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Times Of India
18 June 2011
By Umesh Isalkar
Pune,India

The state government sealed one more sonography centre in Parali-Vaijanath taluka of Beed district on Friday. In a biggest-ever crackdown in the region in the last four days, all the 13 sonography centres in the area have been closed down for blatantly violating norms. Perhaps, this is the first such major action in the state, indicating the government’s serious intention of checking the skewed sex ratio.

However, experts have said that instead of taking action only when cases of female foeticide surface, like those noticed in Parali-Vaijanath where three female foetuses were found dumped near a nullah, the state government ought to make it mandatory for all officials concerned to carry out regular inspection of sonography centres and hold them accountable for any lapse.

‘Despite ample evidence of a flourishing illegal sex-determination business, only three doctors have been convicted ever since the enactment of the PCPNDT (Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act in 1994. This proves that the officials who are supposed to check the functioning of the sonography centres, are not taking their work seriously,‘ said Devendra Shirole, national vice-president of Indian Medical Association (IMA) and IMA-UNFPA ambassador for save the girl child project ‘Doctors for Daughters’.

Almost 90% of the criminal cases filed against sonography centres pertain to non-maintenance of record or incomplete record of sonographies conducted. Not even 10% cases are about sex-determination test offences.

Shirole said, ‘Many authorities concerned are unaware that inspecting sonography centres is one of their important duties. Many are unaware of the Criminal Procedure Code, the knowledge of which is a prerequisite for carrying out raids and filing of criminal complaints.‘

Shirole said, ‘Many times officials are hand in glove with sonography centres. Carrying out sting operations in such cases do not serve the purpose as an appropriate authority or a representative of the authority has to be present during such operations, as per the Act. Moreover, finding a decoy is difficult as pregnant women hardly volunteer to pose as decoys.‘

At district level, civil surgeons, the district collector and the additional collector are the responsible appropriate authorities, while at taluka level, medical superintendents of rural hospitals, tehsildar and naib-tehsildar are the appropriate authorities. In small towns, chief officers of municipal councils are the appropriate authorities.

Asked what the state government was doing to sensitize the authorities, Mahendra Ahiwale, assistant director (PNDT), state family welfare bureau, said, ‘We are conducting training sessions for appropriate authorities, who are responsible for inspecting sonography centres and ensuring strict implementation of the PCPNDT Act.‘

Senior health activist Anant Phadke said, ‘While carrying out the test, costing as little as Rs 600, is illegal in the country, the law is regularly flouted and clinics offering sex tests abound. Portable ultrasound machines mean the tests can be done even in remote areas.‘ Instead of spending money on seminars and public meetings, the government should announce rewards for those who help in catching offenders, Phadke said.

For pregnancy and maternity health services, sonography is in fact a great boon. ‘There are many lifethreatening complications of pregnancy which can be diagnosed in time only with the help of sonography. The best example is placenta previa, a condition where the placenta lies unusually low in the uterus and the pregnant woman is prone to have profuse bleeding,‘ said senior gynaecologist Charuchandra Joshi, president, Pune Obsterics and Gyanecological Society. However, like many other things, misuse of technology has stigmatised the machine.

It can be used to visualize the genitalia of the baby in utero, thus paving way for aborting the foetus with undesired gender (usually female), Joshi said.

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