Tuesday, Oct 01, 2002
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By A.V. Ragunathan
The babies were brought to the Collector while he was attending a grievance day session. The 300th baby belonged to the couple Madhu (35) and Sarasu (25) of Salethampatti. It is their third female child. Mr. Madhu is employed in a silver anklet manufacturing unit. He has pleaded that with his meagre income he could not take proper care of a third child.
The 301st child belonging to the Myilsamy-Sumathi couple of Karumbu Saliyur was born only this morning.
The 25-day old 302nd baby was born to the Kuppuraj-Ramayi couple of Pachapatti. It is their fifth child.
The Collector told presspersons that under the scheme started by Jayalalithaa in 1992 during her first tenure as Chief Minister, the Cradle Baby Reception Centre here received 136 babies till 1996.
From May 1996 to April 2001, 10 more babies were admitted. In May 2001 (after Ms. Jayalalithaa came back to power), the scheme was revived, and ever since, 154 babies had come under the care of the Salem centre.
Thanks to the efforts taken by the district administration in coordination with non-governmental organisations, the female infant mortality rate was brought down from 108 per 1,000 in 2000 to 55 per 1,000 at present. This was possible because of measