The seizure of as many as 16 foetuses dumped on the bank of the Hiranyakeshi river at Sankeshwar in Belgaum district on Saturday has turned the spotlight on the illegal abortion racket thriving in the region.

While the remains of some of the foetuses were found wrapped in plastic bags others have dried up.

On Sunday, many flocked to the site adjacent to the Shankarling Math on hearing the news of foetuses recovery. The Sankeshwar police cordoned off the site and removed the foetuses with the help of doctors.

Superintendent of Police Sandeep Patil told The Hindu that an initial examination had already been done by doctors of the local government hospital. They had sought a thorough probe by the doctors at the district hospital, Belgaum.

Mr. Patil said they were looking at the possibility of an abortion racket involving hospitals or clinics in the vicinity. “We have already begun checking registers and documents in various hospitals and clinics in the town,” he said.

As per the initial examination, the foetuses are said to be 2-3 months old. Of the 16 foetuses found, three have been identified as uteruses.

Though the sex of the foetuses is not immediately known, Belgaum district has the worst child sex ratio in Karnataka, with only 931 girls per 1,000 boys compared to the State-wide figure of 943, according to the 2011 census.

A 2005 report by Durga Chandran for Infochange, based on a study by the Gokhale Institute for Economics and Politics, Pune, noted: “While 46% of sonography centres are registered in the Bangalore division, Belgaum and Mysore divisions each account for one-fifth of centres in the State ... . Belgaum district, which is adjacent to western Maharashtra — where the child sex ratio is extremely low — ranks next to Bangalore Urban district in terms of the number of sonography centres, and has the lowest sex ratio in the State.”