A row of 5 pregnant women, seated on a terrace and awaiting their turn for an abortion, were in for a shock. The women had come from neighboring districts, and as per their “doctor’s” instructions, they were only from villages and not the main town. Four of them had already been given abortion pills, while the last one was waiting for her turn.
Officials of the Tamil Nadu Medical Rural and Health Services walked in, after setting up a trap for 48-year-Anandi, the quack who had been running the sex-selective abortion racket for three years. Anandi’s racket had operated out of a dingy bedroom and a small terrace.
As the officers swooped in on her, she was still unrelenting. Scampering around to hide the medicines and the ultrasound machine, she put up a struggle. The women waiting in her terrace also defended her until the officials had to pull them aside for further investigation.
Officials from the Tamil Nadu Medical and Rural Health Services first received an anonymous tip a few weeks ago. “We deployed a team of 5, led by senior official Rajendran, and stayed in the town for 15-20 days to closely monitor the quack’s activity,” an official from the team said to TNM.
Anandi worked out of her terrace with an ultrasound machine which, by law, only an authorized technician can operate. Abortion pills, equipment and money were sprawled across.
A senior official of the Medical and Rural Health Services said women in their 4th or 5th month of pregnancy would approach Anandi and once the sex of their baby was determined as female, she would perform an abortion.
The abortion was nothing short of gory.
“She charged 1,000 to 5,000 rupees for the sex determination and 10,000 rupees for the abortion. Anandi would render women unconscious with chloroform and administer a vaginal pill. We also suspect that in some cases she was allegedly pulling out the fetuses manually,” he said.
The official said, “We have remanded her. She has been booked under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Act, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, IPC sections 420 (cheating) and 419 (cheating by impersonation) read with section 15 (3) (2) of the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 and 315 (feticide)” he said, adding, “The woman’s operations were all covert and most of the women who approached her were from neighbouring villages. They had a code and communicated secretly. She had certain rules like no men allowed, no pant or shirt allowed.”
Under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostics Act, a person can be imprisoned up to three years and fined Rs 10,000. Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, if a person who willfully refuses to comply with the regulations made, he/she will be fined Rs 1,000. “We found that these were not stringent enough provisions, so we booked her under the Indian Medical Council Act in which a person can be imprisoned for up to 5 years and pay Rs.5 lakh. She is currently in Vellore Jail.,” he said, adding, “What was disheartening for us was that the women she was performing abortions on came in defense of her. That shows how much of female foeticide is present in villages.”
There is still a "strong preference" for the male child by parents who have offsprings of both gender as trust in a girls competence level remains "shaky", a survey conducted in the national capital has found.
All India Womens Conference (AIWC), which conducted the two-month-long study, released the findings on Wednesday on the occasion of the launch of its year-long campaign Wings to Fly: Celebrating the Girl Child.
"There seems to be a strong preference for the male child. Trust in a girls competence level is still low and appears shaky. Families are scantly aware of government schemes for the girl child. They had little view on how to take the help of police, law, doctors, counsellors."