CHENNAI: There were five pregnant women at the scanning centre at Tiruvannamalai when the officials raided the facility on Tuesday over complaints of illegal abortions. By the time officials reached there, they had already been administered abortion pills. As the foetuses of three of the women were expelled at the Tiruvannamalai Government Medical College Hospital, all were found to be females – confirming the suspicion that this was a case of female foeticide.
This perhaps explains why Tiruvannamalai, a backward district, has seen an alarming drop in sex ration from 930 (2011) to about 878 females per 1,000 males (2015-16), even as the State on the whole showed consistent improvement on health indices. Abortions conducted on the open terrace of the three-storey building, cautious enough to allow entry only after thorough screening but not covert as they had employed auto-rickshaw drivers as commission agents to bring the women, the network functioning out of the centre has baffled officials who busted it after tracking it for about a month. Here at this centre, all it cost to abort an unwanted pregnancy – often female foetuses by women who already have one or more girl children – was a mere Rs 7,000 for abortion and Rs 5,000 for a scan, said officials.
The main person behind this racket, T Anandhi (48), was helped by her husband and their son, an engineering student, said the Joint Director of Medical and Rural Health Services, Tiruvannamalai, N Rajendran. There were a few auto-rickshaw drivers in the district who acted as agents. “The woman allowed only those who came in auto, and she would give commission to the driver,” said Dr Senguttuvan, director of medical services.
According to a health department official, the three-storey house on Senguttuvan Street was always locked and guarded by the husband and other staff, with each customer allowed only after thorough screening. It was last month that the officials received complaints about the centre performing illegal abortions. Anandhi was a known person after being arrested in 2012 in similar charges. A week after receiving the complaint, they visited the area for surveillance. As part of the plan, they took a women from the district who pretended to be pregnant with a girl child that she wanted to abort. “We gave her a local SIM card along with `2,000 cash. Because Anandhi would not entertain any call if it is not from local numbers. They let every person only after filtering,” said an official part of the investigation team. When the officials went there on Tuesday, there were pregnant women who were lying on polythene sheets in the open terrace after receiving pregnancy termination pills. A woman staff there tried to hide the women and their attenders inside an open roof bathroom there, added Dr Senguttuvan.
As Anandhi argued with the officials to stall them, her son locked the bedroom on the second floor that housed the scanning machine and erased all the images in it. He also locked the women in the second floor inside the bathroom. The raid party had to break open the door with the help of the local tahsildar, officials added. Along with pregnancy termination drugs that come under Scheduled H, officials recovered `24,000 from a vessel in the kitchen. They have also found out that Anandhi had deposited `70 lakh in her husband’s name in various banks.