A day after homeopath Babasaheb Khidrapure was picked up for allegedly conducting illegal abortions at his hospital in Maharashtra’s Sangli district, leading to a local woman’s death on March 1, five more people were arrested in connection with the case on Wednesday. The police said the arrests confirm suspicion of a cross-border nexus, and that illegal sex determination tests were done in Karnataka. Among the five arrested are a doctor and a homeopath from the neighbouring state.
An MBBS doctor, Ramesh Devgikar from Bijapur, and one Srihari Ghodke, 68, who comes from Kagwad village in Belgaum and claims to be a homeopath, were arrested. The police seized two sonography machines each from them — the machines were ostensibly used to conduct illegal sex determination tests. Bijapur and Belgaum are districts in northern Karnataka bordering Maharashtra — the latter is barely 5 km from Mhaisal village in Sangli, where Khidrapure allegedly performed illegal abortions at his Bharti Hospital.
The three arrested in Sangli were identified as Kanchan Roze and Umesh Salunkhe — a nurse and a compounder, respectively, who assisted Khidrapure in carrying out illegal abortions — and Sunil Khedkar, a wholesaler with Ratna Distributors who allegedly supplied Misoprost tablet for performing these abortions.
Calling Khidrapure’s arrest “only tip of the iceberg”, Dattatray Shinde, Superintendent of Police, Sangli, told The Indian Express, “Several (others) are involved in this abortion racket. Five arrests have been made today…(in total) seven people have been held for their (suspected) involvement.” Based on preliminary investigation, police teams are conducting checks at various places, the SP said.
The whole operation came to light after Mhaisal woman Swati Jamdade (26) died on March 1 while allegedly undergoing abortion under Khidrapure. Her husband Praveen Jamdade, who according to Swati’s family forced her to undergo abortion, was arrested soon after. While investigating the case, the police found at least 19 foetuses dumped near a stream, close to the hospital.
Dr Archana Patil, Additional Director, State Family Welfare Bureau, Pune, visited Mhaisal on Wednesday. She said the bureau had last year received a complaint about Khidrapure and a committee headed by the medical superintendent of rural hospital at Belanki, Sangli, had conducted a raid at Bharti Hospital but had not found anything amiss. Patil held a series of meetings with health officials and said that they were awaiting police’s probe report. “Based on that we can start tracing links of any (other) doctor in this case,” she said.
Sangli District Civil Surgeon Dr Sanjay Salunkhe has called an urgent meeting of medical superintendents and health officials on Thursday. “The aim is to set up functional unit in tehsils, and also form committees, involving a policeman, a revenue official and a health official each, to inspect all clinical establishments there.” These teams will conduct surveys across the district and a report will be finalised within a fortnight, he said. Officials said there are 95 sonography centres in Sangli, and they have been directed to conduct proper checks to strictly implement the