Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

duars the tourists heaven

 at Istikutum , the place beside kaaljaani river adjacent to  patkapara tea estate. In pix owner the farm house talking with the lady tourist.
 At Istikutum
 At istikutum , the famous farm house where the bird istikutum welcomes the tourist saying istikutum...

 at Istikutum...

At the tent of istikutum

 at Kalijhora , the famous shooting spot of darjeeling district...

 At      Mirik , the tourist hotspot of darjeeling

At Jaldapara of duars...

 at VahTakvar of darjeeling. one can see bright kanchenjunga from this place. It is about  6kms from darjeeling motor stand via singmari. taxiwalas take 400 rupees for up and down.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Measures Required to Reduce Female Feticide - By Dr. Sabu George

The structures necessary for the implementation of the 1994 law have to be created at the district level. Volunteers have to be actively mobilized to monitor the registration and the functioning  of the sex-determination clinics in different districts. Effective alliances with ethical Doctors have to be made from the local levels. Test cases have to be filed against the violators. And also important is that we have to preserve with the media to highlight obstacles in the implementation of the Act. The consciousness of our society has to be raised against this crime. Simultaneously we have to get involved in actions to ensure that the public at large becomes supportive of this campaign. Lobbying with political parties to put this issue on their agenda is imperative. All this is just one step towards efforts to empower women in our society.

The deterioration of women’s status and the emergence of female feticide is not a unique sociological phenomenon confined to a particular state. The trend is all over the country; even in diverse cultural contexts where there has been relative greater gender equality; such as in the Uttarkhand hills or the Kashmir valley. Our challenge today is to initiate a vibrant, effective campaign against female feticide. If we are all committed then only can we reach out to the hearts and minds of our people. Jammu & Kashmir is important as it is the only state in the country where there is no legal prohibition against sex determination testing.  The earlier campaigns in the country against sex selective abortions failed despite the moral correctness of the issue, as they could not create a sustained social movement against this heinous crime. To stem the increasing epidemic of female feticide we have to expose the collusion of unethical medical practitioners with the patriarchal society. The campaign has to oppose the commodification of women in popular culture and media. Organizations and individuals with different priorities and ideological beliefs have to rally together to battle the powerful patriarchal forces operating within the institutions of the family, government and civil society. A transformation of our gendered society, is necessary for the elimination of female feticide.

Significance of the Law On Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques - By Dr. Sabu George

Recent history of social legislation in India are hardly encouraging as far as their implementation is concerned.  However the national law against prenatal diagnostics is a positive step. For fifteen years (1979-1994), when private sex determination clinics were first established and the practice of female feticide flourished in north-western India, the people had received no message questioning the morality of this practice.  The enactment of the law enabled the National Human Rights Commission to direct the Medical Council of India to take action against Doctors found abusing prenatal diagnostic techniques. Today, blatant advertisements for fetal sex determination once seen in Bombay trains in the early eighties and in Delhi newspapers in the late eighties and nineties have virtually disappeared. Thanks to laws.

The first state law enacted in Maharashtra against sex determination was the Maharashtra Regulation of Use of Prenatal  Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1988. This was the result of vigorous public campaigning in the state. After this law was effected, the number of SD clinics in Mumbai went down and the practice of  SD also lessened. This achievement was all due to sustained campaigning and active monitoring of the Act by the FASDSP [ Forum against sex determination and Sex  Pre- selection].  Unfortunately this campaign faltered when the FASDSP became non functional and quite a few of the Mumbai  sex determination clinics resumed operation. However this campaign proved that a lot can be accomplished  by sustained efforts and eradicating complacency in the state governments. All future campaigns have to learn from the shortcomings of the abortive Maharshtra campaign.  State Governments should realize the importance and priority of the present law and not merely treat it with their usual complacency.  Tamilnadu is one such state that has yet to take effective and prompt action in the implementation of this Act. 

The inadequacies of the present law are largely because the Government of India has not been seriously committed to achieving the intent of this Act – The elimination of Sex Determination Testing.  Also, due to effective lobbying of Doctors in the early nineties, several positive features of the Maharashtra Act 1988 were watered down in the 1994 National Act.   A recent administrative directive from the Family Welfare Ministry excluded a sex determination technique like Erikson's from the purview of the 1944 Act asserting that it applied only to tests conducted on pregnant women. The immediate reaction to this directive was the resumption of newspaper advertisements in North west India again promoting this sophisticated reproductive technology.  These very Advertisements had been stopped only a year before when a petition challenging the illegality of these advertisements was filed with the Punjab Human Rights Commission by ‘ Women Against Violence’.  The unwillingness of the Government to interpret the legislation to keep it in tune with the inexorable progress in technology is self defeating.

