While rural Tamil Nadu has notched a marginal increase in its average rural child sex ratio, a close look at the statistics announced by the Census of India 2011 on Tuesday reveals a mixed picture.
Definite improvements in CSR (Female children per 1000 male children in the 0-6 age group) are noticeable, particularly in districts notorious for their foeticide/infanticide practices.
Notable among them are Dindigul and Theni, which in the 2001 census had CSR of 921 and 870 respectively.
In 2011, Dindigul has improved its CSR to 933, and Theni, substantially to 932. Madurai, which had 901 girls for every 1000 boys in 2001, now remains below the 925 mark, but has improved to 918/1000.
Even among the districts that continue to be below the 925 mark, and consequently in the red zone, marginal and substantial improvements in CSR have been noted.
Prominent among these districts is Salem that has improved from 811/1000 (in 2001) to 897/1000 (in the 2011 Census).
Krishnagiri has improved by 21 points (it is also highest among the under 925 districts); Namakkal has bettered its score by 16 points and Dharmapuri brings in the rear with a forward jump of 10 points.
Tuticorin has also moved ahead to the green zone (over 950) to 959 in the last 10 years. Karur too has advanced to 957 from its 2001 CSR of 928/1000.
“We had noticed these improvements even with the data we culled from Primary Health Centres. The Census, of course, is more reliable. The worrisome districts seem to be improving, thanks largely to the focus of the government in this belt,” explains M. Jeeva of Campaign Against Sex Selective Abortion.
However, this is only one half of the story.
Districts such as Perambalur and Ariyalur which were in the second rung (925-950) have slipped to the bottom.
Perambalur dropped from 933 (in 2001) to 908 in 2011; and Ariyalur from 946 to 890.
The most drastic drop has been in Cuddalore, once in the green, comfort zone of over 950 to 878 in 2011. In effect, this means a drastic drop of 79 points – probably the worst in the State.
Villupuram has dropped from the green zone it occupied during the last decadal enumeration to 936 in the medium zone.
Mr. Jeeva said CSR takes into account the fact that more girls than boys are dying in the first year of birth. He added that the Cuddalore drop was anticipated.
Even four years ago, a covert operation in Cuddalore revealed foetuses abandoned outside a scan centre. Also, the number of scan centres continues to be on the rise, he pointed out.
“Clearly, our effort to fight the cruel practices related to son preference has not been even throughout the State. Only pockets have been monitored, and in these pockets, strict implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PCPNDT) Act was facilitated. Meanwhile, insidiously, these practices have caught up in other regions that were comparatively safe,” Mr. Jeeva explained.
Plea for uniform implementation
He warned that the fall could be more drastic in the next decade unless attention is paid towards uniform implementation and monitoring of the PCPNDT Act in the State. The small achievements must not lead to a sense of complacency, he added.