Foetuses and biomedical waste disposed of in River Hiranyakeshi at Sankeshwar town in Hukkeri taluk is just the tip of the iceberg of illegal practices adopted by clinics, hospitals and medical practitioners.
It has also exposed negligence, apathy and failure of officials of the health department in ensuring that norms are followed.
The district leads in illegal determination of the sex of the foetus. The practice has been rampant with medical practitioners using sonography machines illegally and not registering their machines and records of patients for such tests, say some of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the healthcare sector here.
Hukkeri, Chikodi, Raibag and Athani taluks top in such tests with the practice extending to the sugarcane belt of the district in southern Maharashtra where similar practices are in place, the activists said.
The Health department’s contention that the foetuses and other biomedical wastes were laboratory samples was not accepted by the activists as laboratories do not require samples in such huge quantities.
Apart from foetuses, uteruses too had been disposed of. Those associated with the movement to stop prenatal determination of sex said that the racket, in connivance with the officials of the Health department, has been thriving.
Hence no action has been taken against those involved in illegal sex determination of foetus, abortions and disposing of wastes in water bodies.
The activists, who did not want to be named, suspect the mode of functioning of the prenatal diagnosis tests committee that has to inspect clinics, hospitals and doctors having sonography machines, their licences and renewal norms, records of patients and other formalities required to prevent illegal use and for determination of the sex of foetus, in particular.
The Health department officials have knowledge of clinics, hospitals and doctors involved in such practices. Preliminary investigations of Sankeshwar incident alone have brought to the fore that many clinics, hospitals and doctors were not disposing of bio-medical wastes as per required norms, but action not being taken against them indicated apathy of the department, contended the activists.
Hazardous medicines, surgical instrument wastes, needles and other materials dumped in the river were all poisonous.
It is not known since when the practices were being followed and many could have been affected by it, fears Superintendent of Police Sandeep Patil.
Deputy Commissioner V Anbukumar said, on receipt of results of tests, clinics and hospitals involved in disposing of foetuses and bio-medical waste in the river would be dealt accordingly.
According to health department records, there were 264 licenced sonography machines in the district. Among them, Athani has 24, Chikodi 25, Belgaum 115, Bailhongal 18, Gokak 34, Hukkeri 17, Raibag 12, Ramdurg 6, Khanapur 4 and Savadatti 9. Records of illegal machines were not available.