Drastic steps to put an end to foeticide

A 36-year-old woman in Ahmedabad recently turned a whistleblower after she was forced to go for abortion as many as six times by her in-laws after sex determination tests would show that she would deliver a girl. Amisha Bhatt, who has filed a case against her husband and in-laws for harassment, came to know through the RTI that greedy doctors maintained a secret list of patients sent by in-laws for abortions, and this list was never revealed to the state government.

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Published: Mon 30 Apr 2012, 10:11 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:45 AM

Bhatt, who found out that her name also did not figure in the list of patients who had undergone sonography tests, has exposed a nexus between gynaecologists and sonography clinics involved in sex determination tests and illegal abortions.

Urban areas in Gujarat have fast been emerging as centres of foeticide, with Mehsana in the north recording a gender ratio as low as 845 girls per 1,000 boys, much lower than both the state (886) and national averages (914).

No wonder, the Gujarat government has now decided to adopt an advanced technique that uses Active Tracker (AT) — a GPS- and GPRS-enabled device that promises to bring transparency in sonography — to curb sex determination and ultimately female foeticide.

The AT records sonography data and sends it to the central monitoring unit in the district collectorate office. If the AT is removed by the doctor, the device automatically sends an alert to the central monitoring unit. This prevents a doctor from misusing the sonography machine to carry out sex-determination test without drawing attention. Officials say that the data from AT is admissible in court. Legal and criminal proceedings can be initiated against the erring doctors.

The technology will initially be implemented in Mehsana, infamous for a shamefully low sex ratio, before it is made mandatory for all the 4,000 sonography clinics in the state.

But the local doctors have already protested against the move. According to doctors owning the 100-odd sonography clinics in the town, ‘hurried’ adoption of the technology will do more harm than good. They say that with just one company that has come up with such a device, the local administration should have done more homework, and that a pilot test of the product is essential before they take it up. Even former president of the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association Dr Harshad Shah, said the device breached medical ethics as privacy of patients was compromised, especially in case of male and non-pregnant female patients examined using imaging machinery.

However, some doctors have expressed their willingness to use the tracker and extend their support in tracking the errant doctors who conduct sex determination tests on the sly.

Time and again, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has in his speeches urged various communities to end female foeticide, stressing that the birth of a girl child should be a matter of pride for the family.

But his appeals seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

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