perform prenatal sex detection and sex-selectiveabortions for financial benefits.
"The access to sex determination technology andtermination of pregnancy both among the poor and the middle,even the upper middle income groups is easy. The laws andregulations are only as effective as its implementation," saysParvinder Singh, head of communications, Actionaid.
"During our case studies, we have often come acrossmothers who have undergone five to six pregnancies in as manyyears hoping for a boy," he adds.
Ironically, some medical professionals interviewed forthe study justified sex-selective abortions as being a ''socialduty'' which prevented the ill-treatment of unwanted daughtersand helped to control the population.
"Every day families come to me for ultrasound scansand the first question they ask is not about whether theirbaby is healthy, but whether it is a boy or a girl," says DrRitu Rathi from Morena, who refuses to disclose the sex of thechild to the expecting parents.