Delhi’s death doctors and their killing fields!
By Maxwell Pereira IPS retd.
UNFPA Consultant (Law Enforcement), Min of Heath & Family Welfare, GOI.
maxpk@vsnl.com

This is one kind of killing, rampant in Delhi, which no one is concerned about. Shocking murders of innocents, committed in the nation’s capital that’s home to the most powerful woman in India, where we have also a woman chief minister – at a rate considered alarming!

The heinous killings are for extermination of the girl child in the form of female foeticide. Delhi ranks among the four worst affected states in the country with a child sex ratio of only 814 girls born to every 1000 boys.

The adverse sex ratio in India is most pronounced in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, where practice of sex selection became popular from the late 1970s and where private ultrasound clinics were first established. Child sex ratio for the age group of 0-6 years in 2001 was 927 girls against 945 recorded in the 1991 Census. The Census 2001 revealed this ratio to be comparatively lower in the affluent regions like Punjab (798), Haryana (819), Chandigarh (845), Delhi (868), Gujarat (883) and Himachal Pradesh (896).

As per MCD data the child sex ratio at birth for Delhi declined in 2004 to 819 (which further declined to 814 in 2005) – the educated and prosperous south Delhi recording a mere 762, followed by 784 for Rohini in northwest and 792 for Najafgarh in southwest Delhi.

Countrywide the reasons attributed for this sorry state are the cruel economic and social forces that give a low status for women in society. Obsession for son preference in a patriarchal social framework (to carry the family name forward, support in old age and for performing last rites); neglect of the girl child resulting in higher mortality at younger age; and exploitation later by market forces of the survivor. As also the economic consideration arising out of the tag on daughters as a liability translating into the curse of dowry; and the utter inability of society to guard its daughters from predators and wanton violence. Prejudices, under bizarre conditions conspiring to promote female foeticide by medical entrepreneurs for self-gain!

Locally, rampant use of ultrasound to determine the sex of the foetus for eliminating it if found to be female, and easy access to this facility since early 80s, is seen to be the single dominant factor contributing to the rapid decline in the child sex ratio. Reportedly there are about 28,565 ultrasound clinics currently in our country.

To check female foeticide, and prevent the misuse of pre-natal diagnostic tests like amniocentesis for sex selection, the Government enacted anti sex selection laws in 1994 – later made more comprehensive in 2003 as the "Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994". The first conviction under this in the country came only in March this year, with a few more reported since in Punjab and Haryana. Delhi stands out for its apathy and lack of effort for action under this Act.

Crying foul on the Act, social activists decry the fact that doctors cannot police doctors – as the Act provides for launching of prosecution against errant doctors only by District Appropriate Authorities – the Chief District Medical Officers.

The State Appropriate Authority is under fire for not complying with the directives given in 2003 following a Supreme Court intervention. Ultrasound clinics are required to fill form ‘F’ provided in the Act for every test they do – giving details of the patient, including previous pregnancies and conceptions, age and sex of the previous child, reason for doing ultrasound and name of doctor who advised the test. To prevent an effective and meaningful audit of the prescribed data, clinics seldom fill this form; and when they do, they deliberately leave out vital details.

Adverse child sex ratio can severely impact the delicate equilibrium of nature and destroy our moral and social fabric. This could lead to increased violence against women, rape, abduction, trafficking (…isn’t Delhi already infamous as most unsafe for women?) and the onset of practices of forced polyandry increasingly getting common in parts of the country now. And round the corner looms large the spectre of PGD – Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis facility lately being publicized in the USA, the implications of which, for India, one is yet to study.

It is good the Delhi Commission for Women has resolved to set up a monitoring centre to keep vigil on ultrasound clinics in Delhi. Even so, the hypocrisy of our attitude towards this malady is reflected in a strange spectacle witnessed at the recent meeting of the Central Supervisory Board over-seeing the implementation of the PCPNDT Act. One of the participating Members of Parliament there happened to be none other than the worthy whose doctor son’s alleged sex selection operation in Delhi’s Kailash Hills was exposed by a television channel in a sting operation.

03.07.2006: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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