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Rising female foeticide in India

Is GE-WIPRO concerned over rising female foeticide in India

by Amit Dwivedi

"We stress emphatically that the ultrasound machines are not to be used for pre-natal sex determination" said V Raja, Chief Executive of GE Healthcare South Asia. GE-WIPRO has the largest market share of ultrasound machines in India.

A New Delhi based Obstetrician Dr Puneet Bedi doesn't agree with GE's claim. Dr Bedi feels multinational companies have exploited the patriarchal system in India and heavily ingrained demand for a male-child! He further says that "GE and other ultrasound companies market the machine as an essential pregnancy tool although the ultrasonographic scans often are not necessary for mothers in low risk group."

The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PNDT) Act was enacted by the parliament in 1994 to curb the indiscriminate act of fetal sex determination. This landmark legislation evoked a lot of hope among all the stakeholders concerned about saving the girl child.

Despite of this PNDT Act, a study of the Census reports of 1991 and 2001 proved that the situation worsened in most parts of India. The census 2001 revealed that the situation is far worse in respect of Girl child population in the age group of 0-6 years, particularly in the affluent areas of Punjab (793 girls to 1000 boys), Haryana (820), Chandigarh (845), Himachal Pradesh (897) and Delhi (865).

In 2001, the State governments and Union Territories were directed by the Supreme Court to supply quarterly reports to a central supervisory board regarding action taken towards the implementation of the PNDT Act. Once again, several States either dragged their feet in furnishing the reports or failed to initiate prompt action as per the guidelines. However this upped a dramatic increase in the number of registered ultrasound clinics, from 600 in May 2001 to more than 30,000 in 2007.

PNDT Act 1994 was amended, and amended PC & PNDT Act (Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act) came into force in January 2003. However no significant impact was felt at the grassroots level because of the appallingly weak implementation of this Act.

"No serious nation-wide effort was made to implement the PC & PNDT Act in the registered clinics by the government. Societal change will take time therefore it is very important to strictly monitor the diagnostic clinics" says Dr Neelam Singh, senior Gynecologist and chief functionary of Vatsalya.

The only long-term solution is to change attitudes. Traditionally girls are seen as burdens, as huge dowries have to be paid for their weddings and even if they do earn income it adds only to the capacities of the family into which they marry.

"The situation is very different in states where there is greater equality for women in terms of property rights, wages and employment and education opportunities" says a women's rights activist Preeti Dwivedi from Bahraich.

With political will, self-regulation by medical practitioners, social awakening and the watch-dog role of the media can potentially ensure that our laws get enforced and we are able to decimate this prejudice against the girl child.


(Amit Dwivedi is a development journalist with Citizen News Service (CNS), and can be contacted at: amit.dwivedi.lko@gmail.comor +91 9839 412418)

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