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Jhalnia: A safe haven for girl child
A small village in Haryana could show the way to the rest of the country in maintaining a healthy sex ratio in the population. The lifestyle of the villagers rooted in the Bishnoi religious beliefs have led them to safeguard the girl child.
OVER THE last few years, there have been endless stories about India’s fancy for a male child and the sex ratio imbalance that has occurred as a result.

Foeticide, infanticide, under education and malnutrition of the girl child and dowry deaths-these are the women related issues that have dominated news coverage related to the females of the country.

By now, everyone is familiar with the numbers that place states like Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana at the top of the list of states with acute gender imbalance. Of all the states, Haryana has had the dubious honour of letting things turn so bad that the local lads now have to ‘buy’ brides from distant Bengal, Jharkhand and even Kerala

Depressing as this news has been, no action seemed possible to reverse this disaster resulting from the deeply ingrained preference for the male child. Government’s half hearted and poorly thought out schemes of providing some assistance for the girl child’s education has yet to yield any results. The rest of the nation has just been sitting back in horror and wondered at the moral vacuum in these societies where no one was willing to take a stand against the heinous practices.
Well, there is hope yet that not all is lost. There exist pockets of enlightened and moral thinking that prevent people in some areas from being swept into the immoral practices around them. Jhalnia is one such village in Haryana that has an astounding 1200 girls for every 1000 boys. There is nothing overly prosperous or special about this small village tucked away in the dusty plains of Haryana. Cows, buffaloes and goats dot the lanes but as the camera pans to the fields there is the sight of groups of young girls harvesting the crops in the fields. Parents every where seem surrounded by girl children along with the boys.
This village has two reasons for so many girls being born here. Some of the people are too poor to trek to doctors for scans and abortions that lead to sex ratio being skewed in favour of boys and the others belong to the Bishnoi sect that considers all life sacred and therefore protect it. The Bishnois are well known for protecting deer, peacocks and migratory birds that transit through their areas. When a woman sarpanch is questioned by the journalist, she simply states that it is against their beliefs to kill or harm any living being before or after birth.
This is the kind of a moral compass that has gone missing in other parts of India. The dire warnings from statisticians do not seem to spur the religious leaders to come and point out the righteous path to a people mired in backward social and cultural practices. In Punjab some religious edicts by Sikhs against gender selection and selective abortion were given out but have yet to show any results because the broken moral compass can not be fixed overnight with a few edicts. People need to imbibe the values of non violence and respect for life in every aspect of their lives. This little village in Haryana seems to be benefiting from values imbibed over generations.
And what makes Jhalnia’s achievement even more remarkable is that barely three kilometers away is a typical Jat dominated village that has just 400 girls for every 1000 boys. Here the strong patriarchal culture, that values only the male child, has brought the village to the brink of disaster. Instead of addressing the root cause of the problem the villagers are busy shopping for brides from far away areas. Haryana needs more villages like Jhalnia to pull it back from its descent into the social crisis its gender imbalance has placed it in.
The Haryana government seems to have taken notice of Jhalnia’s healthy girl-boy ratio and is thinking of ways, in which parents of girls can be rewarded for not indulging in aborting female foetus and infanticide. This is a welcome move but pecuniary incentives alone will not reverse the trend so easily. Religious leaders and social workers will need to work closely with whole communities if our entire country has to become a safe heaven for the girl child.
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