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Too scared of clinic raj

Ranchi, March 12: The robber’s bite is worse than the watchdog’s bark. District teams formed to crack the whip on illegal ultrasound hubs that directly or indirectly conduct sex determination tests are scared of influential clinic owners.

On March 5, a day after a landmark Supreme Court order (see chart) that issued a three-month deadline to all states to undertake a series of correctives and gave them powers to deal sternly with shady clinics that aid female foeticide, The Telegraph contacted six Jharkhand district civil surgeons to hear their response.

All the six sounded shaky about carrying effective crackdowns on clinics or suspending the licenses of guilty doctors.

Sources said civil surgeons of districts under Santhal Pargana and Palamau divisions received the most threats. Clinic owners of Ranchi district are also unfazed by legal action.

“We carry the Act (PC-PNDT) in our pocket” is something that ultrasound clinic owners boast.

Stories of coercion, threats and sweeteners (read bribes) were rife.

They weren’t baseless either. On December 1, 2012, a member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee (NIMC) team constituted under the PC-PNDT Act was confined during a raid at Well View X-ray Ultrasound on Radium Road, Ranchi. It was only when IG (police) intervened that the NIMC team member got released.

Across Jharkhand, South and North Chotanagpur divisions are comparatively law-abiding.

Ranchi civil surgeon Dilip Kumar Singh, who did come on record, termed coercion by clinic owners “a law and order problem”.

“People behind ultrasound clinics that function illegally are aware they are doing wrong. Yet, they carry on as they have faith in their powerful contacts. The faith is not misplaced,” he said.

This apart, the district teams have a pressing manpower crunch.

“Our hands are tied in many ways. But I have taken stock of the situation. Our team will function strategically from April and try to handle pressure from ultrasound clinic owners,” Singh said.

Director in chief of health services Praveen Chandra Praveen Chandra said Jharkhand had sent a report to the Centre clarifying the grounds on which ultrasound clinics were allowed to stay open and function.

An official not wishing to come on record said guilty clinics often exploit the fine print of PC-PNDT Act and get away. There are certain points under the act for which the state needs to release a notification. “If there is no notification, the clinics stay open,” he added.

But a civil surgeon observed that notification of a rule was a mere formality. “When something wrong is done with full knowledge, notification can’t be an escape route. District teams need security while inspecting clinics. Otherwise, teams become inactive and raids futile,” he said.

He has hit the nail on the head. On February 18, 2013, The Telegraph had reported how ultrasound scan clinics — two in Ranchi and three in Bokaro — were found guilty by the NIMC of violating the PCPNDT Act in raids between November 29 and December 1, 2012.