Friday, May 18, 2012

A startling truth

I watched the 1st episode of Satyayamev Jayate (I don't watch much T.V. so I came to know about the episode some days after it was telecast and downloaded it from YouTube) in which it was pointed out that the incidence of female foeticide is higher among city-bred, educated, economically well-off people than among illiterate, poor rural folk. Even though I was aware of this, the revelations still shocked me.

I first came to to know of this counter-intuitive piece of information in The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen.He analyses the data for children from 0-5 yrs. He takes the German figure of 94.8 girls per hundred boys as the benchmark. He finds a clear regional divide with the East and South being above the benchmark while the West and North were below the benchmark. Within this divide, there were revealing trends.
...the contrast does  not seem to have any immediate and clearly explicable economic connection. The states with strong anti-female bias include rich ones (Punjab and Haryana) as well as poor (Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh), and fast-growing states (Gujarat and Maharashtra) as well as growth failures (Bihar and Uttar Pradesh). It is clear that we have to look beyond material prosperity or economic success or GNP growth into broadly cultural and social influences.
... even in the eastern and southern states in which the over all female-male ratio is still within the European range, there are signs that urban centres have, by and large, a somewhat lower ratio than rural parts of those very states. For example, the female-children ratio per 100 boys is 93.7 in urban Orissa as opposed to the ratio for rural  Orissa of 95.4. Karnataka’s urban ratio  is 93.9, compared with its rural ratio of 95.4. West Bengal’s  urban ration of 94.8, while much the same as the German cut-off line, is still below its rural ratio of 96.7
A Lancet study pointed out the disturbing possibility that recent increases in literacy and Indian per-person income might have contributed to increased selective abortion of girls. There have been other disquieting reports. What it shows is that eradicating this blot on Indian society is not a matter of economics but of changing mindsets in a patriarchal society. How much blame for this and other horrors can be attributed to the 'Devi paradox'?

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