Kerala’s much-vaunted achievements in human development appear to be coming unstuck in crucial areas such as child sex ratio, which currently shows a disturbing downward trend in at least six districts in the State.
The study, commissioned by the State Department of Social Welfare, shows that the child sex ratio in Kerala had declined from 976 to 958 in the course of the two decades between 1971 and 1991, showed a marginal increase by two points in 2001, but declined by one point — from 960 to 959 — in 2011. The district-level data are even more disturbing and show that between the censuses of 1991 and 2011, when the district boundaries remained unchanged, the female deficit increased in six districts — Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad, Palakkad, Thrissur, and Idukki, with Palakkad showing a steady decline in all the censuses from 1991.
The study, the results of which were presented at a seminar at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS) by the two-member team of researchers Muhammed Kabeer and K. Pushpangadan here on Friday, shows that between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, child sex ratio declined by one point — from 963 to 962 — in Palakkad, by 10 points — from 958 to 948 — in Thrissur, by 11 points — from 969 to 958 — in Idukki, by two points — 962 to 960 — in Kasaragod, by seven points — 969 to 962 — in Kannur, and by six points – 966 to 960 — in Wayanad.
Disaggregation of the data to the taluk level reveals some even more worrisome features. Twenty-six out of 63 taluks in the State had lower female-male ratios (FMRs) in 2001 than in 1991 and 39 had lower FMRs in 2011 than in 2001. The taluks that registered decline fall into clusters that are contiguous, cutting across district boundaries. Between 1991 and 2001, FMR declined in the taluks of Kasaragod, Hosdurg (Cluster 1), Kannur, Thalassery, Vadakara, Mananthavady, Sulthan Battery (Cluster 2), Perinthalmanna, Mannarakkad, Ponnani, Ottappalam, Thalapally, Palakkad, Alathur (Cluster 3), Peerumade, Kanjirappally, Mallapally, Thiruvalla, Chengannur (Cluster 4), Thiruvananthapuram, Neyyattinkara (Cluster 5) and Kozhikode, Aluva, Devikulam and Kuttanad that are outside these clusters.
In 2011, the decline spread to more areas, adjoining those which reported decline in the preceding decade, while a few that had reported decline in 1991-2001 escaped decline in the next decade. Studies on India and China have already noted the diffusion of decline in the child sex ratios, which they have called the ‘contagion effect.’ The excess mortality of female children raises serious questions relating to the discrimination against the female child, say the researchers.
From 1971 to 1991, the ratio fell from 976 to 958, as
per a study commissioned by the government.