Monday, April 25, 2011

The demographic masculinization of India

Census 2011 - the bad news

Census 2011 finds that for every 1000 males, there are only 940 females in India. India compares unfavorably in the sex ratio even with its neighbors – Bangladesh (978), Pakistan (943) and Sri Lanka (1034). China with 926 women for every 1000 men is the major exception being worse off than India.

This is however not the worst of the news in the census. The child sex ratio – the number of females to every 1000 males in the age group 0-6 years - at 914, is sharply lower than the sex ratio in the overall population. What is most shocking is that the child sex ratio continues to follow the decreasing trend established over four decades ago.

At normal biological levels, the sex ratio at birth should be close to 952 and this is seen to be the case even in many Asian countries - Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka for instance. The normal child sex ratio should be equal to or higher than the sex ratio at birth. The extent to which the child sex ratio in India falls below the figure of 952 represents the numbers of the ‘missing’ girl children.

The worst offenders

The tribal belt states, and the eastern, north-eastern and southern states have far better sex ratios than the states of the north, west & central India. The worst offenders are Haryana, Punjab and the National Capital Region.

Child Sex Ratio
Arunachal, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam
Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka
Tribal Belt & East
Chattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal
North & Central
Punjab, Haryana, NCR-Delhi

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh
Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra

In Haryana, male children exceeded female children by over 22% in 2001 (this has decreased marginally to 20% in 2011); and in certain districts like Kurukshetra and Ambala, it was closer to 30%. Read the complete India Together piece here.

An excellent discussions of the problem may be found in this reference: ‘The Sex Transition Ratio in Asia’, Christophe Z. Guilmoto - available online here

Monday, April 4, 2011

Direct cash transfers - a recipe for food insecurity

Mainstream media voices are unanimous in calling upon the government to withdraw from public distribution of food grains and fuel. "Direct cash transfers" is the new catch phrase. "Money where the mouth is" screams an op-ed. Instead of distributing food and fuel at regulated prices, the government should hand out cash to BPL families to enable them to make purchases at market prices.

The government's economic advisors differ only in the details. Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic adviser to the Government of India, argues for distributing food coupons to BPL families that can be exchanged for food at private retailers. He sees the need for supporting the current retail outlets - the "fair price shops" - only in poor and remote areas that may not be attractive to private traders (Economic and Political Weekly, 29 January 2011). On the other hand, a government committee headed by Montek Singh Ahluwalia is  reported to be recommending a more cautious approach. Cash transfers are to be made to BPL families having UID-linked smart cards which will be valid only at the network of Fair Price Shops. This will keep the PDS intact in the interim.

However, the end game in all these approaches is the same, with the government getting out of distribution of food grains.

These "reforms" do not address the problem of exclusion of millions of poor from access to the PDS. Will they benefit at least the existing consumers of the PDS service?

For a discussion, see this India Together piece.


Some years down after this piece was written, there is some evidence from the grouund: