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Missing Miss Punjab

In the year of the girl child, Punjab throws up new statistics to reaffirm its preference for boys. It records nearly a lakh female foeticides every year, writes Manraj Grewal


EVERY year in Punjab about one lakh girls die before they are born. This is not a figment of an alarmist imagination but the level-headed calculation of a senior Punjab bureaucrat who has written a book on the subject.

Anurag Aggarwal has got this figure from simple mathematics. ??With a gross birth rate of 3 per cent, Punjab should see 7.5 lakh births every year?3.5 lakh females and an equal number of males. But the census shows that one-fourth of baby girls go missing. This translates into 1 lakh girls a year.??

Aggarwal is not alone in painting this dark picture. NGOs are demanding a fresh census to gauge the alarming slide in the juvenile (0-6 years) sex ratio. A study sponsored by the Bill Gates Foundation shows it?s down to 628 in the Khamano block of Fatehgarh Sahib. The sex ratio in Punjab is 874 females per 1000 males as against the national average of 933.But the health department is blissfully unaware. ??We are taking steps under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, but it takes time... the cases are in court,?? says Dr B.P.S. Sandhu, director, PNDT.

The steps include registration of 47 cases and action against 32 in the last two years. But there?s been only one conviction to date?Dr Neelam Kohli of Ropar district was fined Rs 1,000 by the Kharar court last July. And the only arrest has been of a health worker last November.

The trophy that the health authorities love to parade is Surinder Kaur, a resident of Kale Majra in Fatehgarh Sahib district, who was the first woman arrested for aborting her female foetus two years ago.

??The case is a blot on the department, Surinder was a victim herself, ?? fumes Veena Kumari, coordinator, Human Rights Law Network. A visit to Kale Majra tells you why. The corner house with the tall gate hides the tale of three brothers with nine daughters, a son and six hectares between them. The lingering case is only intensifying their troubled existence.

LUDHIANA district, the hub of sonography centres and fertility clinics has notched up only four cases to date. In Amritsar all five diagnostic centres booked by the department are back in business. The worst-hit Fatehgarh Sahib district has booked only one diagnostic centre?Ludhiana Nursing Home at Khamano. It?s a no-frills place whose owner Dr Vivek Dharni has got his sonography machine sealed. ??I wanted to get them off my back,?? says the doctor who alleges the department officials were trying to milk him.

Most of the cases pertain to inadequate upkeep of records or non-registration of the sonography machine. Only a handful relate to sex-determination. The rap on the knuckles is almost always gentle, ranging from sealing the ultrasound and suspending the licence to cancelling the registration. But it?s only for a few months, even days.

Health Minister Ramesh Chander Dogra says more stringent steps are on the way. ??We are at fault if the sex ratio is sliding,?? he says, telling you about a fantastical plan to attach every sonography machine to the CMO or SMO?s office.

18 boys, 6 girls and a skewed sex ratio


WHEN the slim road lined by shrubs with a sprinkling of pink blooms and brown dust completes a gentle ?S?, you know you have reached Nanowal. A village rich in buffaloes and boys. Last year it celebrated the birth of 18 boys and six girls.

The falling sex ratio is no news here, for Nanowal is part of the Fatehgarh Sahib district, which recorded the country?s lowest sex ratio of 754 in the age group of 0-6 years in the 2001 census. A study conducted by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) for the Bill Gates Foundation in 2002, put the sex ratio (0-6) in the Khamano block (Nanowal is part of it) at a shocking 628.

Walk the brick-lined streets of the village for a day, and the mystery of the missing girl child begins to unfold.

The landed Jat Sikhs, who form 70 per cent of Nanowal, have almost given up on them?this year, all the six baby girls born in the village belonged to SCs, the Jats only had sons. It was the same the year before last when the village saw 11 baby boys and two baby girls.

Balwinder Kaur, wife of Sapinder Singh Sohi, the eldest of three brothers in a prosperous Jat Sikh family, tells you how it isn?t easy being the mother of daughter. ??For a perfect family, a son is a must no matter what,?? she murmurs. Daughters are dispensable. Which is why Sarabjit, her younger sister-in-law, who already has a baby boy is not planning any more children.

??I feel one child is enough,?? smiles the smartly-dressed woman. It?s to this pattern that Sarpanch Sukhbir Singh, a farmer-cum-commission agent attributes the plunging sex ratio. ??Since the last eight years or so, people, especially the Jats, don?t want more than two children, and if the first one is a son, they stop there. Another son would only mean division of land. And a daughter would spell dowry.??

