The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Forsaken by husband for giving birth to girl

Calcutta, March 2: Neetu has not come out of the nursing home ever since she gave birth to a girl four months ago — her husband has allegedly abandoned her and the daughter.

Surendra Pratap Sau and his parents, it appears, would only take home a son.

The tragedy brings to life the horrors of some brutal statistics about Calcutta. In the past 50 years, the number of females for every 1000 male children has dropped from 1011 to 923, according to the last census.

In the nursing home at Barrackpore, the child has been given a name, Swati, and a nickname, Sonababu. She has also developed a respiratory ailment.

More than four months of fruitless wait has turned the cardiac-patient mother into a nervous wreck — she is now on a ventilator, but her in-laws have been steadfast in their refusal to foot the nursing home bill and take her and the child home.

“Why talk of money'” asked Neetu’s father, Madhusudan Sau. “Even I can pay the bill and take her away.”

“But the nursing home authorities need a signature from her husband, who got her admitted, to release her,” he added.

Husband Surendra was angry when The Telegraph caught up with him. “It is true that I have not been able to bring them out of the nursing home,” he said. “But it is only because I do not have the money (Rs 95,000),” he added.

Panacea Nursing Home proprietor Pradip Ghosh is a harried man. “Neetu’s husband and in-laws turned up only on the first two days (after the birth) to see her and the girl,” Ghosh said.

Ghosh confirmed that Surendra Pratap got Neetu admitted to the nursing home and “his signature is a must for the release of mother and child”.

“I even called up Surendra Pratap but all that he told me was to take the money from his father-in-law,” Ghosh said. “But when I told him to come and sign the document, he said he did not have the time.”

Madhusudan, a garments-dealer, has written to police — but not lodged a formal complaint — and the Sau Samaj, the organisation that acts as the community’s conscience and voice.

Desertion may be an extreme case, but female foeticide is known to be widespread, particularly in Calcutta.

Purabi Mukherjee, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, said: “We have seen over the years that 15 out of every 100 women do not want to take the girl child home because of pressure from the family and in-laws.”

The problem in Calcutta, which has seen a dramatic demographic shift by way of a surge in the proportion of non-Bengali population, is worse because compared with a sex ratio of 923 in the city, the all-Bengal figure is 963.

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