CHENNAI: Though Tamil Nadu has good demographic health indicators, there's still a need to sensitise rural women against female infanticide and encouraging girl children, opines K Shivakumar, managing trustee of Gandhigram Trust.
The non-profit organisation recently launched novel initiatives for women and child welfare -- Dr Soundram Amma Maternity Benefit Scheme and the Sowbhagyam scheme for girl children.
The Dr Soundram Amma Maternity Benefit Scheme was formulated after discussion with the trust's outreach programme team members and mothers.
"We inaugurated this new scheme to encourage female children with the support of Redington Foundation," he said.
The trust bears the expenditure towards delivery of girl child, especially accommodation fee for general wards, doctor fees and other establishment charges.
The money saved on such a delivery is gain for the baby, as normally a nominal amount of about Rs 8,000 to 10,000 is charged.
"The Sowbhagyam scheme creates a feeling that girls are not a burden but a blessing to a family. The money saved for delivery is a fortune for the girl child," Shivakumar told PTI.
Tamil Nadu with a population of 7,21,47,030 has a sex ratio of 996 girls per 1,000 males, as per Census 2011. The rural populace is slightly on the higher side accounting for 3,72,29,590, whereas the urban population is 3,49,17,440.
The mid-year population of the state for 2022 is 7.67 crore, according to an estimate by the state health department.
"Tamil Nadu is one of the high-performing states in India in maternal and child health. The state has an Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 15 per 1,000 live births, as per the Sample Registration System 2019," a senior government health official said.
Tamil Nadu is the second best among major states in the country in effectively bringing down the IMR on par with developed nations, he added.
Tamil Nadu has already reached the Sustainable Developmental Goal (SDG) in 2017-19 itself by reaching the figure of 58 per lakh live births compared to 103 for India in 2018 (SRS 2017-2019).
As per the SDG, the MMR should be brought to less than 70 per lakh live births by the year 2030.
A Civil Registration System (CRS) linked with the Pregnancy Infant Cohort Monitoring and Evaluation (PICME) software in place in Tamil Nadu since 2017, makes the state a pioneer in the country to take this innovative step.
This linkage ensures 100 per cent tracking of all pregnant women irrespective of their place of living.
Due to this, the state has succeeded in effectively bringing down the MMR.
Much of the credit in reducing and preventing female infanticide goes to late chief minister J Jayalalithaa who launched the "Cradle Baby Scheme" in Salem district in 1992.
The scheme was extended to Madurai, Theni, Dindigul and Dharmapuri districts in 2001 due to the practice of female infanticide.
The scheme provides cradles at government hospitals and Primary Health Centres to receive unwanted newborns, and gives them for legal adoption so as to prevent illegal sale of babies.
"The 2011 Census projected an alarming decrease in the child sex ratio in Cuddalore, Ariyalur, Perambalur, Villupuram and Tiruvannamalai districts due to various socio-economic reasons," says Shivakumar.
Taking cognisance of this and to set right this negative trend, the Cradle Baby Scheme was extended to all the districts.
The innovative scheme won accolades in India as well as from other countries.
"The Gandhigram Trust has been implementing the Cradle Baby Scheme or Thottil Kuzhanthaikal Thittam since its inception at Kasturba hospital. In addition, we have a government recognised centre for child adoption," he said.
The Gandhigram Trust is running several institutions for the uplift of children and adolescent girls such as Sowbhagya Illam, Avvai Ashram, Kasturba Sevikashram and Kasturba Hospital.
Its main focus is on safe and secure girl children.
The trust is creating awareness about the importance of girl child and on different government schemes for female children in and around villages of Athoor and Nilakottai blocks.
Parents are motivated to contact the social welfare department office for availing benefits of female child.
The trust has made delivery free for mothers who give birth to female children during its 75th year of service.
"We have made a representation to the state government to recognise the Dr Soundram Amma Maternity scheme by providing at least Rs 2,500 for every female child born to encourage and retain the female child," Shivakumar said.