"Officials estimate that about 40,000 unborn girls are killed in the womb annually in the state."
By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, July 20 - Haryana has heightened the crackdown against illegal sex determination tests to reverse the negative image caused by its skewed gender ratio. This has meant a strict check on ultrasound machines but the authorities are now grappling with the new menace of hand-held ultrasound machines.

Health and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorities in the state say that the increasing misuse of portable ultrasound machines is making their task more difficult. These machines, some of which can even be easily put inside a jacket pocket, are being illegally used for sex determination tests.

The biggest challenge in PNDT (Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act) cases is the use of illegal and unregistered ultrasound machines. Recently, portable ultrasound machines have been recovered in the state, including some machines which could be carried in the pocket. There is need for a better information system for checking such cases, Additional Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary (Health) Navraj Sandhu told IANS.

In February, the health authorities were informed that some people were using portable ultrasound machines, which were not registered with the health department, to clandestinely conduct sex determination tests. The racket was exposed after a woman was arrested in Bhiwani district.

The portable ultrasound machines are a very dangerous trend. Most of these machines are Chinese-made. These are imported under licence by some firms and land up with the wrong people who indulge in sex determination tests, a senior health department official told IANS.

The non-portable ultrasound machines cost Rs.30 lakh and more.

The authorities have seized 42 portable ultrasound machines this year. They found that nearly 70 such machines had been imported and sold across the country in recent months.

Haryana is the worst among Indian states in the gender ratio, with 879 females for every 1,000 males. The national ratio improved to 943 in the 2011 Census against 933 females per 1,000 males in the 2001 Census.

To encourage people to report illegal sex determination tests, the health department hiked the incentive by 150 percent this week. Informers will now get Rs.50,000 against Rs.20,000 earlier, Health minister Rao Narender Singh said.

People in rural and urban areas go for illegal sex determination tests as most have a preference for boys.

There has been considerable improvement in bringing to book the accused under the PNDT Act during the last one year. So far, 54 people have been convicted in 97 cases in the lower courts and 49 cases in upper courts. Of these, 33 were doctors. Similarly, during the last six years, eight accused, including five doctors, have been convicted, a health department spokesman said.

The frequency of raids has been increased with the help of district administrations to deal with clinics indulging in the illegal practice. Special focus has been laid on Narnaul and Rewari areas in south Haryana.

Earlier this year, health officials trapped a midwife who had carried out 500 illegal abortions in Jhajjar district.

Officials estimate that about 40,000 unborn girls are killed in the womb annually in the state.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at [email protected])


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