Here the gender justifies the means. ??Till a year ago, ultrasounds were commonplace, but not any more,?? says Nirmal Kaur, the village midwife. Close to cities like Khanna, Ludhiana and Mandi Gobindgarh, they have no dearth of choices. ??Khamano, just 4 kms away, has two of them. Khanna, which is just 20 kms away, not only has the biggest grain market of Asia but also the highest number of ultrasound clinics,?? says Dr Kesar Singh, senior research fellow at CRRID.

Here, ultrasound is synonymous with foeticide. Which is why no one admits to having had one. Only Balwinder, an SC who?s just delivered a boy after three daughters in the last seven years, admits to having asked for it but the doctors refused.

Then there is Simran, a city girl married to Avtar Singh, a computer professional. Her ultrasound is public knowledge, for the Khamano-based Ludhiana Clinic was raided soon afterward. ??I?d just gone there to get the foetus checked,?? she explains.

Dr Daljeet Kaur at the subsidiary health centre here, admits the unborn girls are being weeded out. ??There is no other way you can explain this ratio,?? she says.

But the village is united in its conspiracy of silence. Only a few like Harinder Singh, a dairy farmer who has a son, Shahnaz, dares to break it. ??Madam, who doesn?t want a son? Besides daughters are an expensive affair.??

:bling: :bling:

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Guest Punjabi Nationalist

I hear your anger bro.

If getting a female embryo aborted wasnt disgraceful enough some families are even dumping new born baby girls in garbage cans and other sick acts of abandonment.

Its like these people arent even human, who dumps and kills their own baby just because it is female?

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It is acts lke this which we as Sikhs should get really 'hot-headed' about and fill with rage, not the usual pathetic arguments we see purported by the holders of 'Tat-Gurmat Maryada' on stupid things like wearing make up, tying one's beard, eating langar sitting on the floor or other items of little value...where are these Tat Khalsas when it comes to addressing real issues???

What is the all-powerful, all-representative SGPC doing about this??? Jack **** is what they are doing! All rehit namas explicitly mention for Sikhs to cut ties with Kurimars...it is here that excommunication should be issued, not hounding Scholars and other individuals who present differing 'views'...this is a clear-cut command, ostricise in all ways those who are Kuri/Nari-mars...

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3 doctors, 3 cops found guilty in foeticide case

Chander Parkash

Tribune News Service


Rampura, February 16

A few doctors of civil hospital here including senior medical officer (SMO), Dr Shamsher Singh and certain policemen of the police station here including Investigation officer, Malkeet Singh, have been found guilty of helping Dr Laxmi Garg. Dr Garg was arrested for involvement in illegal abortion and subsequently throwing the foetus into a garbage dump here a few days ago.

Official sources said that five doctors and four policemen were found guilty of helping the accused to shift to Faridkot hospital despite the fact she was referred to Patiala hospital after she complained of pain in chest after arrest following an inquiry by SP (D), Ajay Maluja.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, said that all policemen had been sent to the Police Lines and departmental inquiry started. The Deputy Commissioner too had been asked to take action in this connection. He said that he had also written to the Civil Surgeon, Bathinda to take appropriate action against indicted doctors.

The policemen who found guilty of helping the accused, included Mr Malkeet Singh, investigating the case against Dr Laxmi Garg, head constable, Avtar Singh, woman constable Ms Amarjit Kaur and constable Pawan Kumar. The doctors found guilty are Dr B.D. Gupta, Dr Dalip Singh, Dr D.P. Bansal (all members of board constituted by the SMO for medical examination of Dr Garg). Dr Krishan Gopal (husband of accused Dr Laxmi Garg) and SMO Dr Shamsher Singh. Police sources said that the doctors and the policemen worked under influence took the accused to Faridkot hospital while she was referred to Patiala hospital, Dr B.D. Gupta, who was EMO in the local civil hospital when Dr Garg was shifted did not mention the name of any city on the reference slip given to the policemen who were on duty. The policemen also failed ascertain the city to which the accused was supposed to be shifted before taking her to Faridkot.

Dr Laxmi Garg, who was arrested on February 7 for her illegal abortion and throwing the foetus into garbage at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital, Faridkot on February 8, where the foetus had also been sent for forensic examination.

Residents of the town, who also held a demonstration in front of Dr Garg’s maternity centre on February 7 protesting against her involvement in illegal abortion and demanding legal action against her pointed out that now they suspected Dr Garg was allowed her to go to Faridkot hospital under “pressureâ€.

A foetus, which was 14 weeks-old and was allegedly thrown by Dr Garg after an illegal abortion, was recovered by the police and civil hospital officials from a garbage dump near level crossing on the Bathinda-Ambala rail section passing through this town on February 7.

Following the recovery of the foetus, a case against Dr Laxmi Garg along with one class IV employee identified as Champa was registered under Sections 315, 318 and 34 of the IPC. Both accused were arrested on the same day.

