The curious case of missing girls of Maharashtra, Gujarat
There is a shortfall of 73% and 55% in inspections of sonography centres in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, two of India's richest.
The child sex-ratio (number of girls under six years per 1,000 boys) in the states are among the lowest in India, especially in backward districts, such as Beed in Maharashtra's Marathwada region (807) and Surat district (831) in Gujarat. The national average is 914.
Verdicts have been pronounced in 23 cases of 603 reported cases of child marriage in Maharashtra with 580 cases pending for 2013-14.
No one has been convicted in Gujarat under the prohibition of Child Marriage Act, although 659 cases are registered.
A wealth of laws and programmes instituted to protect girls are failing them in India's two most economically-developed states, Maharashtra and Gujarat, according to recent reports by the central government auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
Both states are failing to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNT), which prohibits sex selection, before or after conception, and regulates diagnostic techniques to prevent misuse for sex determination used in female foeticide.
Strong laws that work on paper, fail on ground
On paper,the Act provides for robust implementation state-wide through a supervisory board and an advisory committee including an officer of or above the rank of joint director of Health and Family Welfare as chairperson; representatives from women's organisations and an officer of the law department.
The chief medical officer or civil surgeon is designated the appropriate authority at the district level.
These authorities can monitor the sonography centres that help abort the female fetus.
In Maharashtra, there was a shortfall of 55% in inspections (averaged across all districts) in 2013-14, up from a shortfall of 43% in 2011-12, the CAG found. The highest was in Amravati district at 54%.
In Gujarat, the shortfall was higher at 73% in 2013-14.
“The joint secretary, health and family welfare department, stated that the state government had assured to increase (sic) rate of conviction by meticulous paper work, evidence gathering and proper submission, and strong pleading of PC & PNDT cases,” the report said.
Maharashtra registered 481 cases under the PC & PNDT Act as of March 2014.
While 181 offences were registered in Gujarat under the PC & PNDT Act as of March 2014, only 49 cases were prosecuted and only six offenders were convicted, the CAG report said. The punishments include imprisonment, cancellation of licences and fine.
In violation of Supreme Court directions to prosecute cases within six months, cases continued from one to 12 years.
The failure to implement the PC & PNDT Act is responsible for the falling child sex-ratio in these states, the report said.
Child sex-ratio in Maharashtra is the lowest in Beed, Marathwada with 807 girls per 1,000 boys followed by Jalgoan in Khandesh (north Maharashtra).
In Gujarat, Surat has the lowest ratio of 831:1,000 followed by Gandhinagar.
The child sex-ratio in four districts (Chandrapur, Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara) in Maharashtra rose between 2001 and 2011 but it declined in 31 districts over the same period.