Shailvee Sharda, TNN August 27, 2012


LUCKNOW: Taking a cue from Maharashtra to curb the menace of low sex ratio, the Uttar Pradesh government has proposed to install active tracker devices in ultra sound machines in districts with alarmingly low sex ratio. The device was first used under a pilot project by the Maharashtra government in Kolhapur district. After the success of the pilot project, the Maharashtra government extended it to six districts. Several other state governments including Gujarat and Haryana have also replicated it.

Once cleared and subsequently implemented in the state, the technology will give a new lease of life to Save The Girl Child Campaign, which is funded under the National Rural Health Mission.

An active tracker is a 'tamper-proof' device attached to an ultrasound machine. It switches on automatically when the ultrasound machine is switched on. It records all the videos taken by the machine on a real-time basis and saves the same in its huge memory (1 terabyte). It comes with an inbuilt GPRS receptor that helps personnel at a control room generate a data log for the number of hours the tracker was switched on as well as the number of videos saved in it. Both the data help the authorities immediately to trace any tampering attempts.

The project worth Rs 4 crore was sent to the Union health ministry after an approval from the NRHM's governing body. Mission director, NRHM, UP, said, "We have shortlisted 10 worst affected districts for this year." The active tracker will be attached to each of the ultrasound machines in these 10 districts. The 13 districts with lowest sex ratio as per the Annual Health Survey 2010 (in alphabetical order) are: Agra, Baghpat, Bulandshahr, GB Nagar, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Jhansi, Hathras, Hardoi, Bijnor, Etawah and Kanpur Nagar.

NGO workers associated with Save The Girl Child Campaign reveal that the device would come handy in collecting evidence against those who misuse the ultrasound machine. Four types of evidences are needed to book a person flouting various provisions of the Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act. These are: Statement of the expectant mother, statement of the referral doctor, the video of the sonography and the details of the patient and some medico-technical data compiled in a format called Form-F. Except the video, the rest could be easily tampered.

As per the PCPNDT Act, it is mandatory for ultrasound centres to maintain a minimum record for two years. Most of the centres do not keep that record because the older USG machines do not have any memory to store the videos. Some newer versions of the machines come with a memory. But, it has been observed that owners tend to tamper it. Legal experts however say that video alone cannot establish if the doctor was involved in sex selection or not. They feel that the data gathered through the machine helps.

For example, an NGO in Maharashtra was able to nail down a culprit when in a 13-minute video of a 12-week foetus, the doctor focused on the genitals for nine minutes and the pregnancy was terminated following the sonography under some other pretence.

The active tracker also offers a solution to the drawbacks of Form-F, which is vulnerable to incorrect reporting. The device has online software that makes it mandatory for all practising gynaecologists, radiologists with a registered USG machine and authorised centres for Medically Terminated Pregnancies (MTP) to fill up forms under PCPNDT Act and Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act respectively. The online form cannot be completed unless all the fields are filled up. Further, it cannot be tampered at a later stage and can be used for cross reference.