Uttarkashi grabbed the eyeballs of the whole nation, when shocking reports came out claiming that in 132 villages in Uttarkashi, no girl child was born in three months May–July).
According to the data, out of the total 216 births in the last three months, there wasn’t a single girl child. Naturally, the district administrators were shocked and baffled. We, the ordinary citizens, too, were stunned by this data, especially with the government pushing for “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao”.
Though, this slogan itself contains a tinge of authority and patronising tone. It is as if some higher authority will save the betis in true ‘damsels in distress’ style. They will ‘let’ the betis live and study. Rather, the betis have every right to be born and to live however they wish to! In a country where this kind of awareness campaign is needed even after 70 years of independence, and even a women-empowering campaign has such strong patriarchal undertones, it is not surprising that this is the result we yield.
Let us be honest. It is not as if ‘no girl child was born’; it’s more like ‘no girl child was allowed to be born’. And this is not an anomaly; this is the situation in major parts of India. Yes, Uttarkashi grabbed attention because ‘not a single girl’ was born. So, the sex ratio at birth is stark.
India’s apathy towards the girl children is historically evident in the census reports after 1947. According to the Census of India, the sex ratio was healthy during independence, but it started showing steady signs of decline over the years.
However, the 2011 census showed a slight improvement in statistics than the 2001 census. In 2001 census, the overall sex ratio of India was 933, which went up to a meagre 943 in 2011. Even then, this upward trend suffered a loss when it came to child sex ratio, which was 927 in 2001 census, and saw a steep decline to 919 in 2011.
This trend proves Uttarkashi is no exception. We, as a nation, despise the girl child; we see her as a burden, a liability, which gets manifested in India’s obsession with the male child.
Our girls are disappearing every day. Some are not even allowed to see the light of day; some are killed upon birth, some are trafficked. In a seminal article, economist Amartya Sen referred to the ‘missing women’ for the first time in 1992. It was an estimate of the total number of women who have died prematurely due to gender discrimination. He estimated the number of women missing globally to be 100 million and 30 million for India. This sheer number shook the world, our conscience, and stripped us, forcing us to take a look at the mirror. However, this was not the boiling point. Gender disparities manifested in stark contrast in sex ratio, continue to make its presence felt across the world, and in India too.
India’s growing fondness and obsession of the male child goes hand in hand with its strive for development. The changing demography of India bears testament to this alarming, violent fact. According to the Sample Registration System Survey, the country’s sex ratio at birth is showing a worrying decline. From 900 in 2013-14, it witnessed a fall to 898 in 2014–15, which again registered a seminal fall and the figure stood at 896 for 2015-17.
We ought to remember this Bharat in the face of shining digital India. Where female foeticide, infanticide, trafficking, and mysterious suicides are taking our girls away from us every day. Formal education has proved to be of little help to combat this. According to Kamla Bhasin, gender disparity is more pronounced in the developed areas of the country compared to the rural areas. The evil nexus of patriarchal ideology with improved access to medical practices and financial power puts the people in the urban areas in a better position to exploit this practice.
Perhaps, besides planning to launch Chandrayaan, we have to think of saving India’s girl child too. India is a baffling land indeed, where its majoritarian religious population will worship the Goddess, and go for sex-selection tests and subsequent abortions simultaneously. Let’s hope Uttarkashi will be an eye-opener in this long chain of historical discrimination prevalent through centuries. Let us recognise the pattern of violent patriarchy and insane obsession for the male child, and take it upon ourselves to spread this awareness among those who are not yet conscious of it. Let alone the humanitarian angle to this practice, in this utterly market-oriented world, let’s talk numbers!
Let’s talk of the sheer loss in GDP India is suffering by killing its girl child. Let’s not only focus on increasing the literacy level, but also the education level. Let us teach our children not ‘what’ to think, but ‘how’ to think. Empowerment has only one synonym—educating the masses. Let’s hope, the reel world of “Matrubhoomi….A Nation Without Women” does not overlap with the real India.