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Female Foeticide rampant in Orissa's Nayagarh District

"To everyone’s astonishment, mostly people from the mainstream society who are educated and aware about the law are into female foeticide and illegal acts like sonography and sex determination."

Basudev Mahapatra & Bimal Panda : August 7, 2007

The centre of women deportation to Jhansi, Jaipur, Delhi and many other places outside Orissa in the name of marriage, Nayagarh once again adorned the headline for another reason – this time for killing female foetus. This small town turned the focal point of opposition, social as well as women activists as hundreds of female foetus dumped in an isolated pit at its outskirts were recovered by the district medical authorities and state police on July 22, 2007. A guess of the rampancy of female foeticide in the district and the state of Orissa shocked every one not only of the state but across the country.

Unchecked practice of female foeticide in Nayagarh came to public on July 14 when a 12-year-old boy found seven female foetuses packed in bloodstained polythene bags, while searching for waste bottles near Duburi hills, a few kilometres away from Nayagarh town. It’s only in a week that a sealed pit at the outskirts drew attention of people and media. Once broke open the pit came out to be a well used as dead foetus dumping pit and skulls, skeletons and hundreds of dead foetus packed in poly-bags were recovered from it.

Skulls and bones, suspected to be of babies just born or grown foetuses, recovered from the pit strengthened to the fact of large scale female foeticide in the place and put Orissa government in a fix to order for an immediate investigation into the matter and act strongly against the culprits. State Crime Branch took the charge of investigation.

Reaction over the incident echoed across the country which compelled the government of India to take the issue seriously and National Commission for Women to send a special team to visit the place and examine the rampancy of such illegal practices in Nayagarh in particular and Orissa in general.

The whole drama seemed to be a game plan designed by the ruling leaders at the centre and state to make a safe way and get out of the controversy. As prompt action, government sealed the nursing homes and ultrasound clinics in Nayagarh immediately and ordered for verification of licenses given to the clinics and diagnostic centres. As it was found by the authorities, most of the clinics and nursing homes in Nayagarh didn’t fulfill the requirements nor were obtaining the license for Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) and conducting such medical tests. Almost all the clinics continued the heinous practice of sex determination and female foeticide violating the PNDT Act.

Aware citizens as well as social activists blame the state government and district administration for their callousness towards the issue that led to an unchecked practice of female foeticide. The question raised by people is how the clinics and diagnostic centres were allowed to operate without any license? Were the district medical authorities unknown about it? Member of National Commission for Women (NCW) Manju Hembram, who headed the three-member NCW team that visited Nayagarh, blamed the state government and pointed straight on the administration’s failure in implementing the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PNDT) Act.

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The practice was on with unofficial approval of the people placed at the top hierarchy of health service and administration. The fact came out clear when two Doctors – a Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Gynecologist Sudhir Kumar Brahma and former Assistant District Medical Officer, Nayagarh, Ramesh Chandra Nayak got arrested for being involved in the chain and playing key role in killing female foetus.

Although recovery of dead foetus in such large number is a glaring proof of female foeticide being practiced, this can be considered as evidence. The Nayagarh finding is just a tip of the iceberg when the issue is seen on a national perspective. Female foeticide is practiced across the state and the country. Senior officials of the health department and the political leaders in the government and opposition would not be that shocked or astonished with the Nayagarh revelation as they displayed because they all knew the fact. Even some of the hospitals run by government are expected to be into female foeticide in the name of pregnancy termination.

To everyone’s astonishment, mostly people from the mainstream society who are educated and aware about the law are into foeticide and illegal acts like sonography and sex determination. As explained by a member of the Child Welfare Committee that visited Orissa after the revelation, “Docs from Bhubaneswar were visiting Nayagarh for the purpose of foeticide. Each foeticide, mostly of female foetus, was charged with something around 5000 rupees and, at times, docs were giving false information to the mother and the family about the sex of the foetus and insisted for abortion just to make money.”

According to sources, former Chief District Medical Officer of Nayagarh, Dr. A. K. Das had informed the State Health Department and other concerned authorities in 2005 about the prevalence of such activities. But no action was initiated. It is again ironical that the same doctor issued illegal certificates to some of the nursing homes and diagnostic centres to carry such heinous activities on. What motivated him to do so – a handsome bribe Money?

Most of the people who go for a sex determination and foeticide thereafter if the sex is not desired by them are educated and aware about existence of a law prohibiting such act. But they still do it secretly or giving false reasons.

Gravity of the issue lies in the fact that male female ratio is going out of balance in India since last decades. The sex ratio in the Indian population has been falling consistently. From 972 women per 1,000 men in 1901, the sex ratio fell to 933 women per 1,000 men in 2001. This is a cause for concern as it indicates the growth of social status of women in Indian society through the last century.

The main reason of female foeticide in India is the mindset of people. Indian families look at the son as the future of the family where as girls are often seen as a burden.

Although lots of measures are taken to abolish the social discrimination between and female members, lot more is to be done to change the Indian mindset, which still believes male child as a necessity to take the family tree up.

Rampant practice of female foeticide violating the existing act proves the insufficiency in the Act or its inefficient execution by the officials. The major factor would be the irresponsible attitude of the medical officers and doctors who are motivated by money more than their duties and responsibilities. As some doctors working with the government are involved in such heinous practices, it’s foolish to expect a proper implementation of PNDT Act. Now the integrity of the Docs is questioned by people. No social responsibility, no duty, what drives them is only Money?

So, what awareness programmes have brought in? Have they helped checking the practice or boosting it by informing people about the laws and the flaws in them? Involvement of aware and educated citizens in such a practice explains nothing but the adverse impact of awareness and growing immorality in the society against a sex that is very much essential for the other one.

 

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