On Tuesday, while extending Beti Bachao Beti Padao to 61 more districts, the Minister for Woman and Child Development Maneka Gandhi announced that 49 of the 100 districts that currently fall under the scheme have registered a positive trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB). The WCD ministry, however, has chosen not to release any data to back up this claim.
Ministry officials state that though any improvement in SRB (increasing trend in 47 districts and stable in two) is welcome considering the steadily declining decadal figures, it may be a bit premature to assume that the positive trend is the outcome of the scheme itself.
It was just over a year ago, in January 2015, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the scheme from Panipat in Haryana, the state which has the lowest SRB in the country. It was launched as a two-pronged attempt at improving the skewed sex ratio and promoting the education of the girl child through multi-sectoral actions. One of its primary goals is to prevent gender-biased sex selective elimination.
SRB is the number of girls born for every 1000 boys and it is a more direct indicator of the prevalence of gender-based sex selection than Child Sex Ratio which also includes factors such as post-birth mortality. It is natural for the SRB to have higher male births and hence the normal SRB for India would be 950 girls for every 1000 boys. The implied SRB (ISRB) for India in 2001 was only 935 girls for every 1000 boys slipping further to 923 in 2011.
Ministry officials state that Haryana, from where the scheme was launched last year, has shown visible improvements in SRB. However, they admit that the overall increasing trend may not be necessarily reflective of the success of the scheme. And this may be true for Haryana too. Decadal figures for the state, even before the Beti Bachao was launched, show an improvement from 838 to 845. In fact, such an increasing trend, though marginal in many cases, is visible in 13 of the 27 states for which data is available.
The credit also goes to the stricter implementation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act which was passed in 1994. The government will have to put celebrations on hold until it is able to provide ample evidence on parameters such as the increase in institutional births, universal enrollment of girls, drop out rates etc, that are the real indicators for measuring the actual impact of Beti Bachao Beti Padao.