A woman cooks food by fire in a home in Kraska village, Rajasthan, India (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)  

In Charts: Is Rajasthan Failing Its Women And Children?

One out of three girls in Rajasthan are married off before they turn 18. The females in the state are among the least literate in the country. The desert state also has one of the highest rate of infant deaths.

These are just some of the long-standing problems any government of Rajasthan—whether led by the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress—has failed to address.

Rajasthan, India’s largest state by area, votes on Dec. 7. It is one of the swing states in the country which has a history of voting the incumbent out. Irrespective of who comes to power, these are the chronic issues they will have to tackle.

Educating The Girl

In Rajasthan, nearly 42.6 percent of the females had never gone to school at all as of 2015-16, according to the National Family Health Survey 4. That’s the highest after Bihar’s 43 percent.

In fact, the median years of schooling completed for females in Rajasthan is just 1.7, again only second to Bihar’s 0.9 percent. Compared to that, only 18.1 percent of the males in Rajasthan never attended school.

The gender gap in literacy in Rajasthan is the highest in the country.

That also means that Rajasthan has the second lowest female literacy rate in the country, with just over half of its women knowing how to read and write. The worst is Bihar, again. According to the Census 2011, Rajasthan was the worst.

Fewer years of schooling also lead to the girls being married off earlier. Rajasthan has the fifth-highest number of girls married before reaching the minimum legal age.

Not just that, 6.3 percent of the teenaged girls between 15 years and 19 years in Rajasthan are already mothers. However, that’s lower than the national average.

The state recently tried to address the issues. It piloted Udaan—an initiative inspired by India’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign—to ensure better enrollment of girls in schools in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh.

That’s showing results, according to officials. PTI reported that female enrollment rose over 90 percent in one year till June 2018.

Rajasthan also introduced the Educate Girls Development Impact Bond three years ago. In July, it was announced that the programme had achieved 116 percent of its enrollment target.

Also read: Rajasthan Elections And The Politics Of Healthcare

State Of Women

Rajasthan, according to Census 2011, had the worst sex ratio in the country. However, according to NFHS data, it is no longer the worst. That’s not because it has improved but because other states like Sikkim, Haryana and Puducherry have changed for the worse.

It is hard being a woman in Rajasthan. The state’s crime rate against women is the fourth highest in the country.

In 2016, Rajasthan reported the fourth highest number of rapes in India. Even worse was that it had the second-highest number of gang rapes.

For childbearing women, healthcare becomes another issue where Rajasthan is severely underperforming. The state has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in India, way above the national average.

One reason could be because females in Rajasthan fail to get good amount of prenatal care. Only 9.7 percent of the women surveyed said they had received all recommended types of preventive care measures before giving birth. That’s below the national average of 21 percent.

Even after childbirth, only 22.6 percent received postnatal care from a skilled provider in the first two days of birth.

Also read: Rajasthan Assembly Elections: How Will Raje Tackle BJP Defections?

Children And Their Health

With seriously low levels of care available for pregnant women, it isn’t surprising that the case is similar for newborns.

At 41 deaths for every 1,000 births, Rajasthan has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country. It is also among the six worst states when it comes to under-five mortality.

There maybe a reason for it. Only 55 percent of the children between ages 1 and 2 receive all the basic vaccinations. While that’s higher than states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, it’s lower than the national average.

Only 25.8 percent of the children under six years age received regular health checkups, while only 31 percent received immunisations.

Even when it comes to food, the children lack wholesome diet. Only 3 percent of the children up to two years of age receive the minimum acceptable diet in Rajasthan, the lowest in the country. Almost 60 percent of the children in the state are anaemic.

This’s why stunting is prevalent in Rajasthan. 39 percent of the children under five years of age are stunted. That’s the sixth worst rate in India.

Also read: Rajasthan Elections: Can Vasundhara Raje Overcome Anti-Incumbency?