12 July 2011
By, Malathy Iyer & Prashant Nakwe
“ We have a strong case as we have audio–visual evidence of the conversations between the doctor and the decoy patient,” said Dr Asha Advani of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s PCPNDT cell. The sting was conducted by two activists, one of them a five–month pregnant woman, from the NGO Lek Ladki along with a television journalist. On Friday, they secretly recorded Dr Ivan Rocha using a portable ultrasound machine to examine the pregnant activist at J P Hospital in Saki Naka. On detecting the foetus’ gender, the doctor, who is also attached to the civic–run Bhabha Hospital in Kurla, reportedly exclaimed: “I have bad news for you. It is a girl.”
After the test, Rocha texted the activists to set a date for the abortion. In one of these texts, he essentially stated that the pregnant activist could come for an abortion “late at night” either at Powai or Kurla.
The activists submitted the secretly recorded videos and an ultrasound report signed by the doctor as proof to the BMC, which then carried out the raid. “We will start the process seeking his sacking,” said Dr Advani.
Mumbai: The sting operation that led to the seizure of three ultrasound machines from a hospital in Saki Naka could not have come at a more telling time. The state government kick–started its ‘Save Girl Child Campaign’ on Monday, which marked the World Population Day. The state health authorities have been talking about giving more teeth to the Pre–Conception and Pre–Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act ever since Census 2011’s provisional figures revealed Mumbai’s appalling child sex ratio. For every 1,000 boys under the age of five, the census showed, there are only 883 girls in the city.
Satara–based advocate Varsha Deshpande, who runs Lek Ladki and organized the Friday sting operation, said: “This proves very strongly that sex determination and sex–selected abortions are rampant in Mumbai as well. It’s just more expensive than in the rest of the country…. Just look at the child sex ratio in the city and it is obvious that the girl child is being eliminated.” Incidentally, the Lek Ladki team also carried out a sting operation in Thane urban constituency on Sunday. The sting helped expose gynaecologist Dr Umesh Londhe and radiologist Dr V N Jawahar for violating the PCPNDT Act. What is special about both these raids is the fact that the doctors have been caught on camera revealing the sex of the unborn child. Usually, in most other cases, it is the doctors’ ultrasound machines that are sealed or seized for poor paperwork or incomplete filling of the all–important Form F of the PCPNDT Act. On Monday, Advani told TOI that the BMC had seized three sonography machines as well as Rocha’s laptop. “One of the three machines is a portable one that he carried around. This was the machine he used on the decoy patient. He had no certification to use this machine in J P Hospital. It is a clear violation,” she said. Each sonography machine has to be registered with the BMC along with the operating radiologist’s name.
The civic team sealed the other two machines at J P Hospital because of incomplete paperwork. “We have audio–visual evidence against him (the doctor). We will now file a court case against him,” said Advani.
When the BMC team landed in the hospital before noon on Monday, all the doctors attached to it were summoned. Advani asked Rocha if he knew the Mumbai’s child sex ratio. When the doctor murmured that it was somewhere around 900, she showed him an SMS that he had sent to the decoy team of Lek Ladki. “Why are you committing such mass murder then,” she asked Rocha.
The BMC team asked for the hospital’s records of the abortions as well as operation theatre use. “But the entries were not done properly,” said a BMC raid team member.
Caught in The Act Who | Gynaecologist Dr Ivan Rocha, is attached to, among other places, Bhabha Hospital in Kurla. He also has his own clinic in Powai
Where | J P Hospital in Saki Naka
When | 7 pm on Friday
The Catchers | A five–monthpregnant activist of Lek Ladki, another activist and a TV reporter who operated the camera
How | After days of negotiations, the activists and the journalist on Friday reached J P Hospital, where Rocha used a portable ultrasound machine to examine the pregnant activist for 35 minutes. During the examination, he explained in “pornographic” detail how sex organs are formed
On detecting the foetus’ gender, the doctor reportedly exclaimed: “I have bad news for you. It is a girl” For days before the meeting, Rocha texted the activists to bargain over the price of the sex determination test. From the initial Rs 10,000, he reduced it first to Rs 8,000.
And on the day of the test, he reportedly gave a further concession of Rs 2,000 because it was a girl child Rocha did not fill up any forms for the sonography exam, which is mandatory under the PCPNDT Act The doctor continued texting to set a date for the abortion. One of these texts, which has been forwarded to the BMC as evidence, essentially said that the pregnant activist could come for an abortion “late at night” either at Powai or Kurla Times View
The sting operations expose more than just three doctors ready to bend the rules for a few bucks. They hint at the possibility that these doctors possibly performed such illegal acts before. They, after all, had a network in place, a drill in motion. There obviously are people in our society who go to any extent—break the law, bribe doctors and kill the girl child—to achieve their dream of having a male child.
The government hence has to do more than just encourage NGOs to conduct sting operations. NGOs alone cannot do the clean–up job. The government has to work on a two–point agenda: Ensure that errant doctors are penalized and, at the same time, carry out gendersensitization programmes among the masses.
It will also help if the government can ensure conviction for doctors exposed by these stings.