20 lakh women vanishing every year! Can we do something?

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India, at the moment, is keeping a watch on the trial of the men accused in the barbaric rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi last month. But is it enough to just engage with a one-off case and accuse the government and law-makers of the endless atrocities being committed again women across the country?

Hear this, particularly those who think crime against women is just a urban phenomenon and only more police action will curb the menace. Economists Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray, who conducted a research based on the work done by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen way back in 1990, have said nearly 20 lakh women are just disappearing from this country in a given year! A report published in Bengali daily Anandabazaar Patrika said on Thursday.

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In the latest census report published in 2011, it was revealed that the birth of female child has decreased in comparison to the male child. The sex ratio in the 2011 census report said that there are only 914 females per 1,000 males. It is the worst ratio since independence.

In 2001, the ratio was 927 females per 1,000 males. The ratio should ideally be 1,000 female per 1,020 male. Where are these women going? As per a report, while 25 per cent of the women die during giving birth to children, 12 per cent die during abortion, 18 per cent disappear at a young age while 45 per cent vanish at an adult age.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was recently accused of not showing enough concern for women in the wake of the Delhi gangrape and the protest that followed, has reportedly stressed equal opportunity for women and their pressing problems.

It is good that the govt is seeking assistance from scholars

It is learnt that Singh has expressed a willingness to discuss the issue with Sen and other economists and prepare a blueprint for the future. He has also asked Union Minister of State for women and child development Krishna Tirath to talk to the Planning Commission and education ministry to make a report on the issue. The government will judge sex ratios in various states of India as well as compare the situation in India with various other countries. Measures will be taken once the data bank on the huge number of disappearing women in the country is put on the table.

In Punjab, 60 per cent of the disappearing women dies at the time of birth owing to foeticide. Girls aged below 15 are threatened most in Haryana and Rajasthan. In 2011, 2,28,650 cases of crime against women were registered, which is seven per cent more than 2010 and 40 per cent more than 2007. In many of West Bengal's backward districts, women fall easy prey to human traffickers who lure them to a faraway land and force into flesh trade. Their whereabouts are not known thereafter.

The economists' report is a big worry although the PM's initiative to deal with the problem presents a silver-lining. What arises hope that the government is at last, seeking cooperation from academics and sociologists to reach the root of the problem and not just attempting cosmetic surgeries from the top by playing the same old record of promising better policing and tougher laws.

Singh's keenness to find out the roots of the problems and encourage research on them is a welcome step. He expressed hope that such an approach will help find a long-term solution to the problem. Again, a welcome thought.

Only law and police won't help, the PM's focus is right. Can he sustain it?

The current political-legal-administrative system in which we live often fails to understand a sensitive socio-economic problem in great depth. The Indian state system, a leftover of the colonial system, needs urgent reforms to make it more suitable for the current-day issues but there are more holes than one can plug and hence despite repeated civil protests, we see authorities feel helpless to effect a change on the ground.

The ill-equipped politicians of these days have no idea of how to deal with serious issues and ultimately it is the judiciary and the media that take up the task of monitoring the government's action. It is refreshing that the head of the executive decided to seek assistance from brains that are better equipped and capable to analyse the problems and prescribe ways to deal with them.

The government is for the people and it must take the people into confidence. Only taking help of the bureaucracy, law and police won't help. Singh's thought is headed to the right direction. Can he sustain it?

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