The Failure of Activists - By Dr. Sabu George

Most NGOs and the medical profession concerned with female feticide for the past two decades, failed to recognize the likelihood of its rapid spread. The first private clinic was set up in Amritsar in 1979. This trend soon spread to other cities in North and Western India, resulting in adversely influencing the sex ratio in those parts of the country. A ten year gap ensued before the proliferation of these clinics began in Southern India. In the early eighties attention was being given to the issue of female infanticide but the activists had not anticipated the problem of female feticide. Although the spread of this problem was initially slower, many taluks even in backward parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh now have sex determination clinics. There were occasional media reports from 1992 onwards about the abuse of ultrasound for fetal sex determination in major cities of Tamilnadu. Despite expression of concerns from the mid nineties about the prevalence of female feticide in rural areas, NGOs and others involved in work against infanticide did not prioritize action against feticide. Even elementary steps were not taken; for instance there was no lobbying with the state to set up the mechanisms to register sex determination clinics as mandated by the 1994 national law;  and there also was a failure to confront the medical profession’s insensitivity to the gross violation of medical ethics.

Intensification of Son Preference Related to Fertility Decline

Fertility decline has taken place in all economic and social groups in most parts of the country, especially in Tamilnadu.  The sharp fall in birth rates from the eighties is one contributory factor for intensification of son preference. Similar developments have been earlier observed in other patriarchal societies such as China, South Korea, Taiwan etc., with the decline in fertility rates. Sex determination methods were being used from 1979 onwards in North India to manipulate sex composition of children to have greater proportion of sons.  In 10 years, the sex ratio of pre-school children in Punjab dropped from the already low levels [925 to 874 during 1981-1991].  Sharp declines also occurred in Haryana and Rajasthan, states where female feticide is widespread. In less than a year the 2001 census will reveal the present situation in Punjab and other states. The indication we have from the grassroots level is that there will undoubtedly be an even steeper fall against girls. There are more than one thousand ultrasound clinics in Punjab. And elaborate networks from the village level to the nearest urban ultrasound clinics for referrals exist, where each link gets a commission from the clinics.

In Tamilnadu, the hospital birth data in recent years, reveals an increased masculination  in sex ratio at birth [109 boys per 100 boys as opposed to the expected 105].  This is essentially an urban sample. The 2001 census may not see any significant improvement in the sex ratio of surviving children in Tamilnadu.  However, we will have no definitive information on whether there is a decline in infanticide due to replacement by female feticide. But one thing is quite certain, the establishment of sex determination clinics is the early warning sign for the impending drop in sex ratios. It takes a decade for the practice to spread and gain widespread social acceptability. And, if a significant number of families in the new millennia start opting  for one or more sons with none or fewer daughters, there will be an alarming drop in sex ratios.  Our challenge is to reduce the anti-girl attitude of our society before fertility becomes less than two  [given current fertility levels, women will have an average of nearly 2 children during the child bearing years]. 

Recognizing Violence Against Women - By Dr. Sabu George

Violence against women exists in various forms in all societies the world over. However, the recognition that elimination of gender- based violence is central to equality, development and peace, is recent. In India the landmark report on the ‘Status of Women-1975’ did not deal with this issue. Then in the late seventies and eighties, the Indian women’s movement focused on issues of dowry deaths, female feticide, sati, rape and other forms of violence. More recently, international conferences such as the Vienna-1993, Cairo-1994, Copenhagen 1995 and Beijing-1995 explicitly highlighted this problem. The World Health Assembly in 1996 endorsed that violence against women is a public health problem. In 1998, the 50th anniversary of the ‘Declaration of human rights’ was celebrated by the UN with a global campaign for elimination of gender based violence. The objective was to influence public opinion and attitudes, policies, practices and legislation to facilitate a violence-free life for women.

