The police are also probing if a cross-border sex determination and abortion racket is in operation in Sangli, which borders Karnataka.
Mumbai: On Tuesday, March 6, the police arrested a doctor couple, who were on the run, in connection to the 19 foetuses found dumped near a stream in a village in Sangli district of Maharashtra.
The Sangli police on March 5 found 19 foetuses dumped near a stream at Mhaisal village in Miraj block in Sangli. The foetuses were wrapped in plastic bags and were either in the process of decomposition or remains of flesh and bones.
The police came across this racket of illegal abortions while probing the death of a woman during an abortion at the private hospital of Dr Babasaheb Khidrapure, a homeopath. The foetuses have been sent to the government hospital in Miraj to determine if the foetuses are male or female.
Sangli superintendent of police Dattatray Shinde said, “On March 1, Swati Jamdade (26) died during abortion procedure in Miraj. Sunil Jadhav, Swati’s father had lodged complaint at Miraj rural police station against Pravin Jamdade, her husband, and Dr Babasaheb Khidrapure, in whose hospital the abortion was carried”. Pravin has also been arrested. The police have invoked IPC sections 314 (Death caused by act done with intent to cause miscarriage), 315 (act done with intent to prevent child being born alive or to cause it to die after birth), 316 (causing death of quick unborn child by act amounting to culpable homicide), 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 34 (common intention).
According to the FIR lodged by Jadhav, Pravin called him on February 28 saying that they had found out that Swati was pregnant with a girl child and were going to abort the child at Bharati Hospital run by Khidrapure. The couple already had two daughters.
Jadhav requested Pravin to not abort the child but they went ahead with the abortion, during which Swati’s condition became critical. Swati was then moved to another private hospital where she was declared brought dead.
Villagers grew suspicious when instead of taking Swati’s body for a postmortem, Pravin took it for cremation. The villagers then informed the police.
“During our probe at Khidrapure’s hospital, we came across the operation theatre, delivery room and material used in the surgery as well as the X ray machine. Registers of patients were also found. Both Khidrapure and his wife are homeopathy doctors with BHMS degrees. They are legally not allowed to perform surgeries and do not have the skills for it. We are still investigating where he had studied homeopathy. Witnesses have informed us that the doctor has been performing surgeries for over ten years,” Shinde said.
Shockingly, the police also found a foetus in a drawer at the hospital. Khidrapure reportedly charged around Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 for abortions.
“One of the witness showed the place where the foetuses were being dumped. When we unearthed the patch near the local stream in the presence of the Naib tehsildar, we found 19 foetuses wrapped in plastic bags. They were either decomposing or remains of flesh and bones,” Shinde said.
During their search of the hospital the police did not recover any sonography machines and are yet to determine if sex detection, which is illegal, was also carried out at the hospital. The police also are also investigating if women are travelling from Karnataka, which borders Sangli, to conduct sex detection tests and undergo abortions.
Shiv Sena leader and MLC Nilam Gorhe condemned the incident saying, “Why does the illegal practice of foeticide continue? I have talked to SP of Sangli and was told that women from Karnataka, whose border Sangli shares, also travel here for abortion. The doctor practicing illegal abortions is not a surgeon and just homeopathy doctor. A medicine supplier is also involved in the practice”.
She added, “I will raise this question in the House and demand a fact finding committee be constituted to investigate the matter. It is a serious issue that when the prime minister is spreading the message of ‘Beti Bachao’ such illegal rackets of female foeticide are flourishing”.
Kiran Moghe, national secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said, “Government is completely responsible for the foeticide racket that is being run at such a large scale. They have a system to keep check on hospitals, what is happening in hospitals and so on. Mhaisal is a small town and people are aware of what’s happening around at such small places. How come such a large malpractice remains outside the ambit of police? One more important issue is that Sangli has one of the worst sex ratios and doctors here are involved in foeticide. Although we are yet to know whether the foetuses found are girls or boys, it is likely that girl foetuses were aborted”.
She also said, “Doctors associations like Indian Medical Association keep clamouring that under Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, doctors are harassed unnecessarily. Why do not they come up with solutions to curb the practices of foeticide?”
State health minister Dipak Sawant announced in Mumbai that a five-members team had been sent to Mhaisal to investigate. The Sangli civil surgeon and medical officer have also been asked to submit a report after investigations. The state government has also announced that it will work with the Karnataka government to determine if there is a cross-border sex determination and abortion racket.