The National Family Health Survey-5 has indicated a massive dip in the sex ratio at birth in the Mumbai Suburban district with only 703 newborn girls per 1,000 boys. This is a huge reduction over the NFHS 2015-16, which reported 932 girls per 1,000 boys.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said Wednesday that the data is erroneous and does not reflect the true situation in the Suburban district. The BMC said that as per its own internal reports the sex ratio at birth for the suburbs stands at 938.
BMC’s executive health officer Dr Mangala Gomare said they have reached out to International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), that has worked on the NFHS survey, to understand the divergence in the data.
While the BMC keeps a record of actual births, the NFHS data is obtained from a scientifically conducted sample survey done by the IIPS. Dr Usha Ram, professor at IIPS, said the ratio was arrived at from a sample of 800-900 households in each district, which would amount to 4,000-5,000 people.
“The calculation of sex ratio is based on this sample size. With a small sample size there are limitations, it may not give an accurate picture,” she explained.
Dr Ram added that the NFHS survey aims to provide health indicators to facilitate policy-making for maternal, child health, and immunisation. “The data helps the government assess whether their programmes are in the right direction. But for sex ratio, birth registrations will give fair picture,” she said.
Questions have however been raised about the massive disparity in the data obtained by these two organisations. The difference is crucial, since a declining sex ratio hints at problems such as female foeticide, illegal sex determination tests, and male child preference. Such indicators may demand that the government intensify correctional efforts.
As per NFHS-5, the sex ratio at birth has dropped from 932 in 2015-16 to 703 in 2019-20 in Mumbai suburbs, and from 1,033 to 1,019 in Mumbai city. Other indicators like birth registration have also come down slightly in the suburbs – 93.6 per cent births are registered, down from 93.8 per cent in 2015-16. In the city, birth registrations have improved from 95 to 98.6 per cent in the same period.
In suburbs, children aged below 15 comprise 20.2 per cent of the total population. In 2015-16, their share in the population was 22.4 per cent. This may indicate a slow yet steady trend of family planning and conscious choice to have fewer children per family.
In the city, the share of children aged less than 15 dropped from 19.6 to 16.2 per cent.
While NFHS-5 data shows a steep drop in sex ratio at birth, the overall sex ratio has improved in both city and suburbs of Mumbai. In the city sex ratio for the entire population improved from 906 to 939, in suburbs from 869 to 921.
In contrast, the BMC’s birth registration data shows Mumbai city’s sex ratio at birth at 932 and Mumbai suburbs at 942 girls per 1,000 boys. Overall, Mumbai’s sex ratio is 938 girls per 1,000 boys.
“We have intensified the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign in the city over the last few years. All births are in institutions and birth registration is 100 per cent. Sex determination is strictly prohibited,” said Dr Minakshi Rao, head of family planning in BMC, adding that efforts were ongoing to understand the disparity between NFHs and BMC data.
The NFHS-5 data also shows a decline in sex ratio at birth in the entire Maharashtra, from 924 in the last survey to 913 in 2019-20.
Professor Soumitra Ghosh, with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said NFHS data is a scientifically designed survey that takes into account all discrepancies and social variables. “The survey design has been the same in 2015-16 and now. So if there is a steep dip in sex ratio, there is a definite decline over the years. We need further granular studies to understand why and how that happened, may be by looking at slums and non slums. But we can’t challenge the survey methodology.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines