Medical council suspends 13 docs over sex tests

TNN | Jun 17, 2012, 04.24AM IST

MUMBAI: The MaharashtraMedical Council (MMC) on Saturday suspended 13 doctors against whom the state government had initiated action under the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act.”These are temporary suspensions till the charges against them are proved in court. If found guilty, their membership will be terminated,” said Dr Shivkumar Utture, an executive member of the MMC.

The state had initiated action against the 13 doctors for allegedly conducting sex-determination tests and sex-selective abortions.

The MMC is also seeking more information on two doctors from Mumbai in this connection. “One of these doctors is a homoeopath and the other is not registered with the MMC. We have asked the government for more information on them,” he said. The MMC can suspend doctors only after a chargesheet is filed against them in courts.

The suspended doctors hail from Beed, Osmanabad, Jalgaon and Pune. “Some of them are gynaecologists while others are radiologists,” said Dr Utture.

The MMC has the power to temporarily or permanently suspend doctors. Incidentally, the MMC suspended five doctors a few months ago.

After a large number of sex-selective abortions cases were reported from Beed and surrounding areas, the state started stringent checks to ensure that the rules laid down under the PCPNDT Act were followed.

Incidentally, the MMC has not yet received any information about the Munde couple, Dr Sudam and Saraswati, from Beed. But the MMC has taken suo motu action against the couple on the basis of media reports and suspended the couple.

Dr Utture said, “We issued a showcause notice to the couple, but they did not respond to it. We do not even have any information about the court cases against them. The couple has been absconding.”

Not a single ultrasound centre in Shirur taluka, Beed, Maharashtra

, TNN | Jun 8, 2012, 06.06AM IST


The  Shirur taluka in Beed, which has been at the bottom of the sex ratio chart in the state for years, does not have a single USG centre.

In Shirur, for every 1,000 boys born, there are 768 girls. The trend, says Beed collector Sadanand Koche, has been consistent for years. “The reasons behind Shirur faring the worst in child sex ratio are many and complicated,” he said.

Merely 40 km from Beed town, Shirur has 60 villages, mainly populated by nomadic tribes. But while Beed has over 100 hospitals with 75 gynaecologists practicing there, Shirur has only two MBBS doctors and almost all the smaller medical centres are run by ayurveda and homoeopathy degree-holders. Yet, the two places have one thing in common: the words, ‘abortion’ and ‘sex determination’, are taboo.

Though the Shirur authorities refuse to acknowledge that the number of girl child born there is abysmal, official figures bare it all. The primary health centre carries out up to 30 deliveries a month; in May, out of the 28 babies born, 15 were boys. The figure is worse for April, when out of 24 babies born, six were girls.

A look at the records of Shirur’s biggest school, Kalikadevi Medium and High School, shows that out of 739 students in Classes V to X, only 304 are girls. The sex ratio becomes even more skewed in college.

A right balance has to be struck between a woman’s right to privacy and the need to curb misuse of sonography tests — Prithviraj Chavan | CHIEF MINISTER

According to statistical assistant with the Integrated Child Development Scheme Shubhangi Rayate, many mothers themselves are not keen on daughters. “But it is difficult to maintain records of all the parents and babies as couples here migrate to other parts for six months for sugarcane cutting,” she said. “We can’t keep a tab on them outside the taluka and don’t know if they get a sex-determination done there.” Every year, about 5 lakh people from Beed migrate outside to work.

Koche added with many in the sugarcane industry offering jobs to boys with a wife only, villagers want sons. “Contractor picks up couples as single units. Parents prefer boys as they get ‘extra workforce’ in the form of a daughterin-law,” he said. A couple gets paid up to Rs 2 lakh.

Dowry is another major reason behind Shirur residents preferring a boy to a girl. Here, even a poor sugarcane cutter has to pay Rs 2-5 lakh as dowry. Dr Sudhakar Khedkar, who has been in Shirur for 12 years, said owing to this reason, people from all strata—the poorest to the richest—tended to abort fem-ale foetuses once they found out the child’s sex from private USG centres outside Shirur. But schemes like Ajit Balika Yojana, were bringing hope, he said. Under it, after a girl is born, an FD of Rs 5,000 is deposited in her bank account and the amount can be withdrawn only after 18 years.

Abortion Drug very High in Beed

Abortion drug sale very high in Beed

, TNN | Jun 6, 2012, 05.53AM IST


PUNE: The sale of abortion drug Vecredil is widespread in Beed city and Parli Vaijanath, the latest report of Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has found. Just three distributors sold as many as 6,416 vial packs of the drug in these two places over the last three years.

This is alarming, say FDA officials and doctors, as the drug is sparingly prescribed, that too only in second trimester abortion of foetuses with “lethal anomalies”, which generally happens in one in 300 cases. Lethal anomaly means that the foetus has a physical abnormality incompatible with survival or normal life.

The second trimester in a pregnancy is 12 to 20 weeks of gestation, when, experts say, the foetus is grown enough for its sex to be determined in a sonography test.

If a pregnancy is aborted medically before 12 weeks of gestation, a minor surgical procedure is conducted and drugs like Vecredil are not required.

Two more held for dumping foetus

The Beed police on Monday arrested the father and the boyfriend, who is a distant relative, of an unmarried woman in connection with the dumping of one of the female foetuses under a bridge last Saturday. The number of people arrested in the case has now risen to seven

Sex Selection on the rise among Canadian Sikhs

True to the adage “old habits die hard” immigrants from Punjab and Haryana — states with India’s worst sex ratio – appear to be carrying the practice of female foeticide in Canada where the evil trend has started to raise its ugly head.

The heinous trend of sex selection  is showing up among the Sikh population in Canada, many of whom have migrated from Punjab and Haryana in the last two decades.

The menace was spotted largely among the immigrant Sikhs while the Christians and Muslims do not exhibit this trend.

However, some other South Asian ethnic groups were also found to commit s ex selection . The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently  flagged the issue urging the Canadian government to prohibit disclosure of the sex of a foetus until after 30 weeks of pregnancy to combat sex selection, practised by a section of Indians.

“For Sikhs, there are more than 2 boys per girl for the third child if the two elder children were girls implying a sex ratio that is 100 per cent above the normal. By contrast Asian immigrants who are Christians or Muslims exhibit normal sex ratio, irrespective of parity and sex mix of previous children,” says a study carried out by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Massachusetts.

Sex Selection  happens in India and China by the millions. But it also happens in North America in numbers large enough to distort the male to female ratio in some ethnic groups.

Small numbers cannot be ignored when the issue is about discrimination against women in its most extreme form,” Rajendra Kale, editor-in-chief of the journal, said in his editorial.

According to the 2011 census, India’s child sex ratio dipped to an all time low of 914 and Punjab (846) and Haryana (830). A  Response 

After decades of pitched battles, Canada effectively has no abortion law. It is a medical procedure that, like others, depends on the ethical practice of medicine. The last thing we need is to have women who are making an already-difficult choice, to be grilled about why they are having an abortion. And we know, historically, that when you put restrictions on abortion, you merely drive the practice underground, where it is less safe, and endangers women.

Besides, technology is changing so rapidly that it’s becoming virtually impossible to prevent people from learning the sex of a fetus. Ultrasounds are cheap and portable, you can mail away a blood sample to a lab and, who knows, maybe the iPhone will soon have an app for that.

India, where the practice of sex selection is much more widespread and problematic than in Canada, has had a law in place since 1994 that bans medical professionals from disclosing the sex of a fetus.

“There’s quite a debate about whether it works. There are a lot of loopholes,” said Anant Bhan, a physician and bioethicist at the Sandra Rotman Centre at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Bhan said the solution ultimately is to eradicate the systematic neglect of girls and women that exists in large parts of the world “but that kind of profound societal change is not going to occur overnight.”

In the meantime, you need a whole host of approaches. You need education – and, above all, you need to allow girls to get an education, which opens up economic opportunities. You need to make practices like dowries socially unacceptable. And you need to continue to publish data like the CMAJ has done, drawing attention to these practices so they can be discussed openly, not practised furtively.

Verse case scenario

Syeda Hameed | February 11, 2012

 Sufi poetry could inspire a change in attitudes to the girl child.

Maulana Altaf Husain Hali was born in Panipat in 1837. Panipat was then the centre of Sufi thought, whose leading light in India was Bu Ali Shah Qalandar. Like most poets Hali began writing on themes of love and nature, but soon decided to use his poetry as a vehicle for social reform. What saddened him the most were two pervasive ills: oppression of women and girl children, and the reduced state of the Muslim community. Like most non-conformists, Hali’s poetic corpus met with initial skepticism, even open disdain. His rejection of traditional themes and conventional language was derided by other elite poets of the time. Hali had chosen to write for the masses in a language that was a blend of Urdu and Hindi. Such non-embellished, often clearly feminist poetry was deemed unworthy both in theme and expression. Interestingly, in his Young India, Mahatma Gandhi struck a different note. He famously wrote that if anyone wanted to learn the “real language” of India, which was neither pure Hindi nor pure Urdu, the best example was Hali’s ‘Munajat-e-Bewa’ or ‘Lament of the Widow. ‘ He called it a ‘model language’ for a new India.

It was a bright winter morning when our President stood in Hali Maidan, Panipat, a couple of weeks ago, and expressed her pain at our declining child sex ratio – as reflected in the steep drop seen in the last decade. She challenged Haryana, a state which has terribly low overall sex ratios, to become the leader not only in India, but in the world, considering that only 150 years ago their very own poet wrote these lines that gave women pride of place: Ai maon, behnon, betiyon duniya ki zeenat tumse hai, Mulkon ki basti ho tumhin, qaumon ki izaat tumse hai (O Sisters, mothers, daughters, you are the ornaments of the world;You are the life of nations, the dignity of civilisations)

As a child I had heard Hali being recited in my home. Hali was my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandfather. He wrote a poem for his six year-old great granddaughter – my father’s younger sister, for whom I was named. My elders made me believe that the poem was written for me;a realisation that made me feel self conscious but secretly happy. As I recounted in Hali’s simple words, of the family’s love for the little girl, that day, I sensed that the audience was identifying with each word praising the innocence and intelligence of a small girl, a lass who was described by the poet as an unending source of happiness for all.

