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Sex determination: Odisha police turn heat on husbands

Activists during an awareness against sex determination tests. File photo

Activists during an awareness against sex determination tests. File photo

A day after 13 persons were arrested on charges of their involvement in determination of sex of foetus in Odisha’s Ganjam district, Berhampur police turned the heat on husbands, who took their wives to the illegal centre in desire of sons.  

“We have identified 11 men who were their wives at the illegal sex selection centre. They will be proceeded against under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994,” Saravana Vivek M, Berhampur Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu on Saturday, May 28, 2022.

“We deliberately let husbands go from the spot as their arrest could have triggered a commotion. We did not want to put pregnant women under any kind of mental trauma. However, husbands have already been identified and made part of the investigation,” said Mr. Vivek.

‘Complicated case’

The police also came to know that husbands of some of the pregnant women aborted the pregnancy upon finding that sex of the foetus was female. Police would go after these men too.

 “This is a complicated case. We want to approach the case diligently and make it foolproof. People providing service of sex selection are not the only culprits. Husbands and family members of pregnant women are equally responsible,” he said.

For the first time in the enforcement of PCPNDT Act in Odisha, police have caught red-handed so many people including operator of centre, husbands, middlemen, and quack.

One Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) worker Rina Pradhan (40) of village Bhikapada under Khalikote police station was arrested by police for taking a pregnant woman for sex selection. ASHA workers are grassroots level primarily health activists and responsible for raising awareness about social and legal issues of sex selection. However, the accused ASHA worker did opposite to what was expected from her. Berhampur police suspect involvement more ASHA workers in the sex selection racket.

It has been ascertained that Durga Prasad Nayak, the prime accused in the case, has been running the illegal sex selection centre for more than 2-3 years. Possibility of involvement of a large number of people in sex selective elimination of foetus cannot be ruled out.

Following the raid on the house-cum-clinic run by Nayak, the Berhampur police also came to know that that machine worth Rs. 6 lakh was procured from Hyderabad for sex determination. “During the probe, if situation demands, a police team would go to Hyderabad and find out how the network operates,” said Berhampur SP.

Six diagnostic or pathology centres in Berhampur remained in constant touch with the illegal sex selection centre. Some staffs of diagnostic centres were believed to be motivating pregnant women to go to illegal sex selection centre.

Determining sex is illegal under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994. Odisha government admitted that the State Appropriate Authorities designated for enforcement of the PC and PNDT Act often don’t have sufficient technical capabilities to effectively enforce the Act.  

Odisha’s Child Sex Ratio (CSR) has been consistently deteriorating. In the 1961 census, Odisha’s CSR was 1,035 which declined to 1,020 in 1971. A big decline in CSR was noticed in 1981 when the ratio dropped to 995. It plunged to 967 in 1991, 953 in 2001 and 941 in 2011.

While there were only five districts in 1991 with the CSR below 950, in 2001 Census the CSR went below 950 in 12 districts. As per Census 2011 data, 16 districts were below 950. All these districts are contiguous in the coastal and central region of the state of Odisha.

Shockingly the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) reported further dip in CSR. In 2019-21, Odisha has 894 female children for every 1000 males compared 932 CSR in 2015-16. In four years, the CSR dropped by 36 points.

Activists alleged the PC and PNDT Act was not strictly implemented in Odisha for which couples did not have any fear of going to illegal sex selection centres. (EOM)

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Printable version | May 28, 2022 2:23:44 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/sex-determination-odisha-police-turn-heat-on-husbands/article65469529.ece