In 2012, Dr Ganesh Rakh launched the ‘Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan’ in his hospital in Pune. Under this ‘Save the Girl Child’ initiative, he waives off delivery charges when girl children are born. Inspired by his example, doctors across the country have pledged to do their bit for the girl child.
In the Census of 2011, the sex ratio of the country was found to be 914 females for every 1000 males. This alarming statistic opened the eyes of Dr. Ganesh Rakh.
Dr. Rakh runs the 25-bed Medicare General and Maternity Hospital in the Hadapsar suburb of Pune. It is here that he first noticed a stark difference in the way families reacted to the birth of girls and to the birth of boys. The anxiety to bear a male child was often evident in expectant mothers, all through their nine months of pregnancy; so much so in fact, that this anxiety would often result in fluctuations in their blood pressure and hemoglobin levels. If the mother-to-be gave birth to a male child, there would be grand celebrations and much rejoicing in the hospital.
This celebratory air was often visibly absent on the birth of a girl child. In fact, Dr. Rakh would find the new mothers of girl children weeping inconsolably, while family members – far from celebrating the birth – would often be found haggling with the hospital authorities for a discount. Their disappointment was palpable. Dr. Rakh decided to do something about this.
On the 3rd of January, 2012, Dr. Rakh launched the ‘Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan’ (Campaign to Save the Girl Child). Under this campaign, he instructed his hospital not to charge any fee for the delivery of a girl child. While a normal delivery costs around Rs. 10,000 and a Cesarean comes up to Rs. 25,000, Dr. Rakh’s hospital waives the entire amount if the woman delivers a baby girl. Dr. Rakh calls this his “tiny contribution” to improve the skewed sex ratio of the country.
It has been four years now since the launch of the campaign and Dr. Rakh has already delivered around five hundred baby girls, without taking a single penny from the parents. In fact, the hospital even goes a step further by celebrating the birth of every girl child by cutting a cake and distributing sweets in the hospital.
“Female infanticide is rampant because regressive social norms are not only anti-women but anti-girl child as well. As a medical professional, I have seen the torture that a mother goes through when she comes to know that she has delivered a girl,” he says.
Image Source: savepari.org
Dr. Rakh’s campaign has inspired a movement of sorts. Doctors from the nearby districts of Beed, Ahmednagar and Sholapur, 18 Gram Panchayats from around Pune as well as Dr. Rakh’s own batch mates have all promised to stop sex determination tests and abortions. They have also promised to counsel families to make them more accepting of the girl child. Till date, close to 3,000 doctors from the interiors of Maharashtra have joined Dr. Rakh’s cause to fight the prevalent social biases and prejudices against the girl child.
“I want to change attitudes – of people, of doctors. The day people start celebrating a daughter’s birth, I’ll start charging my fee again,” he says.
Image Source: savepari.org
Given the skewed sex ratio in the country, campaigns like the Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan will go a long way in creating much needed awareness about sex determination and female foeticide. They will also help change the prevalent patriarchal mindset. Dr. Rakh believes that his initiative has already brought about a big change in the minds of people towards the girl child.