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Model Gujarat India's 'worst performer' in sex ratio at birth: Union home ministry report

By Rajiv Shah 

In a surprise development, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) report titled ‘Vital Statistics of India based on the Civil Registration System’ has revealed that Gujarat is the worst performer insofar as Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) is concerned, raising concern whether female foeticide is rampant in a state touted as model by India’s top rulers.
The just-released report, which says that “lowest SRB has been reported by Gujarat (901), Assam (903), Madhya Pradesh (905) followed by Jammu & Kashmir (909)”, ironically, has come close on the heels of a Niti Aayog report which claims that in health sector goals, Gujarat and Delhi are the top performers among all the states and the Union Territories (UTs).
The NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020-21 report, which seeks to analyse how states and UTs have performed in achieving sustainable development goal (SDG), says that, in the indicator good health and well-being, compared to India’s average, Gujarat saw lower proportion of maternal deaths, and mortality in children under five years.
The Niti report also claims that Gujarat achieved better case notification rate of tuberculosis per one lakh population, lower death rate due to road traffic accidents per one lakh population, greater institutional deliveries, lower monthly out of pocket expenditure on health as a share of monthly per capita consumption rate, and higher number of health staff per 10,000 population.
Yet, the MHA report believes, the best performers in SRB are Arunachal Pradesh (1024), followed by Nagaland (1001) Mizoram (975) and A & N Islands (965). The report has been prepared by the MHA’s Vital Statistics Division.
Based on data on birth registration, the report also regrets the share of male registration at birth “is more than the female in almost all these major states, but “this gap is much wider for Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Assam.”
A glance through data in the report on the level of registration of births in Gujarat reveals that while in 2011, it was 98.9%, it progressively came down each year, reaching a low 87.3% in 2019. Ironically, Gujarat’s registration went down over the nine years for which data has been provided at a time when the national average of registration of births has been progressively going up – from 82.4% in 2011 to 92.7% in 2019.
The registration of births has been constantly going down in Gujarat despite the fact that, according to the report, the state government massively geared up its machinery for registering births and deaths. Thus, it says, “A web-based application namely ‘e-Olakh’ developed by State NIC is being used in the state for the purpose of registration of birth and death”, in order to have “computerized system of registration at village/taluka/district level.”
Not just this. According to the report, in Gujarat, there was also a huge effort to train cadres for registering births and deaths. Thus, during 2019, “taluka statistical assistants were trained on day to day functioning of the system in the monthly meetings organized at district HQ wherein approximately more than one thousand officials were imparted training.”
Also, in Gujarat, “at state level, training had been imparted using Sat-Com technology to the registrars, sub-registrars and statistical assistants etc. In addition to this, training had also been imparted to Statistical Assistants and Programme Assistants (CRS) in regular review meetings conducted at state level.”
At the same time, the report contends, the registrar of births and deaths in Gujarat have been “sensitized to improve registration to achieve cent percent implementation of online registration of births and deaths”, and publicity efforts have been made by the state and district authorities, through various meetings for improving registration of births and deaths.”
Ironically, despite these efforts, the report admits, in Gujarat “most of the posts of taluka/district statistical assistants are vacant out of total sanctioned posts. Registrars are not utilizing the powers vested under the section 15 of the Registration of Birth and Death (RBD), Act, 1969 regarding corrections and cancellation of entries in birth and death record.” 
It underlines, in Gujarat, there is “lack of awareness about the need and importance of registration of births and deaths and lack of registration procedure knowledge among the public.”

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