Pune – No PCPNDT cell for 3 years

Body finally established in May this year; experts rue authorities’ lax attitude

It turns out that for the last three years, several errant doctors conducting illegal sex determination tests and violating the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act have quietly been rejoicing here, thanks to Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC) mandatory PCPNDT cell lying defunct.

The civic body’s apathy and lax attitude towards starting a PCPNDT cell for all these years — a compulsory process according to government norms, which state that every corporation must have such a cell with a team of 30 — has made sure that no such body existed in Pune.

In fact, not only has PMC’s health department failed to conduct raids on sonography centres in all these years to check whether rules are being violated, it has also failed to initiate bringing a team together to restart a previously established cell, which was out of operation.

Slightly hearteningly, however, PMC finally established the cell on May 21 this year, headed by assistant medical officer Dr Vaishali Jadhav. She told Mirror, “We were unable to conduct raids and visits because the team was not formed and the charge was handed over to me only in May. We need at least 30 people — four should be medical officers and at least two advocates. Though posts have been sanctioned, I am yet to find staff. Necessity is huge, but we lack manpower. However, I managed to file nine cases against sonography centres, a majority of which were linked to advertising their services.”

The dissolute state of affairs had been discovered by Varsha Deshpande, a member of the national inspection monitoring committee of the PCPNDT Act. She told Mirror, “It is not only PMC, but also civic bodies in Kolhapur, Nagpur, Amravati and Aurangabad that have similar issues.”

She added, “In a statewide inspection late last year, it was found that not only Pune, but also a few other cells were lying defunct and needed revival. Both the health chief and commissioner are responsible for the failure — they did not make any effort to put together a team and find miscreants to bring down sex determination and curb rampant malpractices. This has given way to corruption and made it easy for sonography centres and doctors to conduct illegal tests. The urban development secretary is equally responsible — s/ he should be keeping a close eye on all municipal commissioners.”

Manisha Mhaiskar, principal secretary of the state urban development department, countered, “We have instructed all corporations and commissioners to abide by the law, which mentions that every corporation should have its individual PCPNDT cell. If this is not happening, it is a violation of the law and they are answerable for it.”

Dr S T Pardeshi, chief of health at PMC, refuted claims of carelessness entirely, saying, “All our medical officers at the ward level have been vigilant and watchful of all such cases.”

Municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar said, “It was brought to my notice only recently that the cell has not been functional for the last few years. Now, we are planning to revive it; strict action will be taken against the doctors found violating norms.” Asked if no clarifications would be sought from the health chief for the lack of such cases being brought to the fore for three long years, Kumar responded, “Yes, we will be doing the needful.”

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