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Whitewash for blacklist

- Ultrasound clinics in Ranchi, Bokaro flout norms, officials pass the buck

Ranchi/Bokaro, Feb. 17: A national monitoring panel’s prod to take stringent action against five ultrasound scan clinics for violating norms have gone unheard, setting a bad precedent for Jharkhand that has recorded a sex ratio of 943 girls for 1,000 boys according to Census 2011.

Between November 29 and December 1, 2012, the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIMC) raided the ultrasound scan clinics — two in Ranchi and three in Bokaro — and found the five guilty of violating Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Tests (PCPNDT) Act (1994) that bans foetal sex tests.

On January 21, 2013, the central team wrote to the state health and family welfare department for immediate action — ranging from closure to slapping showcause notices — against the quintet.

More than three weeks later, The Telegraph found all five open and carrying on business as usual though they knew about the NIMC directive on the day of the respective raids. The state and district level officials spoke in circles.

According to documents available with The Telegraph, the four-member NIMC team, with local officials who included district appropriate authority (DAA) and family welfare officer, had carried surprise raids in clinics. The five blacklisted clinics in Ranchi (Main Road and Radium Road) and Bokaro (Chas and Phusro) were found guilty of not maintaining scan records.

Under the PCPNDT Act, maintaining scan records is the key requirement of every registered ultrasound clinic.

The Act states: “The record to be maintained by every genetic clinic, in respect of each man or woman subjected to any pre-natal diagnostic procedure/technique/test, shall be as specified in Form F.”

In Form F, a comprehensive disclosure, it is a must for the pregnant woman undergoing ultrasonography or image scanning, the doctor or technician doing the procedure as well as the clinic director/owner to declare that foetal sex was not detected.

Clinics must maintain Form F records and a roster of doctor referrals to be able to show authorities why any lady had to undergo a scan. They also must record the purchase of any scan equipment.

The two Ranchi and three Bokaro clinics flouted basic PC-PNDT norms.

For both Laxmi Nursing Home on Main Road and Well-View X Ray Ultrasound Centre on Radium Road in Ranchi, the DAA was directed to seal ultrasound machines, seize documents and suspend registration from immediate effect and initiate legal action under Section 29 and Rule 9 of the PC-PNDT Act.

The NIMC also noted in its report that Well-View’s owner displayed stiff resistance to the raid and recommendations.

For the Bokaro district trio, directions were different. For Neelam Hospital & Research Centre, Chas, and Abhas Clinic Phusro, the DAA was recommended to issue showcause. For UR Sonoscan, Phusro, the DAA was recommended to suspend registration.

The NIMC also asked the state to work out a comprehensive surveillance strategy to monitor all clinics. It also asked the state to order clinics to digitise registration records.

When The Telegraph discovered that the five clinics across the two cities were open, it contacted relevant officials to find out the reason.

Then came a flurry of verbal gymnastics.

Dr M.N. Lal, state nodal officer for PC-PNDT, when asked about steps taken after NIMC raids, said: “I cannot comment on this. It would be better to contact the DAA who will have details on the clinics.”

Dr Dilip Kumar Singh, Ranchi district civil surgeon, who is also the DAA, feigned ignorance about the NIMC recommendation.

“I joined in January 2013. I am not aware of the NIMC recommendation,” he said.

His predecessor A.K. Choudhary told The Telegraph: “I am not the DAA anymore. Please check with the relevant person at present.”

Bokaro civil surgeon Dr S.N. Tewary, also with the NIMC team, said none of the clinics were found taking sex determination tests.

“Though UR Sono Scan was suspended for 15 days from November 30 till December second week, we came to know from Dr Usha Sinha who runs the centre with her husband, also a doctor, that the clinic never did sex determination. UR Sonoscan’s only fault was that it did not record some two or three entries. But they were related to intestinal problems, not pregnancy,” said the civil surgeon.

“Neelam and Abhas clinics gave all documents and satisfactory replies to the showcause after which no complaint is pending,” the civil surgeon added.

Are you listening, NIMC?