Ingenuity is often the hallmark of cheats. In Rajasthan, unscrupulous medical practitioners, looking to make a quick buck, have gone a step further by duping pregnant women to undergo abortions after telling them that they are carrying a girl child despite the foetus being a male.
“It is perhaps the mother of all frauds,” points out Naveen Jain, head of Rajasthan’s Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PC-PNDT) bureau of investigation, and mission director of National Health Mission.
Though sex determination is illegal, the practice is rampant is Rajasthan where a male child is still preferred over a girl by many would-be parents. In a state notorious for its skewed child sex ratio — 888 girls for every 1,000 boys as against the national average of 919, as per the 2011 census — some make a quick buck by offering medical termination services in seedy clinics.
But for maximising profit, officials say many doctors and paramedics involved in the illegal trade are also misleading parents, luring them into abortions by making them believe the child in the womb is a girl.
Garima Sain (name changed), pregnant with her third child, helped to blow the lid off the thriving racket in Makrana of Nagaur district recently. Dr Mohammad Niyaz of Suncity Hospital recommended an abortion costing Rs 60,000 as “her foetus was that of a girl”.
- Rajasthan is notorious for a skewed sex ratio — 888 girls for every 1,000 boys.
- Doctors and paramedics involved in illegal abortion trade lure parents by making them believe the child in the womb is a girl.
- Authorities have carried out 39 decoy operations in Rajasthan to implicate those involved in sex determination and illegal abortion trade.
- Yet, activists believe the trade is thriving in districts such as Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Hanumangarh and Ganganagar.
He did not know that the law was coming for him. Rajasthan’s PC-PNDT cell that keeps an eye on illegal practices had used Garima as a decoy to investigate Dr Niyaz.
She delivered a healthy baby boy on November 20, but not before the PC-PNDT cell had arrested Dr Niyaz. This was not the doctor’s first brush with trouble. His ultrasound machine had been sealed in 2012 on charges of illegal use. His son, a government doctor, was also arrested on similar charges in Jodhpur in October.
Garima also helped the cell crack down on two paramedics at another hospital who suggested that she abort her pregnancy at a discounted price of Rs 50,000. Like Dr Niyaz, they too told her the baby in the womb was a girl.
Officials say inducing women to abort under false advice is intended for making a fast buck. “Telling every woman that she’s carrying a girl is risk-free,” says Raghuveer Singh, Rajasthan’s nodal officer of PC-PNDT.
“If they tell women they are carrying a boy, they get money only for ultrasound, but if they tell them that it’s a girl and manage to convince the family to get it aborted, they rake it in,” he adds.
As against anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1 lakh for an abortion done secretly, ultrasound to determine the sex of the foetus costs between Rs 20,000 and Rs 50,000, say officials associated with investigations.
Vikas Rahad, a social activist of Sikar who helped the PC-PNDT cell nab a retired army paramedic, says abortions offer the cheats with umpteen possibilities. They squeeze more money out of their patients by raising the bogey of complications during the procedure.
Since 2009, the state PC-PNDT cell has carried out 39 decoy operations to nab those involved in sex determination and illegal abortions.
But activists fear the trade is still thriving in districts such as Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Hanumangarh and Ganganagar. These districts have poor child sex ratio, say activists, while pointing out that they share their borders with Haryana, which had the worst child sex ratio in the country in the 2011 census.
Those involved in the illegal trade mostly use cheap Chinese-made portable ultrasound machines. Many of them are not trained doctors and cannot decipher the ultrasound. “Many therefore have no qualms in declaring the foetus as a girl,” says Jain.
Social activist Rajan Choudhary, whose tip-offs have led to several decoy operations, says, “The doctors have a network of government and private nurses who terminate pregnancies at home. Doctors who conduct only the ultrasound refer women to them for abortion. The network works as middlemen for ultrasound clinics.”