India’s sex ratio, or the number of females per 1,000 males, declined to 896 in 2015-17 from 898 in 2014-16, according to a government survey. The data paints a worrying picture. In a series starting today, Mint shows how the nation’s demographic profile is changing.

What does the survey say about females in India?

The country’s sex ratio at birth, which is the number of females born per 1,000 males, is showing a worrying decline, according to a Sample Registration System (SRS) survey. The figure stood at 896 for 2015-17, down from 898 in 2014-16 and 900 in 2013-15. Of the top 22 states for which data is available, 14 had a sex ratio better than the all-India average, while eight, including Delhi, had an inferior number. With a sex ratio of 833, Haryana continues to carry the ignominy of being the most unfair to the girl child among the surveyed states.

How is the rural-urban divide playing out in the treatment of females?

Bharat continues to outshine India in the treatment of females. Though the sex ratio in rural India declined from 902 in 2014-16 to 898 in 2015-17, it is still better than urban India’s 890. Seven states had a poorer rural sex ratio than rural India’s average, while 14 had a lower urban sex ratio than the average for urban India. The sex ratio at birth in urban areas varies from 950 in Madhya Pradesh to 816 in Uttarakhand. Similarly, it ranges from 828 to 985 for rural areas of Haryana and Kerala, respectively.

Who did the survey?

The survey, the world’s largest demographic study, covering 7.9 million people, was conducted by the office of the registrar general and census commissioner. The latest report is its fourth in the series.


Why does rural India fare better?

A large section of Indian society prefers a male child, the affluent more so. People in urban areas are better positioned to exploit the system as they have access to more and better medical facilities. So, they often resort to neonatal tests, although these are banned in India. This allows them to abort a girl child. Traditionally, societies in West Bengal and the North-East are matriarchal. It may be noted that the SRS data captures only births registered in the records as against the Census that captures all the residents of the country.

What is Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao?

The survey’s findings bring into focus the government’s initiative that celebrates the girl child and enables her education with 100% assistance from the central government at the district level. After covering 161 districts over two phases, it aims to cover the remaining 479 (as per Census 2011) in the third phase. It aims to improve the sex ratio at birth in select gender-critical districts by two points in a year, among other targets. There is no provision for direct benefit transfer under this scheme.

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