Despite raids and police cases, sex determination clinics flourish in Gurugram
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Despite raids and police cases, sex determination clinics flourish in Gurugram

Historically, Gurugram’s sex ratio has been skewed in favour of males. Its sex ratio in 2014 was 843.34, which gradually rose to 904 in 2017. For the first time, the district’s sex ratio crossed the 950 mark and was 957 in May this year. However, the July to September quarter saw a sex ratio of 859.

gurgaon Updated: Dec 04, 2018 12:18 IST
Sonali Verma
Sonali Verma
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
gurugram,abortion clinics,PCPNDT Act
Gurugram police had arrested two persons for illegally selling machines that facilitated sex determination four years ago. Despite several raids and FIRS, there has been only one conviction to date.(HT Photo )

On November 29, the district health department raided a private clinic in Gurugram’s Sector 45, nabbed and booked three accused — a doctor couple and their staff — and seized several abortion kits. An FIR was registered against the three under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 at the Sector 40 police station. However, two days later, the accused were granted bail, despite being booked under non-bailable sections of the MTP Act, ASI Suresh Kumar, the investigating officer, said.

This was not the first time the accused had been nabbed for running an abortion clinic without a license. According to Dr Amandeep Chauhan, district drug control officer and a member of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques committee, the accused were repeat offenders and had been caught for sex determination earlier as well. “An FIR had been lodged against the accused in September 2016 under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act), but they were granted bail then as well,” he said.

Historically, Gurugram’s sex ratio has been skewed in favour of males. Its sex ratio in 2014 was 843.34, which gradually rose to 904 in 2017. For the first time, the district’s sex ratio crossed the 950 mark and was 957 in May this year. However, the July to September quarter saw a sex ratio of 859.

The health department’s PCPNDT committee, comprising only three members, has raided 30 sex determination centres and abortion clinics running illegally in the district in the past three and a half years. More than 70 FIRs have been registered in the district against the offenders, including doctors, quacks, lab technicians and paramedical staff, according to data available with the police. However, health department officials said the raids are not much of a deterrent in a district that has a history of a skewed sex ratio in favour of males. Despite the number of raids and FIRs against offenders, there has been only one conviction till date, and according to officials, such centres are mushrooming in the district.

Health department officials spoke of several challenges in enforcing the PCPNDT Act —offenders, even repeat ones, are not penalised strictly, there is no Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) cell in the district, there is a lack of surveillance on suspected centres as well as a lack of police support. “Only 230 centres across the district are registered with the health department. Many more are operating without a license. We keep getting tip-offs about their operations, but can’t act on them as often as we’d like due to a lack of trained personnel to conduct these raids,” a health department official familiar with the matter said.

According to a report released by the Union health ministry in July, Haryana reported the highest number of violations under the PCPNDT Act across the country till March this year — of the 387 cases registered across the country, 158 cases were from the state. The district health department data also showed that of the 158 cases, only two were registered in Gurugram.

In 2015, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar established a small ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ secretariat in his office to directly monitor the implementation of the campaign with district magistrates and other stakeholders. As part of a planned strategy, the state initiated an aggressive drive against female foeticide by ensuring stringent implementation of the PCPNDT Act and the MTP Act. “The total number of criminal cases lodged is perhaps more than the combined efforts of all states put together,” said an official in an email, adding that taking sex ratio at birth of 871 in 2014 as baseline (which means 871 girls per 1,000 boys), the state could save as many as 11,600 girlsduring the years 2015, 2016 and 2017 after the launch of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign in the state.

However, district health department officials said the number of raids as well as the number of people booked could have been higher had there been a PNDT cell in the district.

PNDT cells are meant to ensure the implementation of the PCPNDT Act, as well as monitoring and assisting health officials with surprise checks. The government provides financial support to states and districts for operating these cells under the National Health Mission. Dr Sarayu Sharma, deputy chief medical officer and nodal officer, PCPNDT committee, said, “There is a lot of illegal abortion activity going on in the district. However, the surveillance is lacking. We have to rely on ASHA workers for information. A PNDT cell, which has more manpower and a proper set up, can strengthen preventive activities.”

Health officials said that MTP kits are often seized from abortion centres along with the money that was charged. Chauhan noted that the money demanded by the offenders has increased in the past three years. “Now, they usually charge about Rs 40,000 for performing an abortion, whereas in 2015, the amount used to be Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 for a procedure,” he said, adding that most clinics try to make the most profit before they are nabbed. Officials said the raids are often risky and dangerous and in case they anticipate danger, they involve police teams as well.

Dr Sabu George, an activist against female foeticide, said there was no doubt that Haryana’s sex ratio has improved from what it was a few years ago, but the ratio needs to be sustained. “The PCPNDT law is very strong and needs to be implemented properly. But there isn’t enough evidence, nor enough convictions. Filing FIRs and forgetting about them won’t solve anything,” he said.

First Published: Dec 04, 2018 12:16 IST