The data recently released by the Sample Registration System (SRS) Bulletin highlights a gradual decrease in the infant mortality rate (IMR) in certain Indian states and union territories.
While the report reveals that states like Assam, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand have shown nominal drop in the infant mortality rate in urban and rural areas, the IMR in urban areas of states like Gujarat, Bihar and Uttarakhand has risen considerably.
The smaller states and union territories – Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Delhi, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, and Puducherry have shown a commendable drop in infant deaths in the rural areas. However, Chandigarh, Lakshadweep and Manipur show a rise in the numbers in urban as well as rural areas.
However, the data has been provided for only 17 states and 6 union territories. This report by The Times of India quoted Deputy Registrar General Rohit Bharadwaj as saying that the data for all states will be released soon.
What is infant mortality rate and why is it so important?
This United Nations site explains the infant mortality rate as the probability (expressed as a rate per 1,000 live births) of a child born in a specified year dying before reaching the age of one. Also, it is an important indicator of the level of health in a country.
A recent government data analysis indicated that if India has to curb its population growth, a higher survival rate for its children is an important factor. In other words, if more children survive, women tend to have fewer children, which increases their chances of living longer.
In the 42-year-period between 1971 and 2013, India's total fertility rate (TFR) fell by 55 percent. The average number of children born to a woman of child-bearing age dropped from 5.2 in 1971 to 2.3 in 2013, according to data released in 2015 by the health ministry. The reduction was influenced by declining infant mortality rate from 129 to 40 between 1971 and 2013.
However, before drawing any conclusions from the SRS report, it would be wise to wait for the data of the remaining states for a pan-India picture of infant deaths in the country.