— From Informationweek.in
India is facing a severe problem of declining percentage of the girl child in the 0-6 age group. In many rural and even urban parts of India, extensive misuse of the technology such as sonography machines to easily identify the sex of the foetus has become a common technique and also an unethical practice for the doctors and radiologists to earn easy money. While sex determination and sex selection is a criminal offence in India, it has not stopped doctors and even parents from indulging in this horrific practice. The reason — if no one complains, no one can detect, as the crime is done with mutual consent from both the parties — the doctor and the patient.
As per the PCPNDT Act, every pregnant Ultrasound Sonography (USG) test needs to be recorded and reported to appropriate government authorities in the ‘F’ form as prescribed in the law. But the responsibility of such record generation lies with doctors and radiologists. In the case of sex selection, such records were either not generated or falsely reported.
Hence, when a district collector, by the name of Laxmikant Deshmukh (IAS), was transferred to Kolhapur, he was shocked to see some of the worst sex ratio statistics for the district. Thus, the collector invited an IT firm called Magnum Opus to study the problem and resolve the issue.
The Magnum Opus team identified two major issues for the lower sex ratio — under reporting and false reporting. The mandatory part of ‘F’ form filling and submission after every sonography test was not followed by the centers. To counter this critical problem, Magnum Opus created an online web portal (www.savethebabygirl.com), which allows users to register all details like sonography clinic address, PNDT code, machine and information related to doctors.
The web-based software solution connects all centers and collects the important data on a daily basis as per the PCPNDT act rules and formats. The software assures that no incomplete data is submitted by doctors/users. The government authorities can access this portal through secured login and can automatically generate various reports from time to time. However, to make the solution more foolproof, Magnum Opus wanted to make sure that every sonography test could be recorded. Accordingly, it started connecting a device called the Silent Observer (SIOB) to the ultrasound machine externally through cables.
The device captures the video images of each sonography test conducted and stores it in a local hard drive. “This device has acted as a deterrent as it captures all the video images on the sonography machine. False reporting can be immediately detected by comparing the information filled in the ‘F’ forms and captured video images,” states Girish Lad, MD, Magnum Opus.
The pilot was launched on August 15, 2009. Today, Kolhapur district has 252 registered genetic centers —120 in the urban parts and 132 in rural parts. The success of the device in preventing female foeticides can be seen from the fact that as per 2011 census, Kolhapur’s sex ratio has increased to 845 from 839 of 2001 census.
“Statistics show that there was under reporting of 4,449 ‘F’ forms, 210 deliveries and 16 Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) cases every month. After connecting the device to each ultrasound machine, the reporting has increased to 34 percent across the district. In first nine months, in case of MTP, of 12 weeks plus pregnancies were recorded as four females and 22 males, while after the implementation of the device, in next six months, the female foetus MTP cases recorded were 10,” claims Lad.
Expanding to other states
Recently, the Maharashtra government announced that this project will be implemented across the six districts of the state. In Gujarat, the firm has successfully implemented this project in Surat. Concerned authorities from the states of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Goa, Rajasthan and Haryana have already visited Kolhapur to study the systems and principally decided to implement the project in their respective states. Currently, around 2,000 centers are registered under the system.