Over the weekend news broke that Goa’s sex ratio for children under seven years stood at a paltry 774 females per one thousand males -- figures that are even worse than those reported by States considered as regressive like Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The figures come from the report released by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which also informed that the difference is the highest among all States for that age group.
The news is disturbing not simply because -- it appears shocking for a State like Goa that sees itself as being progressive -- but also because Goa has done very little to remedy the problem that began to be apparent way back in 2016.
It was back in 2013 when then Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar flagged the issue of Goa’s falling sex ratio as observed in the 2011 census. Parrikar had also raised the issue in 2016 but remained bemused by the disturbing trend.
Goa's sex ratio stands at 968/1,000 as per the 2011 census, which was only marginally better than the 961/1,000 as per the 2001 census. However, among children, the sex ratio kept dipping since then according to various surveys.
The National Family Health Survey revealed that the 2019-20 sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years (females per 1,000 males) has crashed from 966 girls to 1,000 boys in 2015-6 to 838 girls to 1,000 boys with urban Goa crashing to 822 girls to 1,000 boys and rural area slightly better at 864 girls to 1,000 boys.
It is apparent that Goa has been resting on its laurels completely oblivious to the fact that under the radar the State has been regressing on one of the core parameters of family welfare. There has been no survey or study to ascertain the reasons behind this decline. One possible reason suggested has been a propensity among families in the State to cease having children if the first child turns out to be a boy -- combined with an overall unwillingness to have large families.
At the same time, one must not discount the possibility that female foeticide is prevalent in Goa, despite the State’s otherwise seemingly progressive attitudes and liberal nature.
The need of the hour is for the State government to first, recognise that we have a problem, understand the extent of it and the reasons and ultimately devise a campaign to attempt to tackle it.
The State cannot pretend that the problem doesn’t exist or simply ignore it in the hope that it will go away on its own or sort itself out. The government needs to maximise efforts to not just wake up from the slumber but also to remind the people of Goa that this is an issue that needs urgent addressing before the consequences are felt a generation from now.