The victims had been demanding this facility for long.
With Minister for Health U.T. Khader taking a stance in stark contrast to what he had stated Sunday morning, the private initiative to offer free ultrasound scanning (sonogram) for pregnant women in the endosulfan-hit Puttur, Bantwal, Beltangady and Sullia taluks could not take off on Monday.
The State government has put a brake on the initiative of Endosulfan Victims Welfare Foundation, which sought to find foetal deformities, if any, and enabling women to decide whether to terminate the pregnancy or not. Mr. Khader on Sunday welcomed the initiative of the foundation and told reporters that there would be monitoring of the activity to prevent its misuse.
However, on Monday, a notice was issued by Deputy Commissioner barring scanning centres from conducting scanning under the scheme following orders from Mr. Khader, officials confirmed. Mr. Khader’s mobile phone continued to be busy throughout the day and his comment could not be obtained.
Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) M. Madangopal told The Hindu there was no question of allowing such a facility for pregnant women that contravenes both Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PCPNDT) 1994 and also the Medial Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971. “There are chances of misuse (of the facility) to enable sex determination,” Mr. Madangopal said.
The foundation and Rotary Club had planned to offer ultrasound scanning for women within the 19th week of pregnancy in five scanning centres in Puttur. If foetal deformities are noticed, the decision to terminate the pregnancy was left to the woman and her husband.
The victims had been demanding this facility for long as it would help prevent birth of children with deformities.
Mr. Madangopal said there was no proven study to show that exposure to endosulfan would result in birth of children with deformities. District Health Officer O. Srirangappa and District Child Health Officer M. Rukmini said the foundation’s invitation for scanning would tantamount to advertising of the facility, which was barred under the PCPNDT Act.
Dr. Rukmini said under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Scheme, pregnant women consulting government hospitals could get scanned once within the 19th week at a private centre, free of charge.
The government had released funds for the scheme. The facility was available in Puttur and Sullia and would be offered in other taluks of the district soon.
The foundation’s president Ravindranath Shanbhag said the facility was just to enable poor women from these taluks to undergo scanning to prevent birth of deformed babies. “I have seen trouble faced by women in these areas in raising such children.
“We came forward to provide the facility for these poor women and help them to decide. They are not in a position to afford Rs. 300 necessary for scanning,” he said.
There was no question of going against provisions of PCPNDT and MTP Act, he said. With threats from district officials of action, Dr. Shanbhag said they decided against going ahead with scanning.
Anti-endosulfan activist Shridhar Gowda from Kokkada said the government would be held responsible for birth of deformed child in the four taluks.