This past May, India’s population crossed the one billion mark, according to the country’s registrar general and census commissioner. The billionth citizen of this ancient land entered a country with 40 political parties and 24 official languages, each spoken by more than a million people.
If the baby is lucky it is a boy. If a girl, she has a smaller chance of survival. Feticide, infanticide or, later, forced suicide are still the lot of many Indian girls. Kitchen fires sometimes burn too brightly as a result of all those “accidents.” Sons bring prosperity to a household—if they are not among the 110 out of every 1,000 live births who do not live to celebrate their first birthday. Many children succumb to diarrhea, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles and malnutrition. India has the world’s highest infant mortality rates. But it is one of the 183 member nations which have ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.