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Concern over low sex ratio

By Sanjoy Ray

GUWAHATI, Jan 17 - With experts yet to draw any conclusive reason for the low sex ratio in Kamrup (Metro) district, the State Health department is planning to act tough against health diagnostic centres, which are mushrooming in an unprecedented manner in the last few years.

As part of the intensified action, the ultrasound clinic of Marwari Maternity Hospital located in the Athgaon area was sealed a few days back and six other diagnostic centres of Guwahati were issued showcause notices at the instance of the National Inspection and Monitoring Team of the Union Health Ministry for non-maintenance of ultrasound records of pregnant women.

Sources informed that Marwari Maternity Hospital was sealed last week by a team led by Dilip Baruah, the State authorised and appropriate officer, who is also the Manager (Inspection) under the Directorate of Family Welfare during a special and closely monitored drive and the case has been referred to the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup (Metro).

The equipment from the Guwahati-based Diagnostic Clinic and Research Centre located at Panbazar were also sealed during the same drive, the sources stated.

Activists are of the opinion that it is a matter of serious introspection and study as to why in a �developed� place like Guwahati (Kamrup Metro) with the best of health facilities, the ratio of girl child compared to boys is alarmingly low.

Sources in the Health department informed that as sex-selective abortions could be attributed as one of the reasons for the low sex ratio in Kamrup (Metro), such illegal acts would have to be closely monitored and the culprits would have to be brought to book.

Ever since the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 came into being, registration certificates of more than 40 diagnostic centres were cancelled, while nearly 10 such centres were sealed after they were found violating the stipulated guidelines. Further, equipment of five other centres were also seized during the period.

The sources informed that at present eight such cases are pending in different courts, which include four in Guwahati and two in Nagaon.

A senior Health department official, requesting anonymity, said that very soon some special teams would be engaged to continue the drive across the State.

Dr Sondeep Hanse, president, Committee on Socio Economic and Health Development, Assam (COSEHDA), a non-government organisation working in the field of sex ratio, said that the Government must find out why a place where there are innumerable diagnostic centres and quality health care, the birth of girl child is so low in number.

�Maybe it is because of easy and unmonitored access to ultrasound care that such illegal activities are on the rise. A mixed population could be another reason. A thorough study and research is what is needed,� Dr Hanse pointed out.

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