Maharashtra brings veterinary doctors under PCPNDT Act

The state government has moved to block another illegal avenue increasingly being used by expectant parents to determine their unborn child’s sex.

It has now made it mandatory for all veterinary doctors and hospitals to register their ultrasound sonography machines with municipal officials or the district health department and provide details of every test conducted on the equipment. Vets will also have to display a board declaring “We do not conduct sex determination tests“ at their clinics. Similar rules are already in place for radiologists under the PreConception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT), 1994. But until now, vets didn’t face much scrutiny over misuse of ultrasound machines.

The new measure, announced in a government resolution on May 13, follows growing complaints from activists that families, especially in rural areas, are paying animal doctors to conduct such tests, which are banned as part of efforts to prevent female foeticide.

State public health minister Deepak Sawant was not available for comment.

His predecessor in the previous Congress-NCP government, Suresh Shetty, said cases of vets and para-medical staff conducting sex determination tests at expectant parents’ request were brought to notice during his ten ure. “We had then proposed that all medical professionals and establishments that have sonography machines should be brought under the ambit of the PCPNDT Act,“ he said.

“The latest crackdown will help curb such cases, including those where portable machines meant for conducting examinations on animals are used for pre-natal tests.“

Advocate Varsha Desphande of NGO Lek Ladki Abhiyan welcomed the Devendra Fadnavis government’s decision to bring vets under the PCPNDT Act. “We had been demanding the measure since 2014 when our sting operation exposed a Satara veterinary doctor who had been charging Rs 10,000 for every sex determination test,“ she said.

Animal right activists Anand Siva said vets had already started displaying warnings against pre-natal tests at their clinics.

In 2014, 288 doctors across the state were booked on charges of violating the stringent law.Conviction was secured in 116 cases and licences of 53 medical professionals were suspended.

According to latest figures, there are 933 girls per 1,000 boys in the state, a child sex ratio that has improved drastically since 2011.

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