The declining female sex ratio in Himachal Pradesh has become more worrisome for the state government that has now sought help from neighbouring Punjab to keep tabs on prenatal diagnostic centres located in towns near the state boundary. “We are writing to the Punjab health department to seek its cooperation in keeping vigil on prenatal clinics and diagnostic centres conducting sex determination tests that are visited by the rural populace of Una district,” state health minister Kaul Singh Thakur said.
Areas adjoining Punjab worst hit
The health department suspects many women from rural areas in the district, particularly those adjoining Punjab, have visited local clinics in Nangal and Hoshiarpur for illegally terminating female foetuses. “I have also asked the additional chief health secretary to speak with his counterpart on this sensitive issue,” Thakur added.
There are reports of mobile vans fitted with ultrasound equipment clandestinely visiting rural areas to conduct sex determination tests on pregnant women. The state’s declining sex ratio last year caught the attention of the National Human Rights Commission that issued notices to the Himachal chief secretary.
After reports of a sharp decline in sex ratio in 26 panchayats of Una district was highlighted in the media, the National Human Rights Commission last year had issued a notice to the Himachal government. The decline had assumed alarming proportion during the last two years with less than 500 female infants born against 1,000 male infants in these panchayats in the district. In some of the panchayats the sex ratio is even more skewed.
The data reportedly proved abortions continued unabated in the area despite a ban on sex determination tests. The sharp fall in the sex ratio set the alarm bells ringing for the government, which asked the health department to keep a strict vigil on diagnostic centres and clinics equipped with ultrasound facilities. There are about 260 ultrasound machines fitted in government hospitals as well as in private hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Last year alone 721 inspections were conducted in various districts by district health officials who recommended cancellation of licenses of three clinics. However, till date none of these clinics have been prosecuted.
Thakur later announced it would “honour” 50 panchayats with a “good” sex ratio. “The health department is also roping in the crèche workers, mahila mandals and female healthcare workers to keep a tab on the practice of the aborting female foetuses. We are also devising mechanism to keep details about expecting mothers,” Thakur added.