In 2011 census, Haryana had the worst sex ratio (830), while Punjab was second (842). By 2017, Haryana rose to 914, while Punjab only managed 892.
Chandigarh: For almost three years now, Haryana’s health department teams have been raiding rogue ultrasound centres conducting illegal sex determination in Punjab. All this time, Punjab’s own efforts have drawn a virtual naught.
Between July 2015 and September 2018, Haryana has unearthed 30 cases of sex determination in Punjab, while Punjab’s own figure stands at an abysmal 7.
In March this year, a team from Rajasthan also nabbed three persons from Ferozepur in Punjab for indulging in illegal practices under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
The 1994 act, which was implemented in 1996, authorises health authorities to conduct sting operations using decoy customers and arrest anyone involved.
Bottom of the heap
In the 2011 census, Haryana and Punjab were at the bottom of the heap in terms of sex ratio. At 830, Haryana recorded the worst sex ratio in the country while Punjab came next at 846. This meant that for every 1,000 males, only 830 females were born in Haryana and 846 in Punjab.
The implementation of the PCPNDT Act has since been most closely monitored in these two states.
The 2011 census data made the two states sit up and act, and the result has been that both states have shown a marked improvement in the sex ratio figures. However, over the years, while Haryana has intensified its efforts, Punjab’s have fizzled out. In 2017, Haryana clocked a sex ratio at birth (SRB) of 914, while Punjab was at 892.
Haryana improving faster
In 2012, Haryana registered a sex ratio at birth of 832. In 2013, the number shot up to 868, then 871 in 2014.
The increase continued to be marginal till 2015, when the state registered a sex ratio at birth of 876. By 2016, the number had touched 900, and in 2017, it increased to 914. By March 2018, it touched 928.
District-wise data shows that in 2012, at least five Haryana districts registered figures less than 800 — Karnal 797, Rewari 780, Kurukshetra 743, Jhajjar 781 and Narnaul 770.
By 2017, only four districts registered a sex ratio less than 900 — Narnaul 881, Jind 898, Rohtak 891 and Rewari 893.
Kurukshetra has seen the biggest improvement, going 181 percentage points up to the 924 mark in 2017.
But Mewat, which had a sex ratio of 916 in 2012, dipped to 908 in 2017. However, in March 2018, it had crossed the 1000 mark by two points, the only district in the state to have more girls born than boys.
Enforcement is key
Haryana’s efforts at improving sex ratio are directly monitored by the Chief Minister’s Office. But more significantly, the state’s approach has been of zero tolerance towards those running sex determination centres in the state.
“Enforcement is the key to the solution. And we have focussed on that,” said Dr Girdhari Lal Singal, in-charge of the programme in Haryana.
Till March 2016, the state had registered 91 cases under the PCPNDT Act, and another 120 under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. After regular increases, these numbers today stand at 342 and 299 respectively.
“Apart from conducting stings, our district teams have become trained to follow these cases in courts to ensure conviction,” said Singal.
Punjab lags behind
Around the time when Haryana was going hammer and tongs, Punjab lost the plot.
From a sex ratio at birth of 846 in 2011, it improved 37 points to 883 in 2015, and then hit 888 in 2016, 892 in 2017, and finally crossed the 900 mark in August 2018, registering 903.
However, amid this gradual improvement, district-wise data shows that while in 2011, no district of Punjab had a sex ratio at birth of less than 800, by 2017, only eight districts had crossed 900.
Mansa district showed the biggest improvement — the sex ratio there has increased by 121 points to 952 in these six years. But three districts — Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Bathinda and Jalandhar — worsened.
SBS Nagar’s sex ratio at birth dropped from 879 in 2011 to 861 in 2017, while Bathinda went from 854 to 846, and Jalandhar by one point.
Punjab has registered just 165 cases since the enactment of the PCPNDT Act in 1994, and only 31 of the cases have led to conviction.
Out of almost 1,600 ultrasound centres in the state, the licences of 857 have been suspended and 110 cancelled from the implementation of the act till August 2018.
Haryana stings Punjab
In January 2016, Punjab hired the services of a private detective agency to carry out sting operations using decoy customers. Till now, it has managed only seven such operations.
“Actually there were some issues regarding the payment to the agency, which have been sorted out. Very soon, they will begin work,” said Dr Naresh, director of family welfare, who is also the in-charge of the programme in the state.
Haryana, on the other hand, has been conducting sting operations in Punjab. From the first one in Moga in July 2015 to the latest raid at an ultrasound centre in Jalandhar on 11 September, Haryana’s teams have raided Punjab’s clinics 30 times.
“We get virtually no cooperation from the Punjab health authorities. In fact, at times they ask us to give them operational details before the sting, which we can’t,” said Haryana’s Singal.
Dr Naresh said Haryana is overstepping its jurisdiction. “The PCPNDT act does not provide for inter-state stings,” he said.
Singal rebuts: “If an agent in Haryana is offering a service of an ultrasound centre in Punjab, what were we supposed to do? Not act? There were times when we shared information with them and no action was taken.”