CHENNAI: Taking a grim view of the unfavourable child sex ratio in parts of the State, the health department has brought seven districts under the scanner to stem the decline through concerted effort. The list includes Tiruvannamalai, where the officials recently raided a scanning centre and arrested a woman for performing pre-natal diagnosis to determine the sex of the foetus and selective abortion.
While undertaking a sex ratio audit across the State, the officials of the health department found an alarming decline in the number of girls in Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Namakkal, Salem, Perambalur and Cuddalore. Incidentally, the first five are on the western belt, which includes some of the most backward districts in the State.
It was the pattern of repeated male births and a substantial drop in the number of girls that made the officials sit up and take notice. In Tiruvannamalai, the sex ration fell from 930 females per 1,000 males in 2011 to just 878 in 2015-16.
Officials told Sunday Express that pre-natal diagnostic centres performing illegal procedures were found in the other districts as well.
“Going behind each and every scan centres will not get us the results. Instead, we are looking at the numbers to identify such pattern. The variation obviously means someone is taking care of the technical side – scanning centres, abortion clinics etc – of the demand. But this is not easy, it involves a lot of time for surveillance,” said a senior health department official.
The department is banking on the village health nurses to play a vital role in keeping a tab on the decreasing sex ratio. These grassroots staff have a better idea about the cases and can note any significant variation in the number of girl children.
“If a pregnant woman misses the regular check-up schedule, then the health workers can go and check on the woman,” said the director of medical services, Dr K Senguttuvan.
“Falling sex ratio is a serious concern for the whole nation and the government is taking stringent measures against the illegal scan centres,” added Dr Senguttuvan.
This, however, is only one side of remedial action, stressed the official. The fact that the districts, where female foeticide is rampant, are backward is a telling indicator of social and economic factors playing a key role in families taking this decision. The diagnostic centre is a business, which, like all other businesses, answers demand.
“We need to keep a tab on the demand and supply chain. Why a mother wants to kill a girl child in her womb is a social problem that requires analysis of various issues,” said an official.