The National Health Profile, 2018, exposes the gross inability of law enforcement agencies in India to crack down on female foeticide.
Between 2008 and 2016, a total of just 1128 foeticides happened in the country, says the National Health Profile. Yet, the National Family Health Survey 4 shows that the sex ratio of children born in the last five years before the survey (2010-11 to 2015-16) is just 919 girls per 1,000 births (the ideal ratio is 950). NHP 2018 highlights the under-reporting of foeticides (sex-selective and otherwise) in the country. In an annual birth cohort of 2.6 crore and with the sex ratio in the 0-5 years age group just marginally up in NFHS-4 from the 914 of NFHS-3, that female foeticides continue to happen in the country is not a matter of dispute. However, the abysmally low cases filed for foeticide expose the laxity of the law enforcement system.
National Health Profile is the most comprehensive annual compilation of data on disease incidence, health infrastructure and health finance. It was released on Tuesday by Health Minister J P Nadda. According to the document, in 2008 in all of India, 73 cases were filed under Section 315/316 of the IPC, both of which deal with the killing of an unborn child with any intention other than saving the mother’s life. In 2009, 102 cases were filed, in 2010, 111 cases were filed and in 2011, 63 cases were filed. Between 2012 and 2016, the figures were 210, 221, 107, 97 and 144, respectively. In Haryana, which has been among the worst offenders of female foeticide, the number of cases ranged from 2 in 2009 to 28 in 2012. In 2011, there were no cases at all. The sex ratio in the 0-5 years age group in the state is 836 girls per 1,000 boys.
Madhya Pradesh showed an interesting paradox — while the sex ratio in the 0-5 years age group went down from 960 in NFHS-3 to 927, the state has consistently recorded a relatively high number of cases. It ranged between 8 in 2008 and 79 in 2013. In Uttar Pradesh, cases grew fairly steadily from 2 in 2008 to 52 in 2016. However, the sex ratio declined from 922 to 903 between 2005-06 and 2015-16.
Poonam Muttreja, executive director of Population Foundation of India, says there is no doubt the figures are an under-estimation. “These figures do not match up to the sex ratio. This is definitely an under-estimation. In 18 states and UTs, the sex ratio is below the national average. We are definitely missing a lot of cases. So many abortions are actually cases of sex-selective foeticide which is illegal — mind you, abortion isn’t — but there is no way to find out because the system and the person doing it will not talk about it.”