For a large part of the previous century India has witnessed a steady decline in its population sex ratio, reaching the lowest ever recorded ratio of 927 females per 1000 males in 1991. While the 2001 Census points to a slight improvement in the overall population sex ratio, the proportion of girls to boys or the sex ratio for the 0–6 age group continues to decline. This ratio has fallen from 976 in 1961 to 927 in 2001,
giving ‘rise to both alarm and despair’ (Agnihotri, 2003: 4351). A substantial proportion of the decline is attributed to the differential survival chances of girls and boys in the 0–6 age group due to sex selective abortion, neglect, and female infanticide. In geographic terms, much of this decline is concentrated in states with a long history of gender differentials in survival among children notably Punjab, Haryana and Delhi in the north and Gujarat and Maharashtra in the west. However, a troublesome aspect is that gender differentials in survival are also becoming
noticeable in other states. Tamil Nadu, a south Indian state and the focus of this paper, is one such case.