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PCPNDT Act & declining child sex ratio in Surat

Laxity in the implementation of the PCPNDT Act has made Surat a hub of prenatal sex determination and female foeticide

Abhijit Bhatt

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Recently, the controversy over suspension of the PCPNDT Act, which prohibits prenatal sex determination, subsided only after the Union Health Ministry clarified that it has not suspended the Act but has only temporarily relaxed some rules related to submission of reports due to the coronavirus lockdown. Although many people are aware that prenatal diagnosis is misused in India, very few know the extent of this practice and its consequences.

Following the Census of 1991, the subject of declining sex ratio due to prenatal sex determination and selective abortions of girls was extensively reported in the media. To control the situation and regulate the use of such techniques, Parliament enacted a special Act in 1994. In conformity with the various directions issued by the Supreme Court, Parliament further amended the Act in 2003. It is now called The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act).

According to Sections 4 & 5 of this Act, genetic clinics are banned from directly or indirectly revealing the sex of the fetus, except in cases of genetic abnormalities or sex-linked diseases. Several offences and penalties have been included in the Act, including strict guidelines for the genetic clinics to maintain and preserve the record of tests as enumerated under form “F” of the said Act. Every offence under this Act is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable with punishment which includes imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and on any subsequent conviction, with imprisonment which may extend to five years.

Problem with the whole scheme of things is that although the rules and regulations are in place there has been sharp and constant decline in child sex ratio. As per 2011 Census report, the child sex ratio in India has fallen to 919 females per 1,000 males, which is the lowest since Independence. Various studies have found that decline in the child sex ratio is unequivocally linked to the widespread use of prenatal sex determination and selective abortions of girls. Studies have also shown that regions with a higher number of registered prenatal diagnostic facilities per 100,000 women have a lower child sex ratio than where these facilities are less available. Due to gender biased morality of Indian society, there is a demand for sex-selective abortions; those who would not have contemplated female infanticide are making massive use of selective female foeticide and this generates lucrative business for some greedy medical professionals.

It is unfortunate that the science of prenatal diagnosis which aims to protect mother and child by detecting fetal abnormalities is abused in the country by some unscrupulous professional for prenatal sex determination and female foeticide just to earn some money. The main reason for the practice going unchecked is indifference on the part of authorities to implement the law. Therefore, it is the role of the media to make the government authorities and human genetics community aware of the magnitude of the misuse of prenatal technologies and its impact on the sex ratio and status of women.

 Surat, among all cities in India, is the worst example of widespread use of prenatal sex determination and selective abortions of girls. As per the Census data of 2011, Surat among all districts of the state of Gujarat has the highest literacy rate (85.53%) and yet has the lowest child sex ratio. It is settled principle of demographic studies that wherever literacy rate increases the sex ratio of the population also increases, but Surat is going in reverse direction. This anomaly leads to the conclusion that the growth of girl children is being stopped by applying artificial means. It is for this reason, Surat has emerged as IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) hub of India and consequently the city has become overcrowded with mushrooming of all sorts of maternity clinics.

In the past seven years alone, appropriate authorities under the PCPNDT Act have filed as many as 44 court cases against some of these clinics. Taking advantage of the pendency of matters before the court of law and in connivance with the local health authorities, most of these unscrupulous clinics are back in business. This is in violation of the rule 18(A) of the said Act, which prohibits the renewal of operating licence during the pendency of the case. Out of 16 cases decided so far, only one has been found guilty and rest have either been acquitted or dismissed for default. Surprisingly, no appeals against acquittals and dismissals have been made by appropriate authority to the superior courts, despite the fact that rule under Section 18(A) of the Act compulsorily mandates appropriate authority to file appeals immediately.

 All this has been happening even after the Supreme Court, in its landmark judgment on the PCPNDT Act titled ‘Voluntary Health Association of Punjab VS Union of India’ (2016), has removed all anomalies with respect to the implementation of rules and regulations under the Act, with the direction to the concerned courts to preferably decide the pending matters within six months. However, the worst part of the story is that some of these clinics, having made fortune out of the misery of unborn girl children, masquerade as champions of saving the girl child by organising various functions under the garb of “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign to hide their misdeeds. To add fuel to fire, some of these so-called saviours of girl children, on the strength of their financial power, have managed to acquire positions in regional bodies of state medical council of Gujarat.

It is high time authorities take note of things before the situation goes out of control. To conclude, it would be apt to quote the comment of the Supreme Court in one of its judgments on the PCPNDT Act: “It is unfortunate that in an age where people are described as civilised, crime against female is committed even when the child is in the womb as the female foetus is often destroyed to prevent the birth of a female child. If that child comes into existence, she starts her life as a daughter, and then becomes a wife and in due course, a mother. She rocks the cradle to rear up her infant, bestows all her love on the child and as the child grows in age, she gives to the child all that she has in her own personality. She shapes the destiny and character of the child. To be cruel to such a creature is unthinkable.”

