Government has approved plan to deploy decoys to catch culprits

Public health officials in Madurai district are set to launch sting operations in a drive to crack down on private scan centres suspected of conducting sex discrimination tests and sharing the results with customers on request. The 120-odd scan centres in the district have been asked to comply with the regulations laid down under the Pre-conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, which is aimed at preventing gender -selective abortions. While health officials claim that the scan centres adhere to the rules, they are prepared to deploy decoys on a specific complaint received against any centre.

A senior official said on Saturday that the government had approved a plan to send a pregnant woman as a "spy or agent or decoy" as part of a sting operation to nab offending scan centres. "We can ask a pregnant woman to go for check-up in a scan centre and there she will tell them that she is under compulsion from family members to know the sex of the foetus. If they reveal the sex of the fetus, then we can swing into action. In fact, the government has allowed us to bear or reimburse the expenses incurred by the decoys for the scan test, food and travelling expenses," an official said.

If the health vigilance wing received negative feedback about a scan centre, then the inspection team would take action as per provisions of the Act by catching the culprits red-handed.

According to officials, focus will be on the scan centres in rural areas which are either independent or attached to hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.

V. Radha Rani, Joint Director of Health Services, Madurai district, has said that the department would not hesitate to punish the guilty if it is proved that sex determination tests are being conducted. "We are doing periodic inspections and only then the license is issued or renewed.”Private scan centres have to send us monthly reports with details about the scan tests they have done. These days awareness of the Act has increased and scan centres know that revealing the sex of a foetus is a crime and invites severe punishment," she said.