| Girls at an anti-foeticide protest. File picture
New Delhi, Sept. 4: In a state where many parents don’t think twice about killing their unborn girl child, one man has scripted a story of hope.
Krishan Kumar, the deputy commissioner of Nawan Shahar in Punjab, has succeeded in turning around the district’s skewed sex ratio within two years through sheer vigilance and hard work.
At a two-day meeting of non-government organisations on female foeticide in Chandigarh, Kumar presented a strategy which showed that an alert and committed administration can put an end to the practice with the help of civil society organisations.
“At the beginning, the sex ratio in Nawan Shahar was 808:1,000. Kumar then put into place a model that worked successfully. Now he has been able to bring the sex ratio at par,” said Jyotsna Chatterjee, the director of Joint Women’s Programme, India.
The ratio in the district now is 975 females per 1,000 males and the fruits of Kumar’s labour have come to light at a time researchers have warned that falling number of women, as a result of selective abortion, could spawn increased anti-social behaviour and destabilise society.
The reason: “surplus” males will be unable to marry and become marginalised in societies where marriage brings status.
Chatterjee, who attended the meeting in Chandigarh, said Kumar asked officers to adopt villages to “keep regular track” of pregnant mothers.
The meeting of NGOs was held soon after female foetuses were fished out of a well behind a private nursing home last month. The message was chilling: female foeticide was very much on despite amendments to the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PNDT) Act and efforts by activists to bring the culprits to book.
Punjab, which has a 798:1,000 sex ratio, is clearly the worst culprit followed by Haryana with 819, Delhi 868 and Gujarat 883.
Chatterjee said the Nawan Shahar model is interesting as it was not confined within the parameters of the PNDT Act. “Krishan Kumar initiated the effort with the help of the local civil society. And it worked. The act was there as a legal backing,” she added.
The strategy was a blend of punishment and reward. Last October, he carried out 170 inspections of 36 ultrasound clinics. Seven were temporarily shut and one permanently.
Kumar set up district-level coordination committees and assured panchayats of a Rs 2.5-lakh grant for ensuring a sex ratio of 950 females per 1,000 males. If the panchayats could achieve a ratio in which the number of females exceeded that of males, they would get a reward of Rs 3 lakh.
Any person giving information of a foeticide was rewarded Rs 5,000. Workers of the health department were told to keep track of the number of pregnant women. They also monitored their check-up.
If a couple aborted a female foetus they had to explain why to district officials. A case was registered if their explanation was not satisfactory. The strategy worked. But activists say Kumar succeeded because he was committed.
“Much of the story lies in the effort of an individual — his commitment to the issue,” Chatterjee said.