Rarest of rare desert b'day bash

Devda village in Jaisalmer district, once infamous for eliminating girl child, is finally coming out of its dark age. The village recently celebrated the birth of the daughter of Shagun Kanwar, only the second girl to be married from the village in a century.
For over a century, none of the 70-odd Rajput families of the village had seen a baraat (marriage party). The girls born here were killed until Inder Singh Bhatia changed the trend almost 30 years ago when he and his wife opted to bring up their daughter Jawan Kanwar.

More than 10 years after Jawan Kanwar, her cousin, Shagun too survived the brutalities of the society. The village, in the past 120 years, has hosted the weddings of only these two Rajput girls. A change in time and tide has led to the village being home to 24 girls now and they welcomed Shagun's daughter Medhanshi' into this world. She was born on December 25 last year.

Special prayers for the child were organised and the villagers participated in large numbers. Grandpa Panne Singh is on cloud nine as he is the first Nana (grandfather) of a girlchild. Jawan, who got married in 1998, is a mother of two boys. Her wedding was reportedly the first wedding of a Rajput girl in the village in 106 years.

The village has certainly come a long way from the time when prayers were offered for not conceiving a girl child.

Mockery of efforts

But the sharp decline in child sex ratio across Rajasthan has made a mockery of the several programmes worth several crores run by the state to check the dwindling numbers of the girl child. The state level child sex ratio (CSR) dropped from 909 to 883 in the last decade. The decline of 26 points between 2001 and 2011 compared to 7 points between 1991 and 2001 ever since the trend started in 1981 Census, raises serious concern regarding the status of the girl child.

Almost all districts except Ganganagar have registered decline in CSR compared to last census. “There were 23 districts in 2001 which recorded CSR above 900 where as this number has gone down to 9 in 2011 showing that the phenomena of gender discrimination is not confined to certain areas but is almost assuming epidemic proportion”, says noted demographer Dr Devendra Kothari.

According to the 2011 Census the worst five district performers in CSR are Dungarpur (from 955 to 916), Jaipur (899-859), Sikar (885-841), Rajasamand ( 936-891) and Tonk (927-882).

The two tribal districts of Dungarpur and Rajasamand coming in the list surprised many. These were the two districts that reported the highest sex ratio of 1022 and 1000 respectively in the 2001 census.

Historically, in western Rajasthan and the Shekhawati region, the birth of a girl child has been considered inauspicious. In March last year, Jaisalmer district authorities had stumbled upon a case where at least five baby girls were buried alive in Sitodari village. In 2006, the flooding of a village in Barmer district was traced to a drain blocked with scores of discarded female foetuses.

Lokshakti Sansthan, an NGO working for child rights, in its report states that due to the ban on female foeticide, people have started falling back on conventional methods to kill a girl child.

Baby girls drowned, choked

The report says “the most common method to kill is by drowning the newborn in a milk pot till her last breath. Another method is by putting opium in her mouth, and within 30 minutes, it chokes the throat of the child leading to death”.

In the Shekawati region, the most prevalent practice is to throw the newborn girl into dry wells. Dozens of cases of baby girls being abandoned are reported in the districts of Sikar and Jhunjhunu. Recently, a newborn girl was thrown alive into a dry well in Sikar, but was later rescued.

Social activists say most cases remain unnoticed due to the social acceptance of this unlawful practice in specific communities.

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TN’s killer methods

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