Shimla: Punjab and Haryana may be the worst-affected states in the country when it comes to female foeticide and falling sex ration, but, surprisingly, their neighbour Himachal Pradesh too seems to be not far behind. According to the third National Family Health Survey, Himachal Pradesh is the second state after Punjab where preference for a son, among couples who have two daughters, still prevails.
‘Preference for having a son’, was an indicator that was explored for the first time under the third National Family Health Survey. Thirty-six percent of respondents from Himachal Pradesh where about 29000 families were interviewed and among these the one who had two daughters showed definite preference for a son. The figure for Punjab is 43 percent.
Himachal at present is fighting a tough battle against the practice of female foeticide and to improve the over all sex ratio that was recently reported to have increased to 903 as per the latest Sample Registration Survey. As per the 2001 census it was at 896. The revelation at this stage has stregthened the argument of the activists fighting against foeticide, as social norms result in ‘prefrence for son’, becoming the biggest reason for foeticide. Himachal was the sixth last state in the 2001 census in respect to sex ratio. Recent incidents of female foeticide being reported from areas bordering Punjab and Haryana, and the case of a Shimla doctor allegedly running a ‘foeticide clinic’ only point at ground realities.
On the other hand, according to NFHS III, Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in the state has remained constant at 36 per 1,000 ever since NFHS II (1998-99). Himachal ranks third after Kerala and Goa that have IMR of 15.
Himachal has scored well in parameters of usage of modern contraceptives, reduction in teenage fertility rate to about 3 percent (lowest in India) and Total Fertility Rate (TFR) crossing the desired level of 2.1 at 1.9.