Punjab, for long criticized for its gender inequality has shown market improvement in sex ratio in last few years thanks to a number of steps by the Punjab government and rising awareness amongst people in the state due to several programmes.
Between the census figures of 2001 and 2011, the sex ratio of Punjab has improved from 876 to 895 and child sex ratio from 798 to 846. The figures are far better than several states in the country including neighbouring state of Haryana. According to Director Census Punjab, Seema Jain, the state has witnessed an increase of 48 points in the 0 to 6 age group.
Officials concede that Punjab has been able to improve its sex ratio ahead of neighbouring Haryana and many other states primarily because of a series of gender sensitive policies and initiaitives by the SAD-BJP government during its almost two decade long tenure. This is noteworthy as Haryana, the neighbouring state of Punjab has witnessed only a marginal increase of 16 points and several other states have witnessed a steep decline in the sex ratio during this period.
What led to positive change
The rise is mainly because of initiatives of the Punjab government and consistent awareness campaigns like Nanhi Chhaan Programme launched by the NGOs that inspired people and made them change their orthodox mindset.
Also strict implementation of Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act and a mass movement against female foeticide gave a much needed fillip to the “Save girl child programme” particularly in the remote rural areas of Punjab.
Experts believe that the improvement in child sex ratio (0-6 years) from 786 girls per 1,000 boys in the 2001 Census to 828 per 1,000 in 2011, is the result of multiple factors. A cross-section of scholars and demography experts observe that till 2001, sex determining tests in foetus were easily available and this could have considerably affected that ratio badly. However in the later years the government became too strict and action was taken against the violators, which curbed the menace to a great extent.
Professor Paramjeet Singh Judge, Dean of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar, feels that the improvement in economic conditions has led to rise in literacy and thus helped creating awareness amongst people. “Effect was seen on sex ratio figures, which showed a balancing trend. Social-awareness campaigns and publicity by the government also played a positive role,” he mentions.
According to Professor Harvinder Singh Bhatti, director for Census Studies and Research (CSR) of Punjabi University, Patiala, urban middle class in Punjab had availed new techniques to disturb the process of nature, which had earlier led to an adverse sex ratio. Poor people do not have finances to get the sex-determination tests done, thus sex ratio amongst the below poverty line families (BPL) remained normal, he added. The stringent measures and strict action however has helped improving the gender ratio.
Besides various schemes giving benefits to single girl child and families too helped a great deal in improving the conditions.