Website, helpline to help curb sex discrimination

To discourage the conducting of sex determination tests, the Maharashtra government on Monday launched a website and a helpline through which complaints and tip-offs about illegal ultrasound tests may be recorded anonymously.

The helpline is functional and the website will be accessible to the public from August 1. People can seek information about the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act and report illegal activity in any of the sonography centres across the State.

Launching the website at a function held here on Monday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said there was a need to adopt “a carrot and stick approach” to rein in the declining child sex ratio. “We have to create some fear, of raids, complaints etc. Punishments should also be strict, such as revocation of the licences of the illegal practitioners. We have to make all the efforts,” he said.

Mr. Chavan said that in order to bring about a change in the mindset, one ought to “celebrate the girl child.”

“Maharashtra has garnered negative publicity. We will make all the efforts to change the situation,” he said.

Health Minister Suresh Shetty affirmed that the government would implement the Act “one hundred per cent.” He pointed out that many radiologists, being registered in a certain area, worked as consultants elsewhere.

“Without the collusion of doctors, gynaecologists, radiologists, it [sex determination] cannot take place,” he said.

The government is also planning to shut standalone sonography centres to check the menace. “If doctors, radiologists violate the law, Maharashtra will not tolerate it.”

Justice Ranjana Desai of the Bombay High Court underscored the need for political will and effective police force. She cautioned the government against celebrating the three convictions made under the Act. Of the 7,941 registered sonography centres, around 250 have been sealed.

“Is this something we can be proud of when there are so many cases? Crimes are either not detected, or investigations are not proper, or cases don't stand in court,” she said.

Justice Desai said the economic independence of a woman was important. She urged the government to “direct all efforts” towards the issue.

Adverse sex ratio

She observed that as a result of an adverse sex ratio, women were being brought in from another State, causing further atrocity and sexual violations.

“The preference for a male child is an insult to a woman and violates her right to life under Article 21 [of the Constitution].” Addressing the government, she said, “Don't look at a few of us, [who are judges, lawyers etc.] I want to tell the Chief Minister, we will give judgments, you implement them,” she said.

The website will be available in three languages — English, Hindi and Marathi. When a complaint is registered, district authorities will be alerted through emails or messages and the complainant can track the progress of his complaint. State authorities can also check district-wise data of complaints received and action taken.

Complaints, tip-offs on illegal ultrasound tests can be recorded anonymously

‘To bring about a change in mindset, the girl child ought to be celebrated'