A central inspection team has blown the lid off what appears to be a major sex selection racket running from the heart of Delhi.
The team Monday conducted a raid on a clinic in Karol Bagh offering gender identification services and found around 300 computer systems allegedly used to make calls to couples who wanted a child. The team, comprising officers from the Delhi health department, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Commission for Women (NCW), were at the centre till late Monday night.
Violation of law
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, was enacted to prevent sex-selective abortions. It banned hospitals, nursing homes and clinics from using ultrasonography or any other technique to determine the gender of an unborn child. Using ultrasound to determine and communicate to the parents the sex of the foetus is an offence, which can lead to a 3-year jail term and a Rs 10,000 fine.
According to officials, the clinic operated out of a call centre where 300-odd people would offer in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to people in India and promise to take them to countries like Thailand, Singapore and Dubai, promising a male child.
The raid was conducted after the Health Ministry received a complaint about the centre offering illegal sex selection services. A decoy couple was sent to the centre, and they were asked to pay Rs 8.5 lakh for a 15-day package in Dubai.
“The centre would guarantee a male child by identifying the gender of the foetus. The couples were allowed to select the sex of the child before leaving the country. We had received a complaint from the Health Ministry after which we planned a raid,” said Dr Nutan Mundeja, director, Directorate of Family Welfare, Delhi government.
Sex selection is banned in India but allowed in countries like the US, Mexico, Thailand, Singapore and Dubai.
But identifying the child’s gender through IVF and other technologies such as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, pre-implantation genetic screening and sperm-sorting has emerged as the next challenge towards curbing female infanticide, said officials.“A new trend is emerging called reproductive tourism. There are IVF centres abroad that offer sex selection services. Couples who are either unable to conceive or want a male child are being approached. We will seal this centre by midnight,” said Dr Nitin Kumar, special programme officer of PC-PNDT, Delhi government.
The state PC-PNDT cell maintains a record of all centres and machines that provide ultrasonography services. The cell, on an average, conducts 1-2 raids a month, depending on availability of officers.
As per the process, officials from the department receive a tip-off from informers, and a decoy is pulled in to contact the lab/doctor involved.