, , , , , , , , ,

There was this Hindi feature film ‘Matrubhoomi’ that was released way back in 2003 which dealt with female infanticide and possible repercussions on account of it. As the opening scene unfolds, a narrator says, “For centuries, society went on killing new born girl child soon after her birth and thought right of it. They however failed to realize that their act of infanticide will create a big problem in the future.” Between 2001 when the last census took place and then 2003 when this film was made and now with the latest census to hit the market,  things have gone bad to worse where the boy/girl ratio is concerned. Today, there are just 914 girls to every 1000 boys in India as compared to 933 girls to every 1000 boys way back in 2001 census. It seems the message of ‘Matrubhoomi’ got lost somewhere.

During his days, Mahatma Gandhi had said about women, “Man can never be a woman’s equal in the spirit of selfless service with which nature has endowed her.” That’s why we have mothers and sisters and then a wife to care for us. Why haven’t people taken cognizance of these words and put an end to infanticide?  Closer home, Orissa had 972 females to every 1000 males in 2001 whereas in 2011, there are 978 females to every 1000 males, a marginal growth which is good news. However, four districts of Orissa have a way low below 900 girls to every 1000 boys which is alarming.  The districts of Nayagarh, Angul, Dhenkanal and Ganjan have this dubious distinction and the government is taking special initiatives to protect the girl child.

It’s however upto the common man to do the right thing. It’s on the parents to put an end to sex determination tests then only the flourishing underground sex determination labs across the country will go out of business. As it is, the government has put an end to such labs but because of parents keen on determining the sex of their unborn child, these labs flourish illegally.

Way back in the time of the British Raj, when the British conducted the first ever census in the country in 1871, it was found that several villages didn’t have any girl child and this news greatly alarmed the British. They became privy to the fact that most Indians looked down on the girl child as a liability and resorted to infanticide.  The authorities immediate brought the Female Infanticide Act into the picture and anybody resorting to infanticide was brutally punished. The Indian government on its part has been very lenient with infanticide including those doctors who are responsible for infanticides to some extent as well as those who conduct sex determination tests. Why can’t the Indian government be strict against those errant doctors and civilians for such an act? Will it take another British Raj to make India and its people realize what it means to kill a girl child?

According to recent reports, nearly 700,000 unborn girls are killed through abortions every year in India and increasing every year. Even the killing of newly born girl childs have been rampant over the years with millions of girl childs being killed for no fault of theirs. In that case, India as a nation is no better than any other civil war torn countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan where bombings and unnatural death happen every day. We are on par with terrorists who carry out mass killings by using guns and bombs. In India we do it through a cheaper and simpler way called Infanticide with no repercussions on the crime.  This has been Indian culture for thousands of years and it’s high time, the government stopped it stringently.

We as a society talk about women empowerment and at the same time get sex determination tests done on the sly. Living in a civilized world and yet resorting to a brutal crime. Are we not on the same line as those living far away in the remote villages and live from hand to mouth and at times go hungry? They have a reason to do away with the girl child (though it doesn’t justify infanticide) but do we have the right to infanticide being a part of the civilized and modern world?

We talk about India as a motherland and yet we have no love for the girl child and discriminately opt for infanticide. We worship several goddesses across religions and yet we think little of these goddesses before killing the girl child. Isn’t it time we stopped calling India our motherland and instead call it our fatherland because one day, India would be without girl child, who can grow up to be a mother. Bhubaneswar too had witness several cases of infanticides over the years and just about 4 years ago was worse hit when foetuses were found behind a diagnostic centre soon after another case had erupted in Nayagarh which in the just release census figure shows a low sex ratio of 851 girls for every 1000 boys. Indeed an alarming number considering the number of foetuses found in Nayagarh in 2007.

The government should stand up and do something drastic to stop this rampant killing. It needs to reach out to the poor villages and extend an encouraging and helping hand to expectant mothers and lavish government benefits if it happens to be a girl child. Then only these poor and uneducated villagers would stop from killing their girl child. It has to ensure stricter actions in cities and towns where sex discrimination tests are conducted and take severe action against erring parents and doctors. It should enforce PNDT Act (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) stringently. Since 1996 when PNDT Act came into force, it hasn’t be used effectively. A survey shows that not all ultrasound clinics that conduct pregnancy tests take the initiative to fill out the mandatory forms that the government demands from them time to time. And those who do in most cases leave the forms incomplete which gives a shaky picture to the government. It clearly indicates that the doctors at these clinics are not taking the government seriously and flouting the PNDT Act regularly. These doctors are aware that the loopholes in our legal system are wide enough for them to scrape through and continue with their practices. These loopholes need to be plugged.

On the social front as the female sex ratio goes on decreasing, there are bound to be negative reactions like the film ‘Matrubhoomi’ indicated. A woman will become a prized asset, crime against women will increase and dowry in spite of legal action, will hit sky high. It will be more about buying a bride then getting one. Does India need to reach that stage?