When his famous lines about the status of mothers were recited from the podium, the huge crowd listened with rapt attention. Hali’s poem made a single assertion: that to whatever exalted station men rose, it was to women that they owed their very existence. After all, what were they, at birth, if not but a lump of flesh? This lump of flesh, how would it have been nurtured If the mother had not held it to her bosom, The Sufis, the scholars, the men of God, the Prophets, The intellectuals, the savants, All creatures of God who evolved advanced, The ladders they climbed were held in their mothers’ laps.

That day Panipat perhaps stood poised to lead the country in reclaiming its girl child. A poet, a president and a populace is a formidable combination. It can break vicious mindsets. Hali was indeed born to break all stereotypes – the one about ‘Maulanas’, especially their antipathy for women’s rights;the stereotype about self-indulgent poets;and finally, the stereotype about Haryana, especially. Jo ilm mardon ke liye samjha ha gaya aab-e-hayat, Tehra tumhare haq mein roh zehr-e-halahal sar ba sar, Aaya hai waqt insaaf ka nazdeek hai yaumul hisaab, Dunya ko dena hoga in haq talfiyon ka wan jawab. “ (Learning, which for men was considered the elixir of life, For you it was considered lethal, venomous The day of judgment dawns, justice will smite, The world will then answer for depriving you of rights).

(The writer is member, Planning Commission), 11th feb, TimesCrest,

Silent Observer” not a quick fix solution to dwindling child sex ratio

A new device called a “Silent Observer” — hailed as a solution to curbing the practice of aborting female babies in India — has drawn criticism from activists who say the technology is more a government eyewash than an answer.

Despite laws banning expectant parents from doing pre-natal tests to determine the gender of their unborn child, the practice of female foeticide remains common in parts of India, where a preference for sons runs deep.The “Silent Observer” — also known as an “active tracker” — is a large electronic device which can be fitted into sonography machines to allow authorities to monitor and record the pre-natal ultrasound scans taken by doctors.

The device, currently part of a pilot program in western India, sends scans to police who will monitor and crackdown on doctors believed to be conducting these gender tests, which result in abortions of thousands of female fetuses annually.

“The 2011 census is staring us in the face. We have lost many girls due tos ex selection  , but now everyone is looking for a quick-fix solution. The tracker appears to be this … almost like a quick pill to fix the gender crisis we are facing in the country.

India’s 2011 national census has revealed that while the overall female-to-male ratio has marginally improved since the last census in 2001, fewer girls were born than boys and the number of girls under 6-years-old plummeted for the fifth decade running.

“Silent Observer” Pilot Program Cannot Determine Doctors’ Intent

A May study in the British medical journal Lancet found that up to 12 million Indian girls were aborted over the last three decades — resulting in a skewed child sex ratio of 914 girls to every 1,000 boys in 2011 compared with 962 in 1981.

Sons, in traditionally male-dominated regions, are viewed as assets — breadwinners who will take care of the family, continue the family name, and perform the last rites of the parents, an important ritual in many faiths.

Daughters are seen as a liability, as families have to pay substantial wedding dowries. Protecting their chastity is a major concern as pre-marital sex is seen to bring shame and dishonor on families.

The “Silent Observer” currently is being tested in western India’s Maharashtra state. The device has been installed in hundreds of ultrasound machines in clinics and hospitals of Kolhapur district, which has a child sex ratio of 845 girls to 1,000 boys.

No cases involving the tracker have been registered against doctors so far, said activists, who believe the application and implementation of the device is unlikely to act as a deterrent to sex selection

We need a technical person to read the images and moreover what images emerge only reveal that the doctor is viewing the genitalia (of the baby), which he or she is expected to do to detect congenital deformity.This device cannot identify or pinpoint the real intent of the doctor to prove that he or she is contemplating sex determination and sex selection.Device is useless in smaller and increasingly common portable ultrasound devices

The trackers are large rectangle instruments which can only be attached to large trolley-type sonography machines, said Singh, adding that many illegal abortions were being carried out based on information provided by smaller unregistered laptop and palmtop ultrasound machines.

Activists are concerned the tracker will be adopted by other states such as Punjab, Goa and Haryana, which also have highly skewed sex ratios, as a “band aid” or excuse not to tackle the underlying problem of lack of enforcement of the law.

There have been 486 cases registered against doctors conducting gender tests and this has resulted in around only 7 convictions. While the tracker may help in providing evidence, the figures say it all  and  enforcement of the PCPNDT ACT  is what is  needed.

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