In a shocking discovery, the police on Sunday retrieved as many as 19 female foetuses from a sewer in a village in western Maharashtra’s Sangli district.
The police, while investigating the death of 26-year-old Swati Jamdade, allegedly after an illegal abortion went awry on March 3, discovered the abandoned foetuses in blue plastic bags in the sewer a few yards away from a private clinic at Mhaisal village, 260 km from here, on Sunday.
The clinic, named ‘Bharati Hospital’ is run by one Dr. Babasaheb Khidrapure. He and an accomplice allegedly ran this racket. His wife is suspected to have been involved as well.
The doctor, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Homoeopathy, is on the run, said Sangli Superintendent of Police Dattatray Shinde. A number of health authorities from the district headquarters descended upon Mhaisal on Monday, with many questioning Dr. Khidrapure’s dubious medical antecedents.
Villagers said the clinic was in operation for nearly a decade.
Mr. Shinde told The Hindu that the police had constituted four-five teams to nab the culprit, while spreading the dragnet to neighbouring Karnataka as well.
“At present, we are grilling the compounder about the nature of the illicit abortion racket, which we believe has been going on for over two months now,” he said.
The illegal operation used to be carried out on the ground floor of the clinic. The police raid yielded a number of surgical instruments and other equipment. A register apparently containing names and addresses of patients is also being scrutinised.
Victim's husband arrested
Meanwhile, the deceased woman's husband, Praveen Jamdade, has been taken into police custody after Swati’s kin lodged a complaint with the police.
According to sources, the deceased was taken to Dr. Khidrapure’s clinic by her husband for abortion as the couple had a girl child for the third time. Swati’s kin alleged that her in-laws forced her to abort when they discovered the child was a girl.
Swati’s father, Sunil Jadhav, complained to the police of Praveen’s ‘willingness’ to abort the foetus when it was illicitly detected as being that of a girl. ''He went ahead with the illegal operation despite my objections, causing my daughter’s death,” he said.
The Jadhav kin, appalled by Swati’s death and the grisly nature of the racket, have demanded stern action against the doctor.
A case has been registered against both Praveen Jamdade and Dr. Khidrapure under sections 302 and 204 (destruction of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 among others.
Eerie parallel to Beed incident
While the grisly racket has yet to sink in the minds of the stunned villagers of Mhaisal, it bears an eerie parallel to that of the female foeticide racket involving Dr. Sudam Munde and his wife, Dr. Saraswati Munde, in Beed.
A 2010 sting operation conducted by NGO ‘Lek Ladki Abhiyan’ had Munde casually stating that he fed the abandoned foetuses to dogs. Despite being arrested, he was released and continued with his nefarious activities, with no apparent fear of the law.
The then Health Minister, Satish Shetty, had even admitted that a woman civil surgeon who had gone to investigate the Munde’s hospital, found herself locked in a room and abused by goons, believed to be Munde’s henchmen.
The couple allegedly wielded great clout in Beed’s Parli Tehsil, where they ran their clinic, Munde Hospital. It took the death of Vijaymala Petkar in 2012 during a botched termination of her pregnancy, to ‘officially’ blow the lid off the Munde couple’s infamy.
After weeks on the run, the couple was finally arrested. A local court in Beed sentenced them to four years of rigorous imprisonment under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act in 2015.