20 years since birth of law, sex determination goes on unabated

It has been more than 20 years since the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prevention and Regulation of Misuse) (PNDT)Act 2002 was formulated. Yet, poor implementation of the same

Published: 16th December 2017 10:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th December 2017 08:00 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purpose.

HYDERABAD: It has been more than 20 years since the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prevention and Regulation of Misuse) (PNDT)Act 2002 was formulated. Yet, poor implementation of the same is keeping female foeticide alive in Telangana, point out experts and data. For instance, the child sex ratio in Nalgonda took a dip from 1,060 girls per 1,000 boys in 2014 to 959 girls in 2015, according to Civil Registration System data. Similar is the case in Karimnagar, where the ratio dipped from 1,080 in 2014 to 929 in 2015.

According to the PNDT Act, district-level committees, called District Appropriate Authority, have to be formed across the state to ban pre-natal sex determination. However, only a handful of districts have formed such committees under the District Medical Health Officer (DMHO). In Nalgonda for instance, the committee was formed in September 2015, but the members have not met even once in the last two years, though it should mandatorily meet every three months. 

Experts point out the reality could be worse than the sad picture that these data reveal. “According to this data, the total number of births in Nalgonda in 2015 is 50,452. If the sex ratio is only 959, we need to examine the process of these registrations,” says Dr M Sabu George, member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee of the Act. “In any case, the alarming figures point to lack of strict implementation of the law.”“I have been trying to push for awareness programmes. There’s a budget allocated for this purpose, but nothing has progressed yet,” said a Karimnagar committee member, seeking anonymity.
Some ‘text’ missing

Just 20 cases of violation of the PNDT Act have been reported in the state in the last 17 years. Swarna Latha, Project Director for the Act in Telangana says they found “one or two” cases of unregistered centres in the state and that her department had issued show cause notices to 16 centres across eight districts in 2016-17. “We conducted a decoy operation based on an information we received, but it turned out to be a hoax,” she said. 

The National Crime Records Bureau report 2016 also states that no cases of foeticide was reported last year. “In case of termination of pregnancy after sex determination, offenders are booked under the Indian Penal Code. In case of identifying the sex of the foetus, they are booked under the PNDT Act,” informed Rizwan Parvez, coordinator of Girls Count in Delhi, a coalition of NGOs that works to fight gender discrimination at all levels. 

 According to the annual report 2016 released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 32 cases booked under the Act are pending in the court and one conviction was made in Telangana. A total of 112 sonography machines were seized. Evidently, reporting of crimes under the PNDT Act continues to be a problem in Telangana. The situation varies a great deal between districts. In Ranga Reddy, the DHMO claims regular meetings are held and records of various hospitals and centres are reviewed though no decoy operations are conducted. No meetings were held in Vikarabad district, but a decoy operation was conducted in September and five sonography machines were seized. 

Though implementation of the Act is very little on the ground, the health and family welfare department officials have a different story to tell. According to them, all the 31 districts in Telangana have formed the panels and are fully functional. “We have shifted focus to the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP) campaign, which not only addresses pre-natal sex determination, but focuses on overall protection of girl child,” says Swarna Latha. “Also, as per our records, Hyderabad has been identified as the district with the lowest sex ratio and plans are in place to implement BBBP here,” she claims. However, The Sunday Standard found that according to the 2015 CRS data, the lowest child sex ratio is seen in Medak district (892). The ration in Hyderabad, on the other hand, stands at 943.

An overlooked problem

The gravity of this problem is often over looked, not just in Telangana but across the country, says Parwez. “There is no monitoring of the committees or their meetings. No one asks the agenda of the meeting and hence, there’s no pressure. For an Act like PNDT to make an impact, there should be vigilance at all times,” he said. In some places where the centres are monitored, technology has played a major role and sex determination was being conducted in moving vehicles, he added.

Dr Sabu George who has been working on the subject for two decades now, says, “If this law is not strictly implemented, female foeticide will become a rationale. If they are unable to kill a female foetus, there will be discrimination. Then there will be violence against the mother,” he said. 
Lawyer Mujeeb Kumar says 75 per cent of domestic violence cases he attends are due to birth of a girl child. Unless PNDT Act is strictly implemented, other schemes for the care, protection and empowerment of girl child will be of no use, he said.  

India Matters


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