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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Punjab village bucks foeticide trend
By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Lakhanpal, Punjab state

Female children are in plentiful supply in Lakhanpal village

A small, nondescript village in the central Doaba region of India's northern Punjab state has successfully turned the tide over the high number of male births.

The village of Lakhanpal proudly stands out with nearly 1,400 girls born for every 1,000 boys, figures show.

A recently published report says that it is the first time in several years that the female to male sex ratio has weighed considerably in favour of girl children.

The report's findings are highly significant in a state that has the lowest ratio of female to male births in India, where female foeticide, though illegal, is routinely carried out.

But the residents of Lakhanpal have every reason to celebrate.

There are several key reasons put forward for the disproportionate number of girls in the village: successful efforts by local authorities to eradicate female foeticide, and a "natural aberration" which has resulted in an unusually large number of girl children.

Experts also say that because the number of babies monitored in the survey was relatively small, the birth ratio may well have evened out slightly if a larger number of people had been observed.

'God's blessing'

Situated in the highly prosperous Doaba region - where the age-old patriarchal mindset still rules - the birth of a child used only to be a happy occasion if it was a boy.

Lakhanpal village Sarpanch Kamlesh with her colleague Jeevan Kumari
I can now assure you that not one of the 258 families that live in Lakhanpal have or will ever even consider aborting a child merely because it is a girl
Kamlesh (left) of the village panchayat

But now the village is celebrating its little girls.

The survey conducted by a local voluntary group - the Punjab Panchayats Federation - revealed that Lakhanpal is different from other hamlets in the region.

It has a child sex ratio (CSR) of nearly 1,400 girls for every 1,000 boys up to the age of six.

The average CSR for the state of Punjab stands at an alarmingly low 776 girls for every 1,000 boys, which is the worst in India.

Kamlesh, who is the elected head (or sarpanch) of the village panchayat (council) believes more girl children is God's way of blessing the village.

"We have never been afraid of speaking out against the evil practice of female foeticide, which is like an epidemic in Punjab," she said.

"I can now assure you that not one of the 258 families that live in Lakhanpal have or will ever even consider aborting a child merely because it is a girl."

Lakhanpal village
The village is nondescript apart from its birth ratios

The sarpanch and her younger colleague, Jeevan Kumari, said no-one in the village was aware of its uniqueness.

"It was only when the Panchayat Federation informed us earlier this month that they proposed to honour the village for achieving the highest child sex ratio in Punjab that it dawned on us that something very special had occurred here," said Jeevan Kumari.

Last week activists of the Panchayats Federation organised a special event in honour of the people of Lakhanpal.

'Sliding back'

The president of the federation, Inderjit Kaur Mann, herself sarpanch of a village some distance away, said she is trying to use the example of Lakhanpal to inspire other villages in the Doaba region.

"We invited representatives from 42 neighbouring villages to come and see for themselves what was happening in this one small village," she said.

"Encouraged by our unusual celebrations, the sarpanch of the much larger adjacent village, Bandala, told the gathering she was 'ashamed' that of the last 100 births in her own village, only 15 were girls."

Inderjit Kaur believes that the government must now step in to support and reward the residents of Lakhanpal village.

"Unless their achievement is officially supported there will always be the danger of things sliding back," she said.

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