Abhijit Bhatt is a senior journalist based in Gujarat.

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PIL to SC: Convert religious, charitable places into Covid Care Centers

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A public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to convert the religious and charitable places that enjoy tax benefits, into Covid Care Centers as well as cease any further transactions with immediate effect and utilise their funds for Covid patients.

The plea also requested for a district-wise data collection of Covid-19 patients across the country containing the details of demand for oxygen, medicine, hospitalisation etc. It should be developed through a dashboard /web portal enabling the Covid-19 patients to register and search for their respective medical requirements, said the plea, adding that district-wise nodal officers should be appointed for this work.

The petition filed by Manu Gaur, President of Taxpayers Association of India, also urges to open the use of necessary drugs and medicines and to waive the GST on the same during the Covid period and/or to invite the other companies to come manufacture and distribute for saving lives of citizens of India.

Demanding to convert religious places into Covid centres, the plea said their funds should be used in Covid-19 relief “as this money has been given by the public for social and religious work and in today›s time there is no greater social work and religion than saving the lives of people from Coronavirus.”

Along with this, it was also requested in the petition that all the Ayurvedic, Homoeopathic, Unani and Naturopathy hospitals of the country should also be converted to Covid-19 Care Centers.

The petition also emphasised that 100 percent vaccination of home delivery staff, public transport etc. should be done.

“Also, the business institutions/industries, etc. who get all their workers fully vaccinated, should be given the freedom to run their Organisation. The vaccination certificate of those who have been fully vaccinated should be recognised as a pass in the Lockdown period. Similarly, there should be an incentive for vaccination and will also slow down the infection spread. A Covid-19 control room should be made in every district like a usual police control room, which can make necessary arrangements for the citizens,” the plea said.

The petition also called for making MPs and MLAs accountable with the local administration for the Covid-19 arrangements in their constituencies as salaries, allowances and pensions to them are paid from taxpayers› money so somehow they should be responsible. ANI

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PIL SEEKS TO VACCINATE STUDENTS APPEARING FOR BOARD EXAMS, DELHI HC ISSUES NOTICE

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to the Union of India and Government of NCT of Delhi on a PIL seeking direction to provide and administer COVID-19 Vaccination free of cost to the students of class ‘XII’ in Delhi, who will be appearing for their board exams in an off-line mode.

The Bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh on Friday sought responses from the Union Ministry of Health Family and Welfare, Union Ministry of Education and the Government of NCT of Delhi and slated the matter for 4th June. The Petitioner, Jyoti Aggarwal practising lawyer in Delhi HC submit that, all the students of Class XII’ appearing for the off-line written and practical board exams for the session 2020-2021 from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), be given the Covid-19 vaccination on urgent basis.

According to the petition, 2.5 Lakh students for class ‘XII’, have enrolled for appearing in the Board exams for the Session 2020-2021 in Delhi. It is also highlighted that students will be appearing for their off-line written and practical exams.

The plea states that there are reports that the new strain of Covid is affecting the youngsters the most. The studies also suggest that the new strain of novel coronavirus has led to an increase in concerns due to its ability to high transmission.

The Class XII Board exams were expected to be held in May. However, due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Central government decided to postpone these exams until further orders. 

—Correspondent WITH ANI INPUTS

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RBI’s Rs 50,000 crore liquidity facility can increase hospital bed capacity by 20%: Report

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The Rs 50,000 crore liquidity window offered by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to banks under priority sector lending to augment Covid-19 healthcare infrastructure will help raise treatment capacity, availability of medicines, and medical equipment, said Crisil Ratings on Friday. 

Hospitals can be among the biggest beneficiaries as incremental funding can potentially increase bed capacity in the country by 15 to 20 percent, it said.

Loans under the scheme for tenures up to three years are available to banks at a repo rate till 31 March 2022. Such loans will also be classified under the priority sector.

Consequently, banks are expected to extend these loans below current interest rates for companies engaged in healthcare activities. These include makers and suppliers of vaccines and drugs; hospitals; pathology labs; suppliers of oxygen; makers of emergency medical equipment; logistics firms; and Covid-19 patients.

As many as 354 Crisil-rated companies with aggregate bank exposure of Rs 40,000 crore will be eligible for such loans. Though pharmaceutical firms account for 68 percent of rated bank exposure, hospitals (24 percent of rated exposure) are likely to avail the majority of the funding available.

The borrowing cost of hospitals rated by Crisil is 10.5 to 11 percent and new loans taken for expansion under this RBI scheme could be 300 to 350 basis points cheaper, leading to substantial interest savings.

Subodh Rai, Chief Ratings Officer at Crisil Ratings, said increased availability of funds at low cost will incentivise hospitals to augment beds, oxygen storage, ICUs and critical medical equipment. “Even if half of the funding available is used to add hospital beds through brownfield expansion, it will mean five lakh incremental beds or 15 to 20 percent of India›s current capacity.”

