By Maya Palit
Two bits of related news appear to indicate that we might have been too hasty in celebrating the massive improvements in Haryana’s sex ratio (which was 834 girls to 1000 boys in 2011, and crossed the 900 mark in January this year, before apparently increasing to 950 in April). On the one hand, an audit in the state has found that districts might have been fudging their numbers: Panipat for instance, reported a sex ratio of 1007 girls for every 1000 boys had produced a grossly wrong estimate, and the revised ratio is 872:1000. (Other districts, including Sonipat and Faridabad had inflated numbers too.
One of the reasons for this screw-up could be that staff are ordered to register the girl children on a priority basis, whereas boys are sometimes registered in the next quarter (either because the staff have been slow on the uptake, or because of a deliberate manipulation, it isn’t clear yet). The state secretary for Beti Bachao made some tall claims about making sure the data at the end of the year is infallibly recorded, while the deputy commissioner said that quarterly figures shouldn’t be given too much thought because they habitually fluctuate a lot, whereas the annual sex ratio figures have indicated improvements.
In the meantime, though, health officials in Haryana have pointed to the growth of a trend that we already knew about — that rich couples are increasingly flying abroad for sex determination tests to places where it is legal. An official told the Times of India that people are keener than ever to go to Dubai, Thailand, and Singapore to do the tests and abortions because they were roughly priced at the same as procedures in India.
The vagueness of the reports are because there aren’t any exact figures: health officials are relying on the word of nurses, social workers, and agents shuttling couples abroad for pre-natal diagnosis. But a report last month put together by researchers in Canada also suggested that abortions were rampant amongst Punjabi communities there too. Alarmist? We’re not so sure.