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10 years on, one conviction

Every year, Indians ? irrespective of class ? kill half-a-million girls before they are born. And all the Prenatal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PNDT Act), banning sex determination test, has achieved after 10 years is just one conviction.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 02:02 IST

Every year, Indians — irrespective of class — kill half-a-million girls before they are born. And all the Prenatal Diagnostics Techniques Act (PNDT Act), banning sex determination test, has achieved after 10 years is just one conviction.

There is reason for despair and Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss would agree. “We need to act on the Act,” the minister said at a meeting of the central supervisory board (CSB) responsible for the implementing the PNDT Act on Wednesday.

“I have written to the states asking them implement the Act and some of them have replied and if they do not respond soon, we might move court,” Ramadoss said. “So far, 387 cases have been registered countrywide and one conviction has taken place this year in Faridabad, Haryana. We held this meeting to give the authorities concerned more teeth for more convictions,” said Ramadoss.

However, the Rajasthan government has suspended seven doctors for their role in female foeticide cases exposed by a television channel. State health minister Digamber Singh has asked the department to probe the role of private fertility clinics involved in the cases.

The womb is still not a safe place for the girl child despite education and enhanced awareness.

Renuka Chowdhury, minister of women and child welfare and co-chair of CSB, says, “The biggest challenge is to stop informed and educated people from going in for sex-selective abortions.”

The number of “missing children” has been going up. Despite cases registered against doctors for illegal sex determination — mostly in Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra — the Act has done precious little to salvage the adverse sex ratio, which fell from 945 girls per 1,000 boys in 1991 to 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001. The figures are not expected to look up in the next Census.

Where has the Act failed? “Hundreds of cases have been filed, but most of them are related to registration of ultrasound clinics and not illegal sex determination.

The Act has just succeeded in getting more clinics registered,” says activist Sabu George, who filed a PIL in the Supreme Court in 2000 that led the court to direct the Centre and states to implement the PNDT Act. Moreover, killing the girl child is also lucrative.

Puneet Bedi, specialist in foetal medicine, says sex-determination is a Rs 1,000-crore industry in India, which is why doctors prefer to view the mass murders as a “social evil”.

“In 2005, 23,000 girls were born in Denmark, while over 23,000 baby girls were killed in Delhi the same year. Only MBBS doctors call sex-determination a social evil because they want to divert attention from the fact that sex-selection is a lucrative industry. You cannot wish a girl child away so you kill her through sex-selective abortions, which is a crime. That is illegal and must be punished like any other offence,” Bedi said.

First Published: Jun 15, 2006 02:02 IST