The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctor aspirants deaf to womb wail

New Delhi, Oct. 24: Trainee doctors at Delhi’s premier medical institution have refused to be associated with an anti-foeticide campaign.

Organisers of the Campaign Against Female Foeticide had sought the participation of All India Institute of Medical Sciences trainees in a drive against the practice yesterday, but they would have nothing to do with it.

This shocker comes close on the heels of the release, earlier this week, of a booklet published by the registrar-general of the Census and the UN Population Fund showing a direct connection between income and female foeticide.

The study revealed that the higher your income, the more likely you are to kill your girl child. The already-skewed Delhi sex ratio was shown to be even more lopsided in the capital’s affluent southwest areas, where the rich and well-heeled are more likely to step into an ultrasound clinic and abort a female foetus.

Speaking about the trainees’ refusal to participate in the drive, Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Delhi University lecturer and campaign organiser, said: “They said they know all about the issue and outrightly refused to contribute to the campaign. We had to think of another way of bringing the campaign to the campus.”

Girl students of the university eventually staged a choreographed show on the subject during an AIIMS students’ festival.

The trainee doctors’ response to the rise in female foeticide has been muted, but M.K. Bhan, a paediatrician at AIIMS, said: “The students (at the institute) are not indifferent. But they are not taught enough about medical ethics. There is a large vacuum in the medical curriculum. The students are young. They are under a lot of pressure. In liberal arts, you are taught about ethics. In medical science, you are not. For instance, there are no questions on medical ethics in the examination. As a result there is no pressure to think about the subject.”

The Medical Council of India that lays down the curriculum has already suggested including medical ethics in the syllabus. “This should be taught to the young in their formative years. Once they become doctors, it is too late,” Bhan said.

The campaign swung into action after the 2001 census revealed a skewed sex ratio, heavily tilted against the girl child. It sought to pressure the Centre into tightening the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation, Prevention and Misuse) Act that was implemented in 1996.

The campaign, which is continuing, has 100 volunteers spread across 19 colleges. The organisers held interactive sessions with students and parents. “When we first started the campaign, most students thought the problem was limited to the poor. They believed the urban educated to be innocent. This myth is busted now,” Nanda said.

Many male students said female foeticide was on the rise because women did not contribute to a family’s income. Girl students react very differently. “The girls are more involved with (the sessions) and concerned. They, however, stop interacting once they get married. They become much more inaccessible after marriage,” Nanda said.

All students say insecurity is prompting the foeticide.

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