The positive signals emanating from the latest NFHS-5 figures and the achievements that women have made in the recent times will go a long way in encouraging participation of women in national life
The latest National Family and Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5), facts sheets of which were released recently, has indicated a positive growth in the sex ratio of India. This achievement in the sex ratio figures has come during a period of the proverbial breaking of the glass ceiling by Indian women, aided ably by programmes and schemes of the national government.
On 24 November, the Union health ministry released NFHS-5 (2019-21) results for India and 14 phase-II states and Union territories in the form of fact-sheets of key indicators on population, reproductive and child health, family welfare, nutrition and other health related areas.
As seen from the NHFS-5 data, for the first time since Independence, the number of women in India have surpassed the number of men, which is unprecedented. This is a positive development for all women in India and for their growth and development. In turn, it is good for overall national growth and development.
A demographic shift has been achieved in India, as the sex ratio of 1,020:1,000 has been recorded for the 2019-20 period, according to findings of the National Family and Health Survey-5. In the Gender Development Index, we can now say with confidence that India has moved into the league of developed nations. During NFHS-3, conducted in 2005-06, the sex ratio was 1000:1000 and in 2015-16 (NHFS-4), it declined to 991:1000.
This important positive development was not achieved overnight. There has been a systematic effort in the last seven years or more to ensure women get their place at the high table of each of India’s institutions, right from the lowest unit at the family level to the nation’s Council of Ministers.
The Modi government has consistently taken measures for women empowerment, including the Jan Dhan bank accounts for their financial inclusion, and for combating social menace such as gender bias and disparities.
The NFHS-5 figures have also shown that the sex ratio at birth improved from 919 in 2015-16 to 929 in 2019-20. This is an indicator of positive impact of measures like implementation of the PC and PNDT Act and various other interventions against female infanticide.
The latest sex ratio figures also indicate the changes that have taken place in the Indian society over the last seven years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government
Though gender development index is not part of metrics that are used to measure human development indexes, the latest sex ratio figures are also a strong signal of the importance women are gaining in Indian society, upholding the cultural moorings that women are equal to men, and having a say in the affairs of their homes, community and nation at large.
The programmes and schemes for women that the Modi government pursued in the last seven years have resulted in restoring the age-old dignity to women and the girl child. It has also helped break stereotypes of women being the weaker sex.
The Modi government’s call for ‘Selfie with Daughter’ had caught the imagination of the citizens, who responded with much enthusiasm, posting their photos clicked with their daughters. Even those men and women, with no daughters, responded positively to this call from the prime minister by getting selfies taken with daughters of cousins, friends, and other family members to display their support and acceptance of this call for honouring the daughters of India.
The prime minister’s efforts at educating the girl child, though his personal contribution as chief minister of Gujarat, and after taking over the top office in the government, has inspired many thousands in the country to follow his example. ‘Beti Padao, Beti Bachao’ (Educate the Girl, Save the Girl) campaign that Modi personally undertook has resulted in greater number of citizens sending their girl child to school and to pursue higher education.
The results of Classes 10 and 12, and the competitive exams for prestigious institutions such as the IITs and IIMs have seen a larger number of women topping these exams and also getting into these institutions in greater number in these seven years.
Keeping up his word on ensuring greater representation for women in his government, the prime minister, earlier this year, inducted 11 women into his council of ministers, which is the largest number of women representations in the Central government in independent India’s history.
Even the armed forces that have had a cultural aversion to women recruitment has opened up its doors to male-only prestigious institutions such as the National Defence Academy at Khadakvasla near Pune to girl cadets. Of course, women became military officers in the early 1990s, but were only offered short service commissions, because of which they could never rise to the higher ranks in the armed forces.
Even the possibility of women joining the fighting arms of the Indian armed forces opened up only in the last seven years, with more women becoming fighter pilots. Earlier, women were recruited as officers only in support arms such as the education corps or the judge advocate general branch.
In the recent years, women officers have been getting a pride of place in the Republic Day parades, and in guard of honour for foreign dignitaries, even leading those contingents. Though these parades and contingents are symbolic, these gestures of the government and the armed forces go a long way in providing the much-needed visibility for women in uniform, thus inspiring more young women to taking up armed forces as a career to serve the nation.
It is in the interest of the nation that women need to get more active in the social, political, corporate and national life. The positive signals emanating from the latest NFHS-5 figures and the achievements that women have made in the recent times will go a long way in ensuring a dignified participation for women in national life.
It will not only enhance a woman’s self-worth, but will also ensure the future generations grow up, learning to respect women and their contributions to both their personal life and national reconstruction. Such developments will ensure there is zero tolerance to crime against women, and misogynist tendencies that have crept into the Indian society due to several centuries of subjugation by foreign powers and the continuing colonial mindsets.
(The writer is the National President of BJP Mahila Morcha and a Member of Legislative Assembly in Tamil Nadu, representing Coimbatore South)