New Delhi, May 5: Health minister Sushma Swaraj has called for a review of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act to prevent pre-natal sex determination which is often used for aborting a female foetus.
Swaraj has called a meeting of the Central Supervisory Board authorised to monitor the Act’s implementation at the Central level.
The responsibility of enforcing the Act in states is up to appropriate authorities.
Using pre-natal diagnostic techniques for any purpose other than detection and treatment of abnormalities and related diseases is illegal.
The Act was amended last year in the wake of the Supreme Court directive to plug the law’s loopholes exploited by clinics, doctors and families to get rid of a female child.
The apex court had also directed all states to furnish lists of registered clinics using ultrasound machines for sex determination.
“Following the legal directive and regular hearings, the number of registrations has dramatically gone up,” health secretary J.V.R. Prasada Rao said.
According to the Centre, 20,000 of the 21,000 existing clinics using ultrasound machines are now registered.
The states also appear to have made some headway in prosecuting the guilty. “Three hundred and sixty people have been prosecuted so far and several doctors have been arrested,” Rao said.
Government officials said the prosecutions happened over the last two years, particularly because a legal sceptre was hanging over defaulting states. Yet, the situation continues to be conducive for female foeticide.
“The doctors are free to enter into a private arrangement with the family wanting to abort a female foetus. This can happen in a registered clinic as well,” Rao said.
The health ministry is certain that doctors are often hand in glove with radiologists who man ultrasound machines in clinics. “The Radiologists Association was up in arms when we wanted to tighten the PNDT Act,” a ministry official said.
He also emphasised instances of arrests of the guilty husband and mother-in-law in Punjab, where female foeticide is rampant.
The female sex ratio in states such as Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab and Chandigarh has dipped dangerously. The latest census report shows 933 females for every 1,000 males against 972 females for 1,000 males in 1901.
“What will make a real difference is a change of mindset,” Rao said.
During his tenure, former health minister C.P. Thakur had tried to mobilise all shades of religious opinion against female foeticide.