1.3 million girls missing every year | Implement PC&PNDT Act NOW
Asian Centre for Human Rights released its 290 page report, “The State of the PC&PNDT Act: India’s losing battle against female foeticide”, the first ever comprehensive study on the status of implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act, 1994. The report is available at: https://www.stopfemaleinfan
The key findings of the report, “The State of the PC&PNDT Act: India’s losing battle against female foeticide”, are:
More cases of infanticide under Indian Penal Code were registered than cases under the PC&PNDT Act during 1994-2014 and this exposes abysmal implementation of the PC&PNDT Act. India registered 2,266 cases of infanticide under Section 315 and Section 316 of the Indian Penal Code against 2,021 cases under the PC&PNDT Act during 1994-2014.
During 1991 to 2011, a total of 25.5 million girls i.e. 1.3 million girls per year went missing primarily because of the sex selection. As only 2,021 court and police cases were filed from 1994 to 2014 under the PC&PNDT Act, it implies that on an average only 1 (one) court case was filed approximately for 12,614 cases of sex selection. As conviction was secured only in 206 cases during 1994-2014, it also implies that only 1 (one) conviction was secured per 1,23,755 cases of sex selection.
As many as 17 out of 29 States and six out of seven Union Territories (UTs) had either not registered any case or failed to secure any conviction under the PC&PNDT Act as on date. All these States are covered under the Beti Bachao Beti Padao scheme, the flagship programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to arrest the falling Child Sex Ratio (CSR) under the age of 0-6 years. The States and UTs which had not secured a single conviction under the PC&PNDT Act since 1994 are Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal and Union Territories of Chandigarh. Out of these, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Island, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry had not registered a single case under the PC&PNDT Act since 1994.
The Child Sex Ratio (CSR) is all set to fall further from 919 as per 2011 census to below 900 as per the current sex ratio at birth being registered by the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report.
The government under reports actual number of missing girls due to sex selection. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation in its report, “CHILDREN IN INDIA 2012 – A Statistical Appraisal” based on the children population of 0-6 years of 78.83 million as per 2001 census and 75.84 million as per 2011 census concluded that nearly 3 million girl children went missing in 2011 compared to 2001. This is wrong on two counts. First, it does not take into account that decadal growth of population from 1.028 billion in 2001 to 1.21 billion in 2011 which would have also resulted in the birth of more girls from 2001 to 2011 in actual terms. Second, census is conducted every 10 years and the CSR covering 0-6 years age group excludes those in 07-10 years age group and indeed does not reflect the actual number of missing girls during the decade.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare proposed amendments to the PC&PNDT Act in March 2016 to weaken the Act further at the insistence of the medical lobby. The proposed amendment seeks to restrict the scope and operation of Section 23 (1) only to cases where the accused medical professional “indulges in or assists or aids sex determination/selection or for conducting pre-natal diagnostic techniques on any person for the purposes other than those specified in sub-section (2) of Section 4” while the existing provision of Section 23 (1) covers contravention of “any of the provisions of this Act or Rules made thereunder”. In effect, the proposed amendment seeks to turn the burden of proof on the prosecutor in one hand and makes the standard of proof more stringent. Once the proposed amendment is allowed, the irregularities in record keeping as per Form “F” which are part and parcel of sex selective tests would escape the rigours of the existing Section 23 as the prosecutors shall have to prove indulgence in or assistance or aiding sex determination/selection or for conducting pre-natal diagnostic techniques by the accused medical professionals or diagnostic centers/clinics.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its latest report, “Performance Audit on Empowerment of Women Government of Uttar Pradesh”, covering the financial year from 2010-2011 to 2014-2015 brought to fore gross anomalies in implementation of the PC&PNDT Act. The CAG has identified key problems in the implementation of the PC&PNDT Act such as underutilization of funds, non-renewal of registration leading to automatic renewal of registration, non-maintenance of patients’ details and diagnostic records, non maintenance of records by the authorities, absence of regular inspection of ultrasonography (USG) centres, lack of documentation of inspection report, lack of mapping and regulation of USG equipment, lack of tracking system in USG machines, no training of medical practitioners conducting ultrasonography, missing of the seized USG machines, inadequate number of decoy operations, non-imposition of penalties, lack of regular meetings by authorities and insufficient inspections. The findings of the CAG in Uttar Pradesh are indicative of the situation across the country.
The report stated that India’s effort to combat sex selection suffers from the lack of central supervisory mechanism. Currently, the PC&PNDT Act enacted to combat female foeticide is under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which by definition is conscious of the interest of the medical lobby. On the other hand, all the schemes for girl child are under the Ministry of Women and Child Development while birth registration is under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The top 10 States with cases of foeticide are Madhya Pradesh, followed by Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and Gujarat
The top 10 states with skewed CSR as per 2011 census are Haryana, followed by Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, NCT of Delhi, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh
The top 10 states with skewed Sex Ratio at Birth based on the Sample Registration System Statistical Report-2013 are Haryana followed by Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar and Jharkhand
The report recommends to the Government of India to:
- Establish a Central nodal agency to combat female foeticide under the joint collaboration of Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare by bringing (i) increased accountability of the Appropriate Authorities of the PC&PNDT Act currently under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, (ii) incentivized schemes for retention of the girl child across all economic class currently under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and (iii) Mandatory birth registration with a concentrated focus on girls currently under Ministry of Home Affairs, under the administrative control of the nodal agency for effective combating of falling CSR;
- Ensure effective implementation of the PC&PNDT Act in letter and spirit including through launching of pilot schemes on the implementation of the Act in the districts targeted under the Beti Bachao, Beti Padao scheme;
- Reject any further amendments of the PC&PNDT Act placed in March 2016 especially making non-maintenance of records punishable only with fine;
- Use of Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) by Registrar General of India should be taken annually instead of the CSR calculated every decade by RGI to identify districts having lowest child sex ratio and undertake effective implementation of the PC&PNDT Act; and
- Government of India should either incorporate/strengthen in the Beti Bachao Beti Padao Program or launch a specific scheme to provide financial assistance to families to retain/survival of the girl child irrespective of income of the parents and make the scheme attractive enough for retention/survival of the girl child.