India'sgravest crisis is not poverty or population, it is genocide of women. This could lead to increase in violence against women and immense increase in prostitution leading to AIDS epidemic. Urgent steps are needed to combat this menace?by banning private ultrasound clinics, prohibiting all doctors except radiologists from operating ultrasound machines and strengthening the PNDT cell in Ministry of Health.
Indian tradition has always respected women. It is only in Hindu traditions that we have goddesses; most other religions are masculine monopolies, in their prophets, gods and heroes. Sages and rishis have exhorted: ?Yatra pujyate nareeh, tatra vasati devaha? meaning, ?where woman is worshipped, there gods reside?. However centuries of colonialism has eroded the inherent values and India today is at a brink of major demographic crisis having unleashed upon itself the greatest genocide in history of civilisation.
Female foeticide, by sex selective abortions, has assumed genocidal proportions by selectively eliminating around 7,00,000?10,00,000 female foetuses every year. The modus operandi is simple. Technologies such as ultrasound are used to determine sex of the foetus. And families wanting to avoid a daughter and to have limited number of children selectively abort female foetus. The 2001 Census recorded the sex ratio in 0-6 age group at around 927 females to 1,000 males, which means around seven-eight per cent of females are being selectively aborted. The situation is worse in states such as Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Delhi where the sex ratio in many parts has reached mere 860 females per 1,000 males in 0-6 age group. Urban sex ratios are especially bad with sex ratio in Punjab and Gujarat hovering close to mere 800 females per 1,000 males in 0-6 age group.
The consequences of such a skewed sex ratio are obvious. If there is a deficit of 10 per cent women, it is obvious that when that generation grows up, 10 per cent of men would find it difficult to get married. This could lead to increased sexual violence against women, with rape case increasing exponentially. Prostitution and trafficking in women would increase with resurfacing of HIV/AIDS epidemic with many million possibly getting infected.
On an emotional, pyschological and even spiritual level, men would be compelled to lead unfulfilling lives. This could cause depression and increase in suicide among men. Without family or children to look after, men would find their lives meaningless and could possibly go astray?perhaps becoming anti- social elements, terrorists, criminals and indulge in anti-national activities. Vast proportion of single men could increase crime and violence in society.
Government had enacted a PNDT act in 1994, amended in 2002, prohibiting doctors from revealing sex of the foetus. However the implementation of the act has been extremely poor. Despite Supreme Court order in 2001, urging government to speed up the implementation of the act, the government response has been so feeble, that it is safe to say that out of 30,000 ultrasound clinics, more than 20,000 clinics are indulging in sex determination tests.
Indeed, it is possible to argue that these ultrasound clinics do not have any other legitimate business model. Around 20 million women get pregnant in India every year, of which 12-14 million women are entirely out of ambit of modern medical intervention. Of the remaining six-eight million only perhaps three million women undergo ultrasound examination to determine health of foetus. Hence it is safe to argue that each ultrasound machine caters to only 100 women, thus assuring an income of a mere 50,000 rupees. Since ultrasound machines are sometimes used for non-pre-natal diagnosis, you could add another 20,000 rupees to this. But compared to this Rs. 70,000 income, an ultrasound equipment costing Rs. five lakh or more would involve annual outgo of more than Rs. one lakh. Thus since legitimate business model is entirely impossible, most ultrasound clinics make money by indulging in sex determination tests. Given the fact that more than 700,000 female foetuses are aborted, clearly sex is revealed, 1.5 million times in these 30,000 clinics?an average of 50 times per clinic. By charging upward to Rs. 5000 per such transgression of law, a clinic can make up to Rs. 300,000 per annum, making this a Rs. 1,000 crore industry.
The ideal solution to combat this problem is to entirely and completely ban usage of ultrasound machines in private clinics, hospitals and nursing homes, thus limiting ultrasound machines to government hospitals and government health centres. This would substantially curtail the massive criminal industry that has got built around this innocuous technological innovation.
In case private ultrasound clinics cannot be completely banned, second best alternative would be to limit the usage of ultrasound machines only to radiologists, thus prohibiting even obstetricians and gynecologists from operating on ultrasound machines. India has around 6,000 radiologists with 600 getting added each year. Radiologists work in multiple areas such as CT scan, MRI, and X-rays besides ultrasound. Hence with diverse source of income, the temptation to indulge in crime would be relatively less.
By limiting registration of ultrasound machines only with radiologists, we would eliminate up to 80 per cent of these ultrasound clinics, thus making monitoring easy. Again radiologists with less than five years of experience should not be allowed to register any ultrasound machines, and those with 5-15 years of experience could register one machine, and ones with more than 15 years of experience could be allowed to register two machines.
The next step would be to strengthen the PNDT cell in Ministry of Health. Currently the staff strength is less than 10, this should be increased to 1,000 gazetted officers, with orders that each officer must carry at least 10 sting operations in a year?decoy operation with pregnant woman to check if clinic reveals sex of the foetus. Additionally the entire PNDT cell must conduct medical audit of each and every clinic once every month. The PNDT cell in union ministry must get more power and must be entrusted with greater responsibility in implementation of act, while currently the implementation is largely the responsibility of state and district authorities.