In comparison, for entities in other healthcare-related sectors such as pharmaceuticals, the capital requirements for enhancing the production capacity of critical Covid-19 related drugs is not very high.

Further pharmaceutical companies, owing to their strong credit profiles and availability of export credit facilities, have a relatively lower average cost of borrowing (8 to 8.5 percent). Thus a majority of pharmaceutical companies may not be keen to take on substantial debt under the RBI window to fund expansion.

Also, only a few companies are manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines and these have availed of government advances/ grants for funding their requirement of Rs 5,000 crore.

While incentives under the liquidity window are attractive, hospital firms will carefully evaluate decisions considering the sustainability of demand and availability of critical resources like manpower and equipment. WITH ANI INPUTS

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EARLY SUMMER VACATIONS IN UTTARAKHAND COLLEGES

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DEHRADUN: In view of the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic, Uttarakhand’s Department of Education, on Friday, announced summer vacation in all higher education institutes from 7 May to 12 June.

Earlier, the state education department announced that all colleges and universities will remain closed from 3 May until further orders. In wake of the surge in Covid-19 cases, the Uttarakhand government extended the ‘Corona curfew’ in Dehradun, Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar, and Nainital districts till 10 May.

“Corona curfew’ has been extended till 10 May in the districts of Dehradun, Haridwar, and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand,” said state government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal.

Uttarakhand reported 9,642 fresh cases, 4,643 discharges and 137 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the State health department today.On 5 May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat to enquire about the pandemic situation and assured further help from the Centre. In a tweet, Rawat had informed that PM Modi enquired about the steps taken by the state government to control the spread of the virus. 

-Correspondent ANI 

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41 NAVAL PERSONNEL DEPLOYED AT PM COVID CARE HOSPITAL IN AHMEDABAD

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The Ministry of Defence has deployed 41 naval personnel from Western Naval Command to PM Cares Covid Hospital, Dhanvantari in Ahmedabad to enhance the health care system amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

In an official press release, the ministry informed that the team has been deployed for two months and will assist the hospital administration in handling COVID-19 patients. These Naval personnel comprises medical officers, nursing officers, paramedics, and support staff.

According to the ministry, a 57 member naval medical team was already positioned at the hospital on April 29. This team consisted of four doctors, seven nurses, 26 paramedics, and 20 supporting staff. It was said earlier that the deployment of this team was for two months and would be extended based on the requirement. ‘PM Cares COVID Hospital’ at Dhanvantari is a special hospital set up to manage the COVID crisis in Gujarat. The state currently has 1,47,525 active Covid-19 cases, as per the Union Health Ministry. 

WITH ANI INPUTS 

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AMBULANCE OWNER ARRESTED FOR CHARGING RS 1.2 LAKH FROM COVID PATIENT’S DAUGHTER

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The Delhi Police arrested an owner of an ambulance service company for allegedly charging Rs 1.20 lakh to shift a patient to a hospital, the police said on Friday.

The patient travelled from DLF Gurugram to Ludhiana on Wednesday. According to a statement from the Delhi Police, acting on the specific information, the Inder Puri police station team nabbed the accused Mimoh Kumar Bundwal, who was running an ambulance service company in the name of Cardiacare ambulance Pvt Ltd and was looting needy people by charging 2/3 times above the actual rent for transportation of Covid-19 patients in its ambulances.

During the investigation, it was revealed that he was in this profiteering business for the last one month and has cheated numerous people.

“The accused himself is an MBBS doctor who is involved in the ambulance business for the last two years,” the police said.

During the investigation, the bank account of the ambulance service company was also obtained and is being analysed. The accused has returned the cheated money to the victim after being nabbed by the police.

The police have also seized one ambulance given by him to numerous patients over the last month in the case. “My mother is Covid-19 positive and was in very critical condition. We were not getting a bed in Delhi-NCR, Gurugram and Faridabad. So we came to know about one hospital in Ludhiana where there was one empty bed. We contacted them and gave all the details about my mother’s condition and they agreed to take her. So we looked for the ambulance but no one has the oxygen and I needed an ambulance with an oxygen supply,” said Amandeep Kaur, the patient’s daughter.

“In the end, I contacted the Cardiacare ambulance service and they agreed to go but they asked Rs 1.40 lakh. Later when I told them that I have my own oxygen cylinder then they said that they will take Rs 1.20 lakh,” Kaur said.

She said that the ambulance driver took 20,000 initial amount in cash from her and later her husband transferred 95 thousand to their bank account. “Later, when I reached here one of my friends circulated the bill on social media and at the end reached to Human Rights department in Ludhiana and investigation started. I have also lodged a complaint in Delhi’s Inder Puri police station,” she added. A case has been registered under section 420 Indian Penal Code (IPC) in Inder Puri police station. Further investigation is in progress.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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