Alarmed at the skewed sex ratio, the state government has set up a committee to keep an eye on the state’s 6,300-odd ultrasound clinics.
This is to ensure that they don’t carry out illegal sex determination tests and abortion of female foetuses.
The State Inspection and Monitoring Committee will begin conducting raids on Wednesday. Maharashtra is the first state in the country to constitute a special committee to check on violations of the Pre-Natal and Preconception Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act 2003.
A national-level committee has already been enforcing the anti-sex selection law since 2003.
For every 1,000 boys, the state had 946 girls in 1991. This went down to 913 girls in 2001, as per census figures. In Mumbai, the figure is only 922 girls in the 0-6 years age group.
In 2008, the national inspection committee found many clinics in Mumbai and Pune used photographs of gods, goddesses and pink or blue objects to reveal the sex of a foetus.
The State Inspection and Monitoring Committee, which was set up as per a government resolution of 2009, is headed by the women’s commission Chairperson Rajni Satav. It has doctors, civic officials and legislative Assembly members.
“Clinics violating the law will be sealed and cases filed against them,” said Varsha Deshpande, member of the national and state inspection committees.
If a court finds a clinic is violating the act, the doctor can be jailed for three years and fined Rs10,000. Those seeking the service, excluding pregnant women, face five years’ imprisonment. SNDT University professor and gender rights activist Vibhuti Patel questioned the constitution of the state committee. “More citizens’ representatives are needed on the committee or it will be another way take bribes,” she said.
Patel said that though many clinics in the state had been sealed in the past, no doctor was convicted under the anti-sex selection law.