The good news from the provisional Census 2011 figures is that the demographic transition is on track in India, but the imbalance in child sex ratio is a serious cause for concern, P.M. Kulkarni, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, has said.

He said India that was well into its demographic transition and in the phase of declining growth rate. Fertility decline had occurred in all parts of the country in varying degrees. He hazarded a projection that India's population would grow till the mid-late part of the century, overtaking China. But, there would be a time when growth would plateau and then, even dip.

While there has been steady improvement in the overall sex ratio, it has worsened for the 0-6 age group. In 1981, there were 962 girls under 6 years to 1,000 boys. In 1991, this dropped to 945; and in 2001, further down to 927. The recent census figures were 914 girls to 1,000 boys in the 0-8 year group.

While some of this could be attributed to the sex ratio at birth being more imbalanced than normal, higher female child mortality also contributes to it. The overwhelming reason, however, is sex selection that has been practised widely in parts of India, specifically in northern and western regions.

In fact, the CSR has worsened in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, the ratio in several other States that had hitherto balanced figures had worsened. This calls for country-wide campaigns against sex selective abortion.

Tamil Nadu is well ahead of most of the country in demographic transition, as seen in the low growth experienced by the State. However, with population figure at a staggering 7.2 crore, the decadal increase for the State in the period between this census and the last has increased from 11.7 per cent to 15.6 per cent. “Clearly, heavy migration from outside the State is indicated. The indirect estimate is that it would be about 5 per cent over the 10 year period,” Prof. Kulkarni said.

While Tamil Nadu is placed better in terms of child sex ratio (946: 1000), it is the effect of averages. There are some districts with significant imbalances – new areas of imbalances have also begun to emerge in Perambalur, Ariyalur and Cuddalore. The lecture was held as part of a series on health issues organised by the Voluntary Health Services.