ndsharma's blog

Chauhan wants to improve sex ratio by religious mumbo-jumbo!

Posted on: October 22, 2011

If worship of young girls on auspicious days once or twice a year could correct the disparity in sex ratio, Madhya Pradesh would have been far ahead of other States in this respect by now, and the chief minister did not have to embark upon a ‘Beti Bachao Abhiyan’ (save the daughter campaign). Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his wife Sadhna Singh worship young girls without fail on the ninth (and last ) day of the Navaratras in Chaitra (around March) and Ashwin (around October), as is the practice among orthodox Hindus in most of the northern and western States.
This time it was a gala event on October 5. Over a thousand young girls with their parents and a good sprinkling of religious leaders were invited to the CM’s residence; the chief minister and his wife performed worship of the girls and all those present were served a sumptuous lunch. The expenditure was said to be around Rs one crore. The estimated budget for his State-wide ‘Beti Bachao Abhiyan’ is stated to be around Rs 100 crore which various departments will contribute.
Chauhan’s religiosity is, though, having an adverse effect upon the girl child in Madhya Pradesh. According to the provisional population figures released by the Census of India some time back, there were 919 females (for 1000 males) in the State in 2001. The number of females went up to 930 in 2011. But the number of females in the 0-6 age-group went down from 932 in 2001 to 912 in 2011.
This is a drastic decline in the sex ratio and it corresponds with Chauhan’s own regime. The figures would suggest that there was a steady improvement in the sex ratio in the earlier part of the decade. After Chauhan took over as chief minister on November 29, 2005, it started going down steeply. Chauhan’s own Vidisha district was among the worst scorers. The number of girls in the 0-6 years age group there declined from 943 in 2001 to 922 in 2011, though the number of females for the entire decade had gone up from 875 to 897. Out of a total of 50 districts, only three had shown a declining trend during the entire decade. However, 49 districts registered decline in the 0-6 age group; only Bhind district had recorded an increase by 3 points (from 832 to 835).
Not that Chauhan had not been aware of the problem. Within months of his taking over the reins of government, he launched with fanfare his Ladli Lakshmi Yojana aimed at taking care of the girl child. Another scheme was called Ayushmati which is supposed to take care of the health problems of women and female children of the landless families in the rural areas. The Deendayal Antyodaya Upachar Yojana was launched to provide complete check-up and treatment facilities to all the members of the families living below the poverty line (BPL). There are some women-specific schemes promising safe delivery of the women from poor families, with the follow-up health care of the mother and child. There are other schemes being implemented specifically for the tribals, the Scheduled Castes and the backward classes; mother and the child are mentioned there as the major concern.
Thousands of crores of rupees have gone into what Chauhan calls the implementation of these schemes. He, however, has no time to pause and think why the situation has only been worsening during his period. There might not be doctors or nurses or medicines in the hospitals and dispensaries but the currency notes were found stacked in the quilts, utensils and washing machines whenever the Income Tax Department raided the officials of the health and child and woman development departments. Chauhan is always there to help the corrupt if it is within his powers. The conduct of business rules for the government employees enjoined upon the government to place under suspension an IAS officer if the challan was put up against him in a court of law; in the early period of his regime, Chauhan amended that rule so that an IAS officer need not be suspended. He would sit on the file endlessly if an agency sought the government sanction to prosecute a bureaucrat in a corruption case.
The Central government and the foreign agencies like UNICEF and World Bank have provided over the years huge amounts for various purposes: provision of drinking water, child care, malnutrition, etc. All that money is going—where? The water-borne diseases in the villages, particularly in the tribals areas, and malnutrition are the major causes of infant mortality. When the situation is desperate the people, because of their old beliefs, try to save the male child and the female child becomes dispensable.
Even when the malnutrition deaths are reported, the government does not show any urgency in tackling the situation. Occasionally, its different departments start wrangling, instead of initiating remedial measures. When nine deaths in three villages of Satna district within a week were reported, the health department admitted that they had died from malnutrition. However, the department of woman and child development rubbished the health department’s report and came out with the claim that the children had died from illnesses. As if that exonerated the government from its responsibility!
It is action, and not religious mumbo-jumbo, that is needed to deal with the grim situation. Chauhan better keep in mind that the State is inhabited not by the Hindus only.


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October 2011
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