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Posted at: Feb 4, 2016, 12:42 AM; last updated: Feb 3, 2016, 10:41 PM (IST)

Maneka's radical idea

Pregnancies cannot, and should not, be tracked
Before Union minister Maneka Gandhi chooses to voice one more radical idea to improve the child sex ratio, she should get a few facts right. With poor health infrastructure, especially in rural India, institutional deliveries are not available to all. Two, women are not cattle, their pregnancies cannot be tracked. On Monday, the minister suggested that instead of withholding the gender of the foetus under the PCPNDT Act and penalising the ultrasound lab owners and doctors for any violation of the law, foetus sex determination should be made compulsory, the gender of the child registered, and the birth be tracked by mandating institutional delivery.

It reeks of Sanjay Gandhi-ism. Can institutional deliveries be above board; they have not even reduced infant mortality significantly. The hon'ble minister should know babies are born in the fields, on pavements and in homes in India. Moreover, a mandatory registration of pregnancy violates a woman's dignity and privacy. It also treats all pregnant women as potential killers of their female foetus. The suggestion is also ill-timed as most indicators have begun to show a partial improvement in the gender ratio, after years of hard work in implementing the PCPNDT Act. 

In a country as vast and corrupt as ours, the Minister's suggestion, if put into practice, would be counter-productive. By making sex-determination compulsory, 'diagnostic centres' would mushroom to do the job. Since they would be legal, they could exploit the situation. The minister should rather pay attention to the general welfare of the girl child, her education, health, security and eradication of dowry. For a government that pretends to swear by a mantra of "minimum governance" the minister's suggestion smacks of Stalinism. 

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