Except for being born in the state of Haryana and the initial year or so, I have never really stayed there. What I have done, is visit the state at least couple of times a year, visiting family. And I have looked at the state as an insider, visited various cities, but more importantly visiting the villages..the prosperous ones close to Delhi and the not so forward thinking ones in the interiors and ones with desert soil close to Rajasthan border. And not once, but a couple of times every year, for years till I moved out of the country.
So when people talk about Haryana and their views of the state, to me they come out as stating peripheral views, facts gathered from what is printed or broadcasted by the media. So when people talk about abortion of girl fetus prevalent within the state, there are so many things I want to add. Why? Because there are so many sides to a story, so many angles that get missed.
But before I begin, let me state a very simple fact and get it out of the way: Haryana is a state obsessed with a Male child.
No questions asked, but then that is true for most of the other states in India..so why does Haryana get such a bad rep? Well because the state has the most recorded number of sex selection abortions or at least the most reported.
Let me tell you a story that I saw repeated over and over again as I made my yearly visit to my ancestral village. The women were different every time..the story, exactly the same.
Picture this: A woman about 2-3 months pregnant sitting on the floor surrounded by a couple of other females from her family. On the Khaat or pidhaa, sitting a social worker. There is talk about family planning..Hum do, humaare do..The big mantra of the 80’s. The social worker trying to convince the pregnant lady to not have another child after she delivers the one she is carrying. The pregnant lady has a girl child already, so all other women in the family insist that a boy child is important and the pregnant lady can’t stop till she has one. And so goes the discussion.
Till the social worker, who I guess has a quota to meet or something, says why don’t you go to a doctor and check what you are having? If you are having a girl child, you can always get it aborted. This will be economical in the long run since you don’t have to take care of the girl child, plus if you have an abortion right now you can get back to making that male child all the more sooner.
Now you have to remember that the pregnant woman and all her relatives are illiterate, with no exposure to the outside world, no TV, not even a radio. So they don’t understand most of the what the social worker is explaining, but questions are asked, answers patiently given. Finally a doctors address is handed over to the pregnant woman, with a promise that a van will come pick her up the next morning. And if everything goes well, she will be home in a couple of hours, secure in the knowledge that she will have a boy. Else she will have her abortion and be back home to cook dinner.
So many times I saw this, so many times I saw my mother rant and rail against all of this, so many times my dad tried to explain how things really worked, so many times I saw a black Jeep stop outside the village and a pregnant woman step inside, so many times I saw her come back having terminated her pregnancy.
Now that I am older and have my anger in check and really know how things work, I feel deeply saddened at all the misinformation fed to these women. At 2-3 months pregnant, the chances of knowing that you have a male fetus are about 50%. Even at 5 months there is a chance that a male fetus can be misinterpreted as a female. So really along with getting a female fetus, a lot of male fetus were getting aborted too. Which is not to say that the statistics make the abortion any better or the intent behind it all right.
Anyways cut to current times. What happened to after all the sex selection abortions? Well simple. The male to female ratio got skewed. And like everything there are repercussions when you mess around with the natural order of things.
The repercussions in this case is that there is a dearth of women to marry those sons that people so desperately wanted. Plus the thing to remember is that Haryana is a farming community and marriages are fixed based on the amount of farm land the guy has to his name. More the number of sons someone has, more parts the land gets divided in to, less the guy is desirable as a marriage partner. And when there are lesser number of women to choose from things get really interesting.
So now marriages in Haryana have gone the opposite route than most of India. Marriages are happening without any money spend by the bride’s family. Once yes is said by both sides, a sweet is made to be had by everyone, 1 Rs given to the groom and a quick ritual takes place in front of all the people present at the time of the yes is said. Done. No big wedding, no grand dressing up, no dowry.
Again none of this makes what happened all right, but at least the current generation is learning from what happened in the past. At least the current generation is not going overly crazy about having a male child. There is hope and with a little more education and with correct guidance things can get a lot better. The first step has been taken. Now we just have to ensure that we continue to move forward in the right direction and not regress.