Despite its being a so-called progressive and prosperous state, Punjab in north western India, is an example of skewed growth, it is well known.
Its sex ratio is a matter of concern. And recently it was found that the Malwa region, a big chunk of the state, suffers from a severe health crisis.
Complicating the situation is the report that the Jalalpur village in the Fatehgarh Sahib district saw only two births in the last two years.
Whether it can be attributed to indifference on the part of officials to record births or there has actually been a drop in birth rate is a moot point. Whatever the reason, it is a matter of concern, say observers.
Swarn Singh, a local government official, claimed that he issued the last birth certificate, that of a girl child, on May 5 last year. Villagers, however, claim that at least eight births took place during the same period. The total population of the village is 910, and the number of children in the age group of 0-5 years is 82.
Parminder Singh, a community leader, said, "We had not taken notice of it so far, but it is quite intriguing and we will conduct a survey to know the reasons." Deputy Commissioner of the district, Sahib Alaknanda Dayal, said, "It seems that registration of births and deaths is not being done properly. If any negligence is found, strict action would be taken against the erring officials."
Out of the eight children villagers claim were born during the last two years, four are girls. So it can be concluded that female foeticide is not an issue here.
A resident of the village, Chhaju Khan, said, "There is no difference between a male or female child for us."
Another villagers felt that the economic crisis that had overtaken the region left people with little choice. They would rather forsake the pleasure of the company of children and possible future security than beget them and then wonder how to rear them, he reasoned.
Noted economist Sucha Singh Gill said that in general people in an educated society like to reduce the size of their families.
"Division of land holdings can also be one of the reasons for the decrease the birth rate. Besides increasing alcoholism and increased use of pesticides could also lead infertility," he said.
Whatever be the reason, the government needs to probe the matter, Gill stressed.