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Meet The Doctor Who Delivers Baby Girls For Free

 Meet The Doctor Who Delivers Baby Girls For Free

It is not a secret that many Indians tend to prefer the birth of a son over a daughter. It isn’t that they love girls less; it is because men are perceived to have more advantages in life. While that is slowly changing, one doctor is determined to play a part in society’s evolution. Dr Ganesh Rakh hopes his “tiny contribution” of improving women’s lives in India is a catalyst for change. Amazingly, the doctor delivers baby girls for free.

Dr Rakh acknowledges the traditional preference is for boys, something exasperated by antenatal sex screening and abortion. This is supported by census figures; in 1961, there were 976 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of seven. That had reduced to 914 in 2011. However, the latest figures are pending, and many worry this has dropped even further.

Dr Ganesh Rakh

Back in 2007, in the western Indian city of Pune, Dr Rakh started a small maternity hospital for local pregnant women to come for delivery. He noticed that there would be jubilant celebrations at the birth of a boy. In contrast, if a girl was born, he noted relatives would leave, the mother would be upset, and the family would invariably seek a discount.

When he learnt of the 2011 census figures, he was disappointed but unsurprised. The figures confirmed the bias within Indian society, a matter addressed by then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who called it “national shame”. This spurned Dr Rakh into action, and at the start of 2012, he began a mission called Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan (in Marathi means “campaign to save the girl child”). What he did subsequently is extraordinary. He decided not to charge any fee if a girl was born. In the four years that followed, 464 girls were born in his hospital, and true to his word, he did not charge the parents any fee.

In more recent times, especially over the last few months, he has decided to try to roll out his campaign. The doctor has contacted colleagues all over the country and asking them to do at least one free delivery. Fortunately, feedback and support have followed. He has found many doctors are pledging free delivery of at least one baby girl. Some are pledging many more. In addition, he has organised marches through the streets of Pune to try convincing its 7.5m inhabitants that a baby girl is just as precious as a boy. His campaigns have attracted media far and wide, something that he is particularly proud of. The doctor has expressed his desire to change the attitudes of people and doctors.

How will he measure success? The metric will be ”the day people start celebrating a daughter’s birth” he believes. Once that happens, he thinks he will start charging a fee again; after all, hospitals are not cheap to run. We await the new census figures in the hope that the gender imbalance has now begun to equalise.

Swati Aggarwal

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