The long dormant issue of a “population explosion" has come to the national forefront, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling it a challenge in his Independence Day speech. That India’s headcount, at over 1.3 billion, is headed even higher is not in dispute. But there is hope. According to Sample Registration System data, the country’s total fertility rate—roughly, the average number of children born to a woman—has fallen to an estimated 2.2. This figure is only marginally higher than 2.1, the replacement rate of the existing population.

What’s disturbing is our failure to arrest and reverse a trend within population growth: that of our widening gender gap. India has about 930 females per 1,000 males. This sex ratio is alarming, but the skew looks even worse if you look at new births. According to government figures, the country’s sex ratio at birth declined from 900 females per 1,000 males in 2013-15 to 896 in 2015-17. This is a phenomenon that is likely to impact India hard in the decades ahead. To avert a gender crisis, we must work to restore the balance. Awareness campaigns have been run. But success, alas, is proving elusive.

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