Police said on Tuesday at least 14 foetuses were found dumped in jars inside a sack in a village in Jharkhand’s Deoghar district, just over a month after 19 aborted female foetuses were recovered near a stream in Sangli in Maharashtra.
A woman found two foetuses, one male and one female, in a jar on Sunday after she bumped into a sack while crossing a road in Dumarthar village, about 300 km northeast of Jharkhand capital, and informed other villagers.
The next day, people found another sack containing similar jars which had 12 foetuses, mostly females, and reported it to the police.
Doctors and health workers cannot share an unborn child’s sex with the parents, or carry out tests to determine the child’s gender under Indian laws. Only registered medical practitioners are allowed to perform abortions. The practice of aborting female foetuses is widespread in India where a preference for male child runs deep.
Deoghar superintendent of police A Vijayalakshmi confirmed the report and said an FIR had been lodged with Mohanpur police station and a probe was on.
“There are a few nursing homes along the roadside, we are probing whether the foetuses were removed after abortion following prenatal test to determine the sex of the foetus, which is banned,” she said.
Vijayalakshmi added that a team, headed by the civil surgeon, has been constituted to find out details regarding disposal of medical waste and lapses and violation of sex determination cases if any.
Deoghar civil surgeon Shiv Chandra Jha, who has been asked to report within a week, said the matter was being investigated. “We have to check how old the foetuses are,” he said.
Jha, however, said it was up to the police to find out who threw the jars containing the foetuses and from where they were brought. The civil surgeon said a DNA test of the foetuses will be conducted and that he will find out which hospitals and nursing homes were following the guidelines of waste disposal management.
Pre-natal sex determination is rampant in the state and Jharkhand high court took cognizance following a Hindustan Times report in 2014 that said 13.2% to 18.2% abortions took place after pregnant women were checked for the sex of their unborn child.
The high court directed the government to find out the number of genetic counselling centres, laboratories, and clinics in the state and whether registrations obtained by them or not.
A 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet found that up to 12 million girls had been aborted in the last three decades in India.
In Jharkhand, there are just 928 females per 1000 males as per the 2011-12 Annual Health Survey.
Activists allege the societies under National Health Mission do not check whether hospitals and nursing homes, private nursing homes, in particular, are following the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994.
They said if the health department carries out raids at nursing homes that are being found violating the act, no stringent actions are taken and the defaulting owners are let off after warnings.
National health mission managing director Kripa Nand Jha, however, said regular monitoring is done to spot health centres violating the PCPNDT act. “The targets are given to the civil surgeons and discussions take place in the monthly meetings,” he said.
Jha said the health department has asked the Deoghar civil surgeon to submit his report and that action will be taken accordingly.