Female feticide is one extreme manifestation of violence against women. Female fetuses are selectively aborted after pre natal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls.  In India where female infanticide has existed for centuries, now female feticide has joined the fray and is increasing each day. The reasons for this evil are the introduction and proliferation of pre natal diagnostic test / sex determination clinics and cheaper ultrasound machines that help determine the sex of a child before it is born. Dramatic reduction of birth rates in most of India’s states which contributed toward intensification of son preference in the existing patriarchal society. And one must also not forget the lack of ethics in pockets of the medical profession that result in furthering female feticide.  For instance, in Tamilnadu the establishment of numerous ultrasound clinics in semi-urban areas since the mid-nineties is not a widely known fact. Even rural families in the state have begun to commit female feticide to satisfy their preference for sons.  In Haryana residents of upper caste hamlets openly admit to the widespread practice of female feticide. Parents tend to be calculative in choosing the sex of the next child and the decision is based on the birth order, sex sequence of previous children and number of sons. Transfer of reproductive technology to India is resulting in reinforcement of patriarchal values as professional medical organizations seem to be indifferent to ethical misconduct.  These facts have to be publicized so that awareness can be raised and appropriate action by the state and civil society be initiated.

Some of the facts and figures,which give more insights into this issue, are represented graphically.

Has the law helped?(SATYAMEV JAYATE)

Implementing the Act on the ground was another matter, however, and sex determination and female foeticide continued, practically unchecked. Following more protests and a public interest litigation by activists’ groups, the Supreme Court issued a directive in 2001 calling upon all state governments to strictly implement the law. 

Nevertheless, sex determination continued clandestinely – as is reflected in a further anti-girl child skew in the child sex ratio from that year. In 2003, the PNDT Act was amended and renamed as the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994.
Has it helped? Having read so far, cynical readers would imagine that it has not. And they would be right. Families routinely take pregnant women for “check-ups” which are actually sonographies; women are regularly either coerced and forced into abortion, or are given an anasethetic and upon waking find that their pregnancy has been terminated. All this naturally takes an awful toll on their physical and mental health.

Women who try to escape this nightmare don’t have it easy. The law may be on their side in letter, but the enforcers of the law are more often than not on the side of the perpetrators. 

The combination of greed, social attitudes and practices, family pressure, lack of political will and lacunae in the law enforcement setup leads to heavy under-reporting of the crime, and a low conviction rate. In some cases, even when doctors are convicted, they are not imprisoned but released after paying a fine. 
When millions are killed in a relatively short span of time, it is termed genocide. India’s 30 million missing girls are not evoking the same kind of outrage, however, although female foeticide actually meets four out of five criteria to be termed genocide. In the case of female foeticide, the killing has happened before the girls came into this world. The killing has happened over several decades. But the fact remains that the killing has happened, and continues to happen. For this to change, attitudes towards women and girls must undergo a very fundamental transformation on a large scale.

Sitting targets in the womb(SATYAMEV JAYATE)

In the 1970s, technology enabled the killing to be done one step before birth. It became possible to determine the gender of the unborn baby at a stage when abortion was possible, and legal. Originally conceived as a government solution for terminating foetuses with severe medical problems, pre-natal testing also revealed the gender of the foetus. Parents, eager to avoid having a girl child, decided to terminate female foetuses. Doctors, seeing a lucrative business ahead, offered sex determination tests and abortions to willing parents. For a country struggling with a population explosion, this seemed like an easy answer to keeping the numbers down. The thinking was that in the desire for a male child, parents continue to have girl children till such time as a boy was not born. Terminating the pregnancy of a girl foetus would eliminate this aspect, it was felt. 

Activists and authorities soon realised that what was happening was a systematic elimination of girls, and warnings began to be sounded about its dire consequences. After a partial ban in 1976, government hospitals and clinics no longer offered pre-natal testing, but the monster had been unleashed. The private sector had, literally, scented blood. The lure of money overrode any inhibitions some unscrupulous doctors may have had.
Sex determination became even easier with the introduction of ultrasound technology in [the early 1990s]. This did away with the painful practice of amniocentesis and other dangerous methods. Sonography became a corner-shop service, offered in mobile vans and often as a “package” along with the subsequent abortion.

In the 1980s the drive against female foeticide and sex determination techniques gained strength. In 1982 the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS) launched the first campaign, in response to a pre-natal diagnostic clinic which was openly advertising its services, terming daughters as liabilities to the family and a threat to the nation, and encouraging expectant parents to rid themselves of the “danger”. More campaigns came up in different parts of the country, the move for an all-India ban on sex determination tests gained momentum, and the Pre Natal Diagnostic Tests (Regulation and Prohibition of Misuse) Act, 1994 (called the PNDT Act) came into force in January 1996.