Despite the many campaigns and regulations aimed at preventing female feticide, the 2011 census recorded a sharp fall in India’s child sex ratio: from 927 girls against 1,000 boys in 2001 to 914 girls in 2011, the country’s lowest since Independence. Maharashtra fared particularly badly: although it is the country’s richest state, this year it recorded a sex ratio of 883 girls for every 1,000 boys, a lot worse than data for 2001, when the figure was 913 girls. The ratio is even lower than in states known for their strong male bias including Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
However, the Maharashtra state government is determined to reverse this trend. To address the skewed ratio, it may offer new financial incentives to couples whose third child is a girl, irrespective of whether the previous two children are male or female. This is part of an amendment to a central government act on sex selection recently proposed by senior health officials in Maharashtra. Poorer families and those belonging to “scheduled,” or marginalized, castes and tribes would be eligible. An official at the Maharashtra Public Health Ministry said that if approved, the proposal ”would largely involve monetary rewards and educational concessions.” He declined to share further details until the Cabinet reviews the proposed amendment, which he says should happen soon. Maharashtra already offers incentives to encourage families to keep their girls. The government deposits 10,000 rupees ($200) per girl born in a poor family, an amount that grows in line with fixed deposit schemes and which can be redeemed once the girl turns 18. Further incentives tied to schooling also exist.
Maharashtra is not the only state to offer incentives to address the skewed sex ratio. In Haryana, under its 2005 “Ladli Scheme,” all couples who have a second female child are eligible for financial rewards of 5,000 rupees ($ 200) each year, for a total of five years. Although with 774 females per 1000 males Haryana still has the lowest child sex ratio in the country, the numbers are slowly improving.