As India prepares to observe Tuesday as the National Girl Child Day, the Central Supervisory Board (CSB) – set up under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act, 1994 has decided to monitor the disposal and sale of used or re-assembled ultrasound machines to prevent the misuse of technology for sex determination. It has also asked the professional bodies to evolve a code of conduct to ensure their members do not indulge in illegal sex determination.
There are a number of condemned ultrasound machines that are being possibly used for sex determination because there is no mechanism to monitor them. “Institutions and individuals buy latest versions of diagnostic tools and either sell off used machines or just discard them. There is a strong possibility that these are being fixed or re-assembled and used illegally as there is no system of accounting for these discarded equipments,’’ Anuradha Gupta, joint secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told reporters here.
“The Medical Council of India would also take steps to suspend or cancel the registration of doctors convicted under the PC&PNDT Act. Ninety three convictions have been done under this Act but only 15 licenses cancelled,’’ she said.
The latest Census has shown 22 States and 5 Union Territories have shown a decline in child sex ratio whereas it has improved in only 6 States and 2 Union Territories. It is the lowest in Haryana (830), Punjab (846) and Jammu and Kashmir (859). The steepest fall of 82 points is in Jammu and Kashmir and the largest increase of 48 points is in Punjab, although the absolute level still remains low when compared with the national figure of 914 females to every 1000 males.
Statistics also suggest infant mortality rate is higher among the girls than boys and the reasons for neglect of girl child are son preference, low status of women, social and financial security associated with sons, socio-cultural practices including dowry and violence against women. Small family norm couples with easy availability of sex determination technology and abortion services have acted as catalysts in the declining child sex ratio.
The responsibility of monitoring the disposed ultrasound machines will be with the State governments. Amending Rule 11 (2) under the PC&PNDT Act, the punishment for use of unregistered machines will attract a 3 year imprisonment and fine up to Rs 50,000. The fee for registration of ultrasound machines has also been enhanced substantially.
The Ministry has also appointed a nodal officer to coordinate issues related with the implementation of the PC & PNDT Act. Portable ultrasound machines have been banned except those in hospitals and mobile care units of the National Rural Health Mission. “The matter relating to advertising for sex selection advertisements on websites has been taken up with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology,’’ Ms Gupta said.