Rohtak: In 2015, the BJP chose the state of Haryana to launch its 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' scheme, with the intent of using education, health and women's development to expand the state's historically poor sex ratio. According to the state women and child department statistics, Haryana has registered a historic increase in state and district sex ratios in the past two years alone, ever since the scheme was launched. Nearly 12 of 22 districts of the state now have a sex ratio of over 900 according to the latest government figures.
At the Mahila Samman Samaroh held in Sonipat recently, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced that the overall sex ratio in the state had improved from 850 in 2015 to 938 by February 2017. Foremost among the districts that registered an over 40-point increase in sex ratio was Rohtak, where the sex ratio had gone up from 858 in 2015 to 905 2016.
In Bhali, that till 2015 had an abysmal sex ratio of 560, "severely critical" according to the women and child department, the two years since the Beti Bacho scheme have seen the sex ratio rise to 704, still "critical" and far below the Mr Khattar's vision of 950.
Yet, 34-year-old Jitendra, from Bhali, who recently had a baby girl had reason to call for a communal feast and celebrate the birth of his child. He said, "Only the fortunate have girls, and I have thus organised a celebration in my village. I will make her an athlete, like Sakshi Malik." Ms Malik, who too hails from Rohtak's Mokhra village, was one of the only two Indians to win a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Like Bhali there are nearly 64 villages in Rohtak where the sex ratio continues to be less than 800; in 11 villages the sex ratio continues to be less than 600, the lowest at 235.29 in Ghuskani village.
"It is precisely in these villages (where the sex-ratio is below 800) that we have been working... where we educate and sensitise parents and families both," said Monika Khanna, Programme Officer of Rohtak's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
The authorities spread awareness through workshops among self-help groups, anganwadis, community health workers and teachers. Street plays are also organised in every village where the women of the village themselves perform, as well at sexual offences awareness camps in schools.
"Till just a couple of years ago, Rohtak was big on female foeticide. There used to be 3,000 to 4,000 cases every year. Since 2015, over 400 First Information Reports(FIR) have been filed and over 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with these," said Dr Kuldeep, Deputy Civil surgeon of Rohtak. Dr Kumar said they have carried out at least 18 raids across Rohtak alone to ensure that there are no loopholes in the implementation of the law that bans pre-natal sex determination.
While state authorities suggest that a combination of awareness drives and punitive action have been responsible for the historic rise in the sex-ratio, for the locals the situation is more complicated. "Perhaps one can suggest that there has been a change but one shouldn't overestimate the pace of that change", said Channo Devi, from Bhali village.
"We volunteer to go from village to village and educate women about female foeticide," said Kanta, a local and volunteer from Bhali. "In some homes, we are given respect, in others we are told there is no change".