Pune: Dr Makrand Ranade, a paediatric ophthalmologist and his gynaecologist wife Dr Neelam Ranade, has been caught red-handed by the Maharashtra Health Department officials taking money at their Pune clinic to facilitate a sex determination test.
Except, the patient was part of a government sting operation.
"We sent a decoy. The doctors agreed to do the tests. They asked for Rs 9,000. We had noted down the numbers of the currency notes. We have also got the taped conversation," said Dr Mahindra Ahiwale, Assistant Director, Maharashtra Family Planning Department.
"We don't even have a sonography machine, and everybody knows. We are being targeted," said Dr Makarand Ranade, paediatric ophthalmologist.
This is part of a larger crackdown on sonography facilities across Maharashtra after three female foetuses were found dumped in nullahs in Beed in a span of 10 days.
The incident in Beed indicated deliberate killings based on gender determination which is illegal in India, yet widely in demand in a society that continues to prefer a male child.
"In the last 20 years we have eliminated 5 lakh girls. It's a business in which 36,000 doctors are involved. It's a 1,500 crore rupee operation to eliminate the girl child," said Varsha Gaikwad, NGO, Lake Ladki Abhiyaan.
"We are debating how to tighten the laws. At the same time, we are taking help from NGOs in the ongoing operations," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
In two weeks, the government has shut down 131 sonography centres and illegal abortion centres. But the damage has been done over a period of time, because of weak laws and weaker enforcement.
In the last 17 years, the Maharashtra government has registered cases against 156 doctors for conducting illegal sex-determination tests. But only four doctors have been convicted. This time, the crackdown is fierce, but activists say it has come too late.