Pocket-sized ultrasound machines imported from China are posing a fresh challenge to health authorities in the battle against female foeticide, as these scanners effectively defeat the ban on sex determination of foetus.
These machines have flooded the market and are virtually impossible to track in the absence of any controls on their import under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Act (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act.
Alarmed after the busting of a racket dealing in such machines, health authorities in Haryana have written to the central government seeking some provisions. Through cases in several towns of the state, the racket was traced to the Bhagirath Place market in Delhi and an assembling unit in Bahadurgarh.
The challenge is grave as the 2011 census has revealed that the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in India is down to 914 from the 2001 figure of 927. And Haryana has the dubious distinction of being among the worst states on this count at 879, followed by J&K (889) and Punjab (895).
The pocket-sized machines are not only small, making physical tracking further difficult, but also cost much less, at around Rs. 1 lakh, compared to a traditional machine’s price of around Rs. 45 lakh.
Haryana drugs controller Dr GL Singhal said, “There is an obligation under section 3B of the Act that ultrasound and imaging machines and scanners capable of detecting the sex of foetus will not be sold to anyone who is not registered. However, there is no such stipulation of being registered for import of such machines.” Haryana’s commissioner for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and health secretary Dr Rakesh Gupta, in a June 16 communique to the Centre, has underlined the shortcomings. The matter came to light in Haryana after health authorities tracked down a pregnant woman from Jind who had gone to Jamalpur in Bhiwani to get the foetus tested by a quack. “When we raided the quack’s establishment earlier this year, we found him using a pocket-sized, Chinese ultrasound machine. That was the first time we saw this machine,” Dr Singhal said.
After getting an FIR re gistered, the authorities tracked down the vendor of the machine to Bhagirath Place in Delhi; and he was arrested by the Delhi police. “His questioning gave further leads. We came to know that a similar machine had been sold in Kaithal’s Kithana village. Later, we zeroed in on a godown in Manesar where a decoy customer was sent to strike a deal. Then, we got another lead to Bahadurgarh where a company was assembling these machines,” Dr Singhal said.
The state FDA commissioner, in his communication to the union health ministry, has specifically said that “in view of the busting of a racket of import of Chinese, mobile ultrasound machines (which are small in size, easy to carry and cost-ef fective) and their illegal sale, it is requested that suitable provisions for regulating the manufacture, sale, stock, import of these machines by way of registration under the PC-PNDT Act be made”.