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Punjab, Haryana face social crisis on sex ratio

A.S. Prashar

Tribune News Service


Chandigarh, February 18

Dr Nina Puri, the newly elected President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), has warned of a looming social crisis in the country caused by an “unholy nexus between technology and tradition†which was resulting in a skewed sex ratio in favour of men.

“This phenomenon is being witnessed in most states of the country. But it is the worst in Punjab and Haryana which are relatively prosperous and supposed to be educated and progressive,†she remarked in an interview here today.

Dr Puri was in town to attend a felicitation function held in her honour by the Northern region branches of Family Planning Association of India on her election as the Chairman of the IPPF. She is also scheduled to chair a state-level workshop on the “importance of girl child and prevention of female foeticide†to be held tomorrow under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India .

She reeled off figures to prove that in many of the districts in Punjab and Haryana the female:male sex ratio was as low as 754 for every 1000 males. If this continued unchecked, it would lead to a serious social crisis. She would not be surprised if, in a few years time, males from this region were forced to look for brides in other parts of the country.

Dr Puri said it was sad to see that even in educated families which wanted to limit the number of children to just two, there was an overwhelming desire to have at least one male child. This traditional preference for a male baby led them to adopt every possible means to fulfil it. The ultrasound machine which could determine the sex of an unborn child had made it easy for such families to make a choice.

Dr Puri noted that the problem of female foeticide was acute in Punjab and Haryana but in Himachal Pradesh, where most areas were hilly and not easily accessible and where ultrasound machines were few, the sex ratio was almost normal. But in the foothills of Himachal neighbouring Punjab and Haryana where people had to travel just short distances to determine the sex of their unborn baby, the sex ratio was as bad as in Punjab and Haryana.

This proved that it was the easy access to modern technology which caused the imbalance. She was, however, of the view that it was no use blaming the machines and doctors and putting more and more restrictions on them.

“It is not the machine and the doctors but the mindset of the general public which has to change. This is where the empowerment of the woman comes in. She must be educated about her rights and privileges and issues like gender equality.

Dr Puri took over as the President of the IPPF from December 1, 2003.

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No female foeticide in Pak

A.S. Prashar

Tribune News Service


Chandigarh, February 24

The problem of female foeticide which is beginning to skew male:female sex ratio in the Punjab-Haryana region and has become a big problem for the health officials in this part of the country is almost totally absent in the Pakistani Punjab.

“We have no such problem in our stateâ€, said Dr Semee Hussain, Physician Cardiologist, F.J. Medical College, Lahore, who is part of the delegation of Pakistani doctors currently on a visit to India. She told TNS here today that the desire for a male heir was as strong among the people there as it might be here in India. But because of the strong religious belief that female foeticide was against the tenets of Islam, it was rarely practised.

She was amazed to learn that ultrasound machines were being used for sex determination of the foetus in pregnant mothers in most cities of the Punjab-Haryana region and that in some districts, female-sex ratio was down to about 750 females for every 1000 males. She was appreciative of the government efforts to curb the practice by banning the use of ultrasound machines for sex determination at medical clinics. Dr Hussain said that although ultrasound machines were as prolific in the big cities of Pakistan as they were in Indian cities, there misuse to determine the sex of the baby was not rampant. “Of course, when a baby girl is born, there is not much of a celebration in the familyâ€, she admitted. “They tend to go into some sort of a depression. But after a while it is life as usual. And those who do not have a male heir, they try to produce more children. The practice of having more than one wife lends another dimension to the problem.

“Therefore, overpopulation has become one of the biggest problems of Pakistan as it is in India. It will be useful for the two countries to work together to curb population growthâ€.

She pointed out that in certain areas of Pakistan, like in the NWFP, people preferred to have daughters because of the monetary compensation they received from the bridegroom’s family at the time of their wedding.

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Guest Punjabi Nationalist

i dont know why some apnay don't like baby females, i just dont get it

Its for petty reasons revolving around money and dowry most likely.

Maybe also because boys carry on the family name and stuff like that. I also dont get it...

Considering all the bad press Muslim community in Pakistan gets you'd think that they would be killing more female babies, but no, this is happening on our half of Punjab which is supposed to be dominated by Sikhism school of thought. Doesnt seem like it with crimes like this going on...

That lady from West Punjab made a comment that "because of the strong religious belief that female foeticide was against the tenets of Islam, it was rarely practised."

Well, this is also against the tenets of Sikhism so what the hell is the problem? This cant be blamed on Punjabi culture because otherwise those Punjabi Muslims would be doing it...

Something else has obviously turned some people mad...

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nah even my mom don't like kuriyah..........hopes my bhabi doesnt have a girl

i got kind of arguementitive with her, i got her to realise what status women are in and what guru nanak dev ji has said about women

there just as important as men otherwise us men wouldn't have been born

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