The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mothers as sex-scan sleuths
- Police petition pregnant women to help check female foeticide

The police are on the lookout for expectant mothers willing to help the police nail diagnostic centres that continue to flout sex-determination rules and practise female foeticide that goes on unchecked.

Alarmed at the rising graph of female foeticide in Calcutta and the rest of the state, the law-enforcing agencies are at their wits’ end to curb a murderous practice that leaves no evidence whatsoever. So they will seek help from pregnant women.

“Though I cannot provide figures, our information is that such cases are on the rise,” said special secretary of the health department, Shyamal Kumar Basu. The health department has put out advertisements in newspapers to create awareness about the evil of female foeticide and warn the wrongdoers of stern action.

Under the scanner are some of the 5,000-odd nursing homes and diagnostic centres in and around the city that tell parents the gender of a foetus in spite of the rules against it framed some time ago.

There are two steps for the investigating agencies to choose from: one, initiate cases after complaints; two, initiate action suo motu.

“But we might as well rule out the first option,” said Criminal Investigation Department deputy inspector-general (special) Banibrata Basu, also in charge of the agency’s women’s cell. “This is one crime where every transaction takes place verbally. Mothers get to know their babies’ sex without anything being written in the ultrasonography test. There is absolutely no evidence,” he explained. A woman who wants to know her baby’s gender before birth would be the last person to help the police in providing clinching evidence against the nursing home or clinic that helps her do so, he added.

The only way to check the crime is to catch the criminals red-handed. And it was here that mothers-to-be, who feel strongly about the issue and are willing to take some trouble to help the law, have an important role to play, police feel.

Officers said they had chalked out a plan in which pregnant women would be “checked out” through the police network on their willingness to help in the process. “Most parents do not want to know their child’s sex and we will appeal to them to keep their ears and eyes open for anything suspicious when they visit their doctor or diagnostic centre,” an officer explained.

“If any pregnant woman is being told of the gender of the baby in her womb, we would like the others to get in touch with the police so that we can accompany them to the clinic where she (on our request) would make a similar request,” the officer added. “As soon as the clinic agrees to it we will arrest the people running it,” he said.

Officers said a suo motu case would then be initiated against the clinic in which the mothers-to-be would be the key evidence.

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