If you go to Sikar or Jhunjhunu districts of Rajasthan, do not be too surprised if you find it hard to spot any girl playing with scores of boys under the afternoon sun or in the evening twilight. In both these districts, as per the 2011 figures, the child sex ratio (CSR) is less than 850.
In simple words, in these parts of the desert state, for every 1,000 boys, there are less than 850 girls in the age group of 0 to 6. Ironically, these two regions boast of some of the most well-known institutes of higher learning in Rajasthan.
These are not the only parts that take Rajasthan to its hall of shame. As per 2011 data figures, in as many as 18 districts of the state, the CSR is less than 900. That includes Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Tonk, Nagaur, Bharatpur, Karauli and also the state capital, Jaipur. Sikar and Jhunjhunu, with their unenviable statistics, fall in the red zone.
India Today's investigations have revealed that those involved in the sex determination racket operate under a great deal of secrecy. The net has been spread far and wide resulting in an intricate web.
The modus operandi involved in sex determination and sex selective abortions includes touts, brokers, ANMs operating at the district and village level keeping an eye out for pregnant women in the area. Once the word is out that a particular woman is pregnant, a local tout or an ANM or a midwife can stealthily approach the woman and let it be known to her that it's possible for her to know the sex of her unborn for a certain sum.
Those who already have one or more girls are considered particularly vulnerable. In several parts, local touts are too well known for their shady practices. Parents and their family members willing to go to any length in their desire for the male child, more often than not, mostly know who to approach.
The rate generally oscillates between Rs 25,000 to 45,000. That includes the tout or the broker's fees and the doctor's charge for performing the ultrasound procedure on the pregnant woman. The cost of the abortion, however, is separate and not included in this.
|The rate generally oscillates between Rs 25,000 to 45,000.|
The touts, entrusted with the task of brokering the deal on behalf of the doctor, generally prefer to deal with those known in their circle. So, if a man wishes to know the sex of his unborn, he or an acquaintance, preferably a close relative, has to be known to the tout or the middlemen.
Of late, due to perceived higher risk of getting caught in Rajasthan due to the increase in decoy operations, the modus operandi has involved the tout taking the pregnant woman to an adjoining state, preferably Haryana, UP or Gujarat, as they are considered "safer".
Less scrutiny in these states, according to a source, means lesser risk of getting caught. However, as per those in the know, even as the total sum remains almost the same, there is a huge difference between the price charged by the doctors and the touts in Rajasthan as compared to that charged by those in adjoining states.
"Our main target states were Gujarat, where we took action five times and four times in Uttar Pradesh and once in Haryana. In total, there were ten times when we acted in other states by taking the help of authorities there," says Naveen Jain, MD, National Rural Health Mission.
Once the accused are apprehended, the focus shifts to trying to secure conviction. The accused, in several cases, are often booked under different sections apart from the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, to ensure a tight case.
"In this, apart from PCPNDT Act, section 315 of the Indian Penal Code is applied. Section 315 is about act done with intent to prevent child being born alive. And that is, any act done to prevent child from being born alive. Sonography is done, child is aborted... Since the time it has been applied, it started from 2016, most of the accused do not get bail before high court and it takes at least 2-3 months. Like this, we acted in Mathura, had brought on 3-6-2016, they are still in Judicial custody," says Raghuvver Singh, project director, PCPNDT.
Those in high offices have known where the problem lies. And they seem to be playing the catch up game with those with a criminal bent of mind willing to cause irreparable damage to society for their ill-conceived gains.
Rajasthan got its PCPNDT bureau of investigation in 2012. But despite the recent arrests, they still seem to be only scratching at the surface of the problem. The decoy operations in the past have often led to several ultrasound machines being sized but the teams conducting the operations are often at risks themselves of being attacked or their identities getting revealed.
There is no dearth of cases where men in various parts of Rajasthan, especially those in vulnerable zones with low CSR, have literally paid a monetary price for getting a bride from a neighbouring state due to huge shortfall in the number of women considered to be of marriageable age.
The killing of the foetus in the womb because of her sex, apart from being a criminal act, can also lead to social issues of various hues. If the menace of sex determination is not addressed adequately, it can ensure that the society stares at a bleak future which does not augur well for its people.