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  • Female infanticide figures decline in Salem

    The Salem Initiative adopted by the Tamil Nadu state government to tackle female infanticide, for which the district of Salem is notorious, has begun showing positive results.

    The mortality rate for female infants in the district, which stood at 103 per 1,000 live births in 2000, came down to 65 in 2001 and was a healthier 42 in 2002.

    The district has identified 12 blocks out of 20 as `danger zones’, where the female IMR (infant mortality rate) stood at an alarming 100 per 1,000 in 1999 -- a figure considered `very high’ in the state.

    Sustained efforts by the government and the pro-active role played by the district administration over the last two years has brought the IMR for female infants down to just one in 2001 and nil in 2002, in some blocks, according to official figures.

    The overall IMR for the district also showed a steady decline from 70 per 1,000 in 1999 to 34 in 2002. The state average is 51 per 1,000 as of 2001.

    Just a few years ago, Salem district presented a gloomy picture. Till as recently as 1999, the Nangavalli block had an abysmal male to female IMR ratio of 1:6.1, denoting that for every male infant death, there were six female infant deaths. This figure has now declined to 1:2.47.

    The overall ratio in the district was a poor 1:2.9. This too has now come down to a healthy 1:1.55. The Nangavalli block has been placed in the `pink’ bracket; it registered a healthy male to female IMR ratio of 2:0.47.

    The girl child ratio (0-6 years) in the state was 939 per 1,000 in 2001; it is significantly lower in the districts of Salem (826), Dharmapuri (877) and Theni (893).

    Not many districts have furnished sex-wise IMR break-up figures. In fact, social scientists have long been asking the government to include the sex ratio at birth and the gender differential as health indicators in its policy documents. Activists point to the Salem administration’s reluctance to come out with a detailed report on the sex ratio at birth, which would expose the prevalence of female foeticide. They also insist that a total registration of births be done.

    Collector J Radhakrishnan, however, is quick to point out that the administration will soon initiate efforts to collect details on both sex ratio at birth and the gender differential. “We are closely monitoring scan centres. Awareness camps are being conducted not only for village health nurses and anganwadi workers but also for doctors,” he says.

    The Tamil Nadu government has sanctioned Rs 50 lakh to conduct awareness campaigns on the evils of female infanticide in Salem, Dharmapuri, Theni, Erode, Madurai and Namakkal districts.

    However, even as Salem inches towards the elusive objective of gender equalisation, the unusually large number of scan centres is causing concern among social activists and non-governmental organisations.

    Source: The Hindu

    May 8, 2003

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