On 24 November, the National Family and Health Survey (NFHS) was released by the Union health ministry. It made 3 astonishing revelations- India has 1,020 women for every 1000 men, is not getting younger and unlikely to have population explosion.
The ratio was 1000:1000 in NFHS in 2005-06, 991:1000 in 2015-16. This is first time that India’s sex ration inclined in favour of women. India can no more be called as country of ‘missing women’, a term used by Amartya Sen.
Unfortunately, the gender ratio for children born in last five years remain 929, indicated son-preference and evil of female infanticide.
According to the survey, India’s population has peaked, as Total fertility rate is marked at 2, lower than 2.1 which is internationally accepted replacement level.
In 2019-21, 26.5% of population w
Belonging to the age of 15 years and below, down from 34.9% of 2005-06.
Vikas Sheel, additional secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare and mission director, National Health Mission said, “The improved sex ratio and sex ratio at birth is also a significant achievement; even though the real picture will emerge from the census, we can say for now looking at the results that our measures for women empowerment have steered us in the right direction.”
Yamini Aiyar, president of the Centre for Policy Research emphasized on women’s health and employment, “The fact that we are now an aging population suggests that our approach to women’s health needs a more holistic life cycle view rather than one that prioritizes reproductive health only. The fact that more women have completed ten years of schooling in 2019-20 than previously coincides with a drop in female labour force participation points to significant structural challenges in India’s labour market. These need to be urgently addressed if India is to make progress.”
NFHS-5 also throws light on the level of nutrition and food security among Indians. Dipa Sinha, an assistant professor of economics at Ambedkar University elaborated, “Overall, the NFHS-5 shows a reduction in stunting, which is an indicator of chronic undernutrition, from 38.4% to 35.5%, which is only about 3 percentage points in five years, about 0.6 percentage point a year. Between NFHS-3 and NFHS-4 we saw an improvement from 48% to 38.4%, roughly 1 percentage point a year. So there is definitely a slowdown in improvement and this is much below the goals set under Poshan Abhiyaan.”
The validity of all these revelations is yet to be tested by the national census. Still, NFHS is credible as it covered 7,20,000 women and above 1,00,000 men.
There is yet much to be done. Only 70.2% use an improved sanitation facility and 58.6% use clean fuel for cooking. On a positive note, the number of women bank holders went up to 78.6% in NFHS-5.
NFHS-5 was conducted across 707 districts covering 6,50,000 households between 2019-21. Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Odisha, Puducherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand were surveyed in phase-II.