By Prachi Salve:
A wealth of laws and programmes instituted to protect girls are failing them in India’s two most economically-developed states, Maharashtra and Gujarat, according to recent reports by the central government auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
Both states are failing to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNT), which prohibits sex selection, before or after conception, and regulates diagnostic techniques to prevent misuse for sex determination used in female foeticide.
Strong laws that work on paper, fail on ground
On paper, the Act provides for robust implementation state-wide through a supervisory board and an advisory committee including an officer of or above the rank of joint director of Health and Family Welfare as chairperson; representatives from women’s organisations and an officer of the law department.
The chief medical officer or civil surgeon is designated the appropriate authority at the district level.
These authorities can monitor the sonography centres that help abort the female fetus.
In Maharashtra, there was a shortfall of 55% in inspections (averaged across all districts) in 2013-14, up from a shortfall of 43% in 2011-12, the CAG found. The highest was in Amravati district at 54%.
In Gujarat, the shortfall was higher at 73% in 2013-14.
“The joint secretary, health and family welfare department, stated that the state government had assured to increase (sic) rate of conviction by meticulous paper work, evidence gathering and proper submission, and strong pleading of PC & PNDT cases,” the report said.
Maharashtra registered 481 cases under the PC & PNDT Act as of March 2014.
While 181 offences were registered in Gujarat under the PC & PNDT Act as of March 2014, only 49 cases were prosecuted and only six offenders were convicted, the CAG report said. The punishments include imprisonment, cancellation of licences and fine.
In violation of Supreme Court directions to prosecute cases within six months, cases continued from one to 12 years.
The failure to implement the PC & PNDT Act is responsible for the falling child sex-ratio in these states, the report said.
Child sex-ratio in Maharashtra is the lowest in Beed, Marathwada with 807 girls per 1,000 boys followed by Jalgoan in Khandesh (north Maharashtra).
In Gujarat, Surat has the lowest ratio of 831:1,000 followed by Gandhinagar.
The child sex-ratio in four districts (Chandrapur, Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara) in Maharashtra rose between 2001 and 2011 but it declined in 31 districts over the same period.
Sex ratio improves in India, not in Maharashtra, Gujarat
Maharashtra’s overall sex ratio declined from 920 to 919 over a decade (2001 to 2011) although the all-India ratio improved from 933 to 943, according to census 2011.
For Gujarat, the overall sex ratio declined from 920 to 919 from 2001 to 2011. However, there was some improvement in the child sex-ratio from 883 to 890 between 2001 and 2011.
Another important finding of the report is that the child sex-ratio is lower in urban areas than in rural areas in both states.
The report explains that this could be due to the availability of sonography centres in urban areas.
“The availability of genetic clinics in urban areas and awareness of literate people about usage of sex determination techniques could also be attributed to declining child sex-ratio in urban areas,” the report said.
The child sex-ratio in urban India stood at 902 as against 919 in rural areas, the report said.
In Maharashtra, the child sex-ratio in urban regions stood at 899 and 890 in rural areas.
In Gujarat, the child sex-ratio in urban areas is 852 and 914 in rural areas.
Children forced into marriage under-reported by both states
Child marriages, meaning girls/boys aged 10 to 19 years getting married, are common across Maharashtra and Gujarat, the report said. The audit found that both states were under-reporting child marriages.
There are almost 17 million children in India who were married between the ages of 10 and 19. Maharashtra ranks 5th with 1.5 million children married, while Gujarat is 7th with 0.9 million children married in the 10-19 age group.
Almost 73% of children married are girls in Maharashtra while it is 66% in Gujarat.
The report highlighted the high pendency of cases pertaining to child marriages in Maharashtra.
In 2014, 101 new cases were registered and verdicts were pronounced in 23 cases.
There were delays in nominating Child Marriage Prohibition Officers in rural areas while no officers were nominated in urban areas, the report said.
Though The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act came into force from June 2012, the government was yet to frame guidelines to assist girls during pre-trial and trial, the report said.
In Gujarat, out of 659 complaints of child marriages during 2009-14, court cases were filed in only 15; no one was convicted during this period.
Maharashtra, Gujarat: Money is not the issue
In 2013-14, Maharashtra’s per capita income (at current prices) was 45.6% above the Indian norm (Rs 117,091 annually), while Gujarat‘s was 33% above (Rs 106,831 annually at current prices). India’s average annual per capita income (at current prices) was Rs 80,388.
This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.