Kinnaur -- where improved literacy is leading to dismal sex ratio!

Kinnaur, April 8 (IANS) Kinnaur's sex ratio has registered a fall. Not because of obvious reasons of female foeticide or a patriarchal mindset, but surprisingly due to improved literacy rate among women of this Himachal district.

Armed with good education, women in Kinnaur are moving out of the district to pursue higher education and, in turn, settling outside. On the other hand, their male counterparts are preferring to stay back and join the traditional horticulture business.

This is leading to upsetting the male to female sex ratio. According to provisional Census for 2011 figures, the sex ratio in Kinnaur has gone down from 857 in 2001 to 818 in 2011. It is ranked the lowest in the state while in 2001 its rank was 10th.

Director census Balbir Tegta says there has been a big jump in the literacy rate of women in the state. It was recorded at 76.60 percent in the state in 2011 as against 67.42 percent in the previous census.

On the other hand, the literacy rate in Kinnaur is 80.77 percent - 88.37 for males and 71.34 for females - for a population of 84,298.

'With the increase in literacy level, mainly among girls, they are preferring to get married in other parts of the state. As they move to other districts for higher education, they prefer to settle there. Their natural beauty is another advantage to get good grooms easily,' Subhash Mendhapurkar, director of NGO Social Uplift Through Rural Action (SUTRA), told IANS.

'Still, the literacy level in young males is quite poor.. they are less interested in higher education as compared to females. Moreover, their main occupation is horticulture and so they can't move easily out of the district,' he added.

He ruled out the possibility of female foeticide as the reason behind the skewed sex ratio.

'Since most of the areas in Kinnaur are not easily accessible by road, access of tribals to the facilities of sex determination is very remote. Migration of the girls after marriage is the only factor for poor sex ratio,' said Mendhapurkar, whose NGO is working on the awareness on improving sex ratio in the state.

Kinnaur-based social activist Rattan Manjari, 57, said the locals, especially young girls, prefer to settle outside the district.

'Since the literacy rate among girls is quite high as compared to boys, they prefer to get good, educated match. Moreover, the locals are no more conservative now, they are more open,' she said.

As against Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti, another tribal district, has seen a rise in sex ratio in the past 10 years. It has shown an improvement of 114 (916 in 2011 against 802 in 2001).

Mendhapurkar attributed the improvement in sex ratio to lack of mobility of locals outside the district due to tough topography as compared to Kinnaur.

Interestingly, Lahaul and Spiti has set an example with 1,013 females per 1,000 males in the 0-6 age group - the highest in the country at the district level.

The entire district, comprising a population of 31,528, remains cut off for more than five months from the rest of the world owing to heavy snow.

As per the provisional Census figures, the population of Himachal Pradesh is 6,856,509, of which 3,473,892 are males and 3,382,617 females. The population accounts for 0.57 percent of the total population of the country which has been put at 1.21 billion.

The overall sex ratio of the state has improved from 968 to 974.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)