BENGALURU: Time and again, the Supreme Court has expressed concern over the falling child sex ratio in India and chided states for their failure to punish those abetting female foeticide. Over the years, little has changed.
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Sex Determination (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1994 bans determination of the sex of a foetus. But Karnataka has failed to crack down on the clinics and ultrasound centres that conduct these tests for a hefty fee. Scanning centres charge between `10,000 and `15,000 for the tests. To ensure there is no written proof, they do not give their customers scanning reports, and tell them the result orally.
For example in Mysuru, sex determination tests are mostly done in polyclinics in the outskirts of the city. There is a district-level committee, headed by the District Health Officer, to keep a check on such medical malpractices, but it barely makes a difference. No cases have been booked in Mysuru in the last two years.
In Mandya, said to be a hotbed of female foeticide, the authorities are trying to see a silver lining.
Diwakar, Women and Child Welfare Deputy Director, Mandya, told Express that official data says the child sex ratio there has gone up from 934 in 2001 to 939 now.
But the truth is that abandoning of newborns has spiked in the Cauvery belt, with six babies, both male and female, found abandoned in recent month. Dr Rajni M, Deputy Director, Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques, Health Department, said, “The government has taken steps to prevent sex determination. In Bijapur district, six clinics have been raided and cases have been registered under the PNDT Act. Raids will be intensified across the state to send a strong message.”
However, Women and Child Development Minister Umashree, while accepting that the issue was concerning, said, “The department has a system in place but if the mothers throw away their babies in random locations, officials will find it very difficult to trace them.”
According to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), female babies are mostly abandoned by unwed mothers. CWC opined that girl babies, especially if they are the second or third children, are usually left to die by poor and vulnerable families. Anitha Shivakumar, chairperson of CWC, said, “There is absolutely no awareness among mothers and families regarding the welfare programmes for the girl child.”
“The Women and Child Development Department should intensify its programmes of popularising the ‘cradle’ (Thottilu) scheme where new mothers can leave their babies in government hospitals instead of abandoning them in random spots.”
Through integrated child protection schemes, the government will take care of the baby and for the first 50 days, the child will be kept under observation. “We even wait for families to come and claim their children. If not, a case will be registered. Only then will NGOs’ help be sought to simplify adoption,” Anitha said.
Vasudev Sharma of Child Rights Trust said there is a need to make youngsters aware of abortion norms, which clearly state that under certain conditions, mothers can undergo abortion within six weeks of pregnancy,” he said.
(with inputs from Vincent D’Souza)