By spending a mere Rs 1,100, any couple can bear a son and change the gender of an unborn child in the mother’s womb. Several self-styled vaidyas, or ayurvedic practitioners, are making such science-defying claims at an herb fair organised in Bhopal by the Madhya Pradesh government.
When this reporter approached a number of these vaidyas without disclosing her identity, at least six of them promptly agreed to supply herbs which they said would transform a female foetus into a male one.
“Yes this is possible. I would place a flower on the palm of the woman who wants a son and that would produce the desired result,” said a female ayurvedic practitioner, who claimed she was from Kanpur.
The controversy comes against the backdrop of a slew of studies expressing concern over the skewed child sex ratio in India and pointing to a deep preference among large sections of the population for sons over daughters.
“It is shocking for me to know that all this is happening under the nose of the government in the state capital, that too when chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has launched a campaign to save the girl child,” said activist Sarika Sinha. “The government should take stringent action against those people.”
Another vaidya from the state, Ramdin Shahu, refused to say much at the Bhopal fair, maintaining that he wished to be consulted over the phone.
When contacted later, he asked this reporter to collect ayurvedic medicines worth Rs 1,100 from his shop, Amleshwar Jadi Booti Kendra.
The products purchased included some seeds and a powder.
The vaidya advised that the “Shivling” seeds be consumed with cow’s milk only after performing a puja.
“In ayurveda there is no medicine which can change the gender of the baby,” renowned ayurveda expert Dr Umesh Shukla said.
Other ayurvedic practitioners who made such claims on the phone include Mohd Firoz Akhtar from Himganga Herbal, Satish Bharti from Vaishnav Aaushadhi Sansthan and a representative of Anandeshwar Gram Seva Samiti.
When HT contacted them later, most of the vaidyas backtracked from their promises, but some like Bharti and Akhtar stuck to their claims.
“It is not possible that vaidyas at the fair are making these claims,” said forest minister Gaurishankar Shejwar. Perhaps some quacks are wandering around there and making such assertions.”