A marriage crisis is afflicting the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, where thousands of young men are failing to find brides due to the selective abortion of female foetuses. The centuries-old Indian preference for boys has always meant a skewed sex ratio in favour of boys. Modern scanning techniques to detect the sex of an unborn child have exacerbated the problem. Women's activists have been warning for years of the consequences for society of killing female babies: men failing to find brides and have families, with some expressing their frustrations through violence against crime. Surinder Singh, a 25-year-old farmer in the Punjab village of Dagana, has personal experience of the statistics on India's vanishing girls. 'My parents have been trying to find a suitable wife for me for five years,' he said. 'We haven't found a single local girl. Now they've decided to go to Bangladesh and buy one. It's not going to be cheap but if it's the only way I can get married then we'll have to raise the money.' The gender imbalance is creating villages full of frustrated bachelors. The young women who would have been their brides never had the chance to be born. In the desert state of Rajasthan, there are villages where no wedding has been celebrated in years. In Haryana, the proportion of the female population has fallen by a quarter. Gurdev Singh, 28, a shopkeeper in Rohtak, Haryana, is wondering if he will ever get married. 'I've always heard about couples getting rid of unborn baby girls but I never realised it would affect my life.' he said. 'I have so many friends in the same boat. We're all at the age when we should be getting married but there are no girls. It's crazy.' India's latest census showed that the worst affected states, such as Punjab and Haryana, now have some of the most alarming sex ratios in the world. Worldwide, 1,050 females are born for every 1,000 males. In Punjab, only 793 females are born for every 1000 males. In Haryana, the figure is 820. The lopsided population is forcing men in Punjab and Haryana to buy women from poor communities outside their states - Bihar, Orissa or even farther afield in Nepal and Bangladesh. The use of sex-determination tests is illegal. Many religious leaders have inveighed against the practice. It will continue as long as Indians value boys as assets and disparage girls as burdens because of the dowries they need to be given on marriage. This attitude best exemplified in the popular saying that raising a daughter is like watering your neighbour's plant. So desperate are Indians, poor and rich, to avoid having girls that the smallest towns have ultrasound clinics, an indication of priorities in communities where even clean water may be lacking. 'This practice is so widespread that we don't kill cats and dogs as often as we destroy female children,' said the owner of one such clinic in Rohtak.