It took Haryana twenty long years to bring up the child sex ratio (in the age group of 0 to 6 years) to 900 as per the Civil Registration System, January 2016 though it still remains lower than the generally accepted national norm of 950 girls to 1000 boys. Nevertheless, it is a significant improvement from the 2011 Census, where the child sex ratio was 834 girls to 1000 boys, far worse than the national average.
At the same time in some parts of Haryana, there exists a growing population of young parents who are keen to keep their girls and educate them. Data from the civil registration system revealed that for the very first time 12 of the 21 districts in Haryana have reached the child sex ratio of 900 girls per 1,000 boys. The report was backed by Haryana health minister and senior BJP leader Anil Vij, who claimed that intensive inspection campaigns being run under the Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao programme was the reason for the improvement.
Haryana girls including Sakshi Malik, Geeta and Babita Phogat, and Deepa Malik winning laurels for the country in sports has been seen as foregrounding women empowerment and indirectly having an impact in terms of valuation of girl child. After the 2010 commonwealth games, Mahavir Singh Phogat, the father, claimed that more than 150 wrestling arenas for girls were built in the village.
But is sports a good enough reason to turn Haryana – notorious for female foeticide and honour killing into a state where a household without a girl child is eyed with suspicion?
Haryana is even today struggling towards creating a better atmosphere for women despite many laudable programmes launched by the State. The social challenge of preference for the male child remains deeply ingrained in the minds of the populace.
A 2014 G’nY survey of Village Miya Khandani, in Fatehbad, Haryana, published in the Vol 14, Issue 82, titled ‘Women in Panchayat’, revealed several downsides that women leaders face in Haryana, like not being able to organise any women group meetings because Haryana does not yet have any statutory provision mandating it. But that did not stop Sushma, sarpanch of Miya Khadani village in Fatehbad, from breaking social taboos while some village elders even today deride her for not covering her face whist conversing with senior men.
Sushma found herself cocooned in her veil as people spoke to her asking her to see this, read that or sign there. As a sarpanch, however, she felt the need to unveil herself when she found the veil debilitating in her interaction with government officials. It was then that she consulted her family and involved them in her decision.
Similarly, inspired by the film ‘Dangal’, the village Panchayat sarpanch of Charkhi Dadri in Kamod village of Haryana, installed his nameplate along with his daughters, in a first move ever (ToI, 20.1.2017). The villagers, both caught by surprise and delighted have emulated his example and installed new nameplates adorning their daughter’s names outside their homes. The cost is being borne by the village panchayat.
But, misuse of sex selection technology in the outskirts of the villages if not in the interiors and giving in to societal pressures of seeking out the sex of the child continues. Often, these sex determination tests are conducted by quacks adding to adverse consequences for women’s health.
The state health authorities in Haryana claimed to have registered over 380 FIRs under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test (PCPNDT) Act and Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act from April to December 2016.
The latest challenge before the Haryana Government officials is mushrooming of illegal ultrasound centres in Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, in areas adjoining Haryana. Last year alone, over 74 inter-state raids were conducted with 37 in Uttar Pradesh alone.
In an attempt to change perceptions at the grass root level, schemes like ‘Aapki Beti-Hamari Beti’ which ensures life insurance policy for girl children, ‘Beti Bachao Asha Protsahan’ and ‘Sukanya Samridhi Khata Yojana’ have been encouraging people to invest in their daughter’s education Haryana Government also set up a ‘Haryana Kanya Kosh’ where individuals and organizations can donate for the cause.
Though some villages in Haryana are still far behind in improving their child sex ratio and have an alarming surplus of boys and young men, yet attitudes and behaviour are changing. Haryana thus presents a mixed bag of hopes and despair for girls. On one hand there are sparks supporting and encouraging girls and on the other despite improvement in child sex ratios, the picture remains grim.