Kolkata’s Sex Ratio Dropped More Than Any Other District: Maneka Gandhi

Kolkata witnessed the worst sex ratio drop of any district targeted by the government’s scheme to tackle gender imbalance, Maneka Gandhi told the Lok Sabha on Friday.

A girl gets her face painted with an awareness message on female foeticide during a face-painting competition in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh August 1, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Ajay Verma

Kolkata witnessed the worst sex ratio drop of any district targeted by the government’s scheme to tackle gender imbalance, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi told the Lok Sabha on Friday. Kolkata’s sex ratio fell from 1,022 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2014 to 898 on July 28.

“Kolkata is unfortunately the worst of 161 districts that we have taken,” the minister said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) – ‘Save girl child, educate girl child’ – scheme in January 2015 to address India’s abysmal sex ratio by raising awareness and improving welfare services for girls. In West Bengal, chief minister Mamata Banerjee implemented the Kanayshree scheme that gives cash incentives to families to keep girls in school and delay child marriage.

When All India Trinamool Congress MP Mriganka Mahato asked Maneka Gandhi on Friday whether the Centre would adopt the programme as a model, Gandhi said the scheme was “effective” but added that West Bengal was the “only state which has completely refused to implement the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme”.

“As a result, out of 161 districts, Kolkata is showing a severe declining trend,” she said.

Malini Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the West Bengal women’s commission who currently works with NGO All India Democratic Women’s Association in Kolkata, said sex ratio has long been an issue in the state.

“In Kolkata it was always quite low,” Bhattacharya said.

“One reason is that the techniques are more available,” she explained, referring to sex selective abortion procedures.

Localised research has shown that the sex ratio can be worse in upper-class urban centres, where pressure for sons to carry on successful businesses is high. India has the sixth lowest sex ratio in the world, according to UN Population Fund’s most recent comparative data in 2013. The ratio rose slightly from 933 in 2001 to 943 in 2011 nationwide. But in the high rises of Mumbai’s G-South neighbourhood, the ratio was only 882 in the first 10 months of 2012 – the lowest in the city.

To tackle the prevailing issue, the Centre implemented the BBBP programme in 100 districts in 2014. The sex ratio in 58 of those districts rose by 100 points by the end of the year, Gandhi said. In 2015, the scheme expanded to 161 districts, where it did “extremely well” in 104.

North Sikkim performed the best. In 2014, the district’s sex ratio rose from 831 in 2014 to 1,009 at present, Gandhi said.

But when asked to name the districts where the scheme did the worst, Gandhi listed Kolkata along with ten more – Pithoragarh, Hardwar, Dehradun, Chamoli and Champawat in Uttarakhand and Etawah, Farrukhabad, Saharanpur, Etah and Bijnor in UP.

Maneka said the scheme’s success was “dependent on the enthusiasm”, stability, and organisation of the state government.

“The funds did not go from the state government to the districts in time, especially in Bihar, where we have a time lag of six to eight months and in UP, I do not think the funds have still reached,” she said. She said that constantly revolving district magistrates leading the programme led to a “lack of ownership”, and added that some states were doing better “now” after a change of government.