Tuesday, January 1, 2008

'Affluent families indulge in female foeticide'

Sreeparna Chakrabarty in New Delhi

Affluent families in posh areas of the country's metropolises are routinely indulging in female foeticide to fulfill their quest for a male child, according to latest government figures.

Providing proof that high levels of literacy and per capita incomes have no bearing on the mindset of people in the posh areas of Delhi and Mumbai, recent government figures show that in high-income South Delhi, the sex-ratio was 762, while in Mumbai's Borivali it was 728 and 887 in Goregaon and Andheri West.

"It can now be safely accepted that high-income families with increased access to techniques of sex determination are the ones which are going in for selective abortions rather than the low-income group areas," according to a senior health ministry official.

To counter this, the government was working on a strategy to crack down on mushrooming ultrasound clinics in these areas.

"We are trying to put in a system of accountability for such clinics," a senior Health Ministry official said.

Social activists, however, find fault with the government's strategy of cracking down on the clinics, saying it focuses only on the registration of the number of ultrasounds and not on the actual act of abortions of female foetuses.

"Only 406 violations of the Act have been registered and two doctors have been punished so far," a women's activist and member of the Health Ministry's Advisory committee on Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act told PTI.

"The government's performance has been lackluster in this field," she added.

Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had recently advocated life sentence as a punishment for those taking recourse to such measures, but a high-level committee to suggest amendments to the PNDT Act to give it more teeth recommended enhancing of the prison term and increase in monetary penalty.

The punishment for such crimes, which was an imprisonment of around 2-5 years till now, has been recommended to be increased to around 5-7 years and the fine raised to at least Rs five lakh.

Ramadoss has time and again expressed his helplessness in implementing the existing laws citing non-cooperation from the states.

The government will hold another round of meeting of the advisory committee in February following which the amendments would be sent to the Parliament for ratification

source rediff.news