The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Foetus found in market

Chandigarh, Dec. 7: With Fatehgarh Sahib district enjoying the dubious distinction of having the most lopsided sex ratio in the country, the discovery of foetuses from drains, garbage dumps and even public toilets in Bhatinda has sent the Punjab government in a tizzy.

“The district administration has reported the flushing out of foetuses from many places in Bhatinda every month. It is a serious matter and we are looking into it,” a health department official said, declining to detail the steps taken to stop the menace.

Inquiries showed that though foetuses were being regularly discovered in Bhatinda, like elsewhere in Punjab, for many years, the one found at a grain market by a posh locality on November 27 has sent shockwaves through the town, forcing the government to take notice. The post-mortem report said the six-month foetus was of an unborn girl. It was later handed over to an NGO for cremation. Earlier, a similar foetus was discovered in a toilet near the railway station. No one has been arrested in both cases.

Despite a ban on sex-determination tests, the practice of female foeticide in Punjab is continuing unabated. The last census report showed an increasing gap in Punjab’s sex ratio, leading to a hue and cry. The ratio had fallen from 882 women per 1000 men to 874 over the last 10 years. Worse, the ratio in the 0-6 age group had fallen from 875 to 793.

Alarmed, Akal Takht issued an edict that any Sikh indulging in female foeticide would be excommunicated. But foetuses continue to be found from the most unlikely places in the state.

The edict was seen as a positive step in the absence of any visible initiative from the government or the state political leadership. “We cannot change people. That is the work of the gurdwaras and the NGOs. We can only strictly enforce the PNDT Act, and we are doing that,” is the common refrain in administrative circles.

The Indian Medical Association’s Punjab branch had suggested to the government that it should ensure a fixed deposit in the name of the girl child on her birth. Free education for girls up to Class XII, reservation in professional courses and free medicare, at least till adulthood, were some proposals. When asked about their implementation, officials passed the onus on other departments. Many even pleaded ignorance about the suggestions.

Most of the diagnostic centres now display in bold letters that sex-determination tests are not conducted there. Many conduct the tests only after verifying the prescription from the referral doctor and the reports make no mention of the sex of the unborn baby. “We do not allege that all centres conduct such tests. There are many unscrupulous ones who simply tell the doctor concerned the sex of the baby. Nothing is on paper. They are the ones we are constantly on the lookout for,” a senior police officer said.

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