India has 63 million fewer women than it should have
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India has 63 million fewer women than it should have

THERE are 63 million women statistically “missing” and 21 million unwanted girls in India according to the country’s annual Economic Survey released on Monday.

Selective abortions as well as better nutrition and medical care provided to boys accounts for the excess numbers of men to women, reported the Associated Press.

“The challenge of gender is long-standing, probably going back millennia,” said chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian who was a contributing author of the Economic Survey, which even used a pink cover in honour of Indian women.

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A woman carrying her son arrives to check her name on the draft list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at an NRC centre in Chandamari village in Goalpara district in the northeastern state of Assam, India, January 2, 2018. Picture taken January 2, 2018. Source: Reuters/Anuwar Hazarika

The Hindu-majority South Asian nation has a deep-seated tradition of preferring boys, due to the high cost of wedding dowries and a perception that male workers can contribute more to their family’s income.

India must “confront the societal preference for boys”, said Subramanian.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been vocal on women’s empowerment, emphasing the importance of female workers for the country’s economic future. Banning the Muslim practice of “triple talaq” divorce in 2017 was justified in the name of women’s rights.

“Against every 1,000 men, there are 800, 850, 900 women (in different states). If such an imbalance is created in society, how will it progress?” said the PM last year.

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Times of India columnist Sanjeev Singh, however, pointed out that the percentage of educated women had increased from 59.4 percent in 2005-6 to 72.5 percent in 2015-16. Around 8 percent less women were victims of physical and emotional violence over the course of that decade.

“One can argue that the pace of change is slow and more concerted efforts are needed, but the Survey clearly shows India is headed in the right direction,” he said.

The Economic Survey said India’s northeast was a “model for the rest of the country”, where scores for women’s development were the best.