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No conviction in 8 years for foeticide

New Delhi, May 3: Killers of female foetuses are getting away scot-free.

By the government's own admission, not a single person has been convicted for committing female foeticide in the last eight years since the Centre enforced an act to ban pre-natal sex determination tests.

'There has been not a single conviction till now,' Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss admitted in the Lok Sabha today in response to a motion.

This is despite an amendment the previous government introduced to the PNDT act in 2003 to make it more stringent to arrest the declining sex ratio, which has slumped from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.

The minister told the House 303 cases were in courts for violation of the act but a majority of them ' 280 ' are for not registering ultra-sound clinics. The act has made registrations mandatory.

More startling was the minister's admission that only 23 cases have been filed for the actual offence of carrying out a sex-determination test and then aborting the female foetuses. The punishment for violating the act is jail for five years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

The government has been unable to produce a single case of conviction even in states worst hit by the declining sex ratio ' Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. Among these, Punjab ranks at the bottom with a sex ratio of 798 girls per 1,000 boys followed by Haryana (819), Delhi (868) and Himachal (896).

'The PNDT act is an extremely supportive act. But it is not being implemented,' says Akhila Sivadasan of the Centre for Advocacy and Research, a media watch organisation.

Ramadoss, who faced criticism in the House, said the problem has its roots in social behaviour and prejudices.

'It is not only an issue of the medical fraternity. It is also a social issue,' the minister said. 'The states,' he added, 'have to implement the act.'

But Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, clearly unimpressed with Ramadoss's reply, said: 'Kuch kiya nahin to kya jawab dega' (What answer can he give when nothing has been done')'

'This is an extremely unfortunate situation,' the Speaker said as other members, including the CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta who moved the motion, expressed dissatisfaction with the government's response.

Activists cite other reasons for the failure of the PNDT act. 'There is a huge lot of money involved and the medical fraternity ' whether it is the health or the medical officer ' shields each other,' said an activist.

Hyderabad district collector Arvind Kumar, who has been strictly implementing the law, said all that one needs to do is scan the form, called F in the PNDT act, at the month-end.

'The ultra-sound clinics have to fill up 23 columns listed in the form,' he added. Any non-compliance would mean legal proceedings could be started against the owner.

None of the ultra-sound clinics in Himachal submits form F for inspection at the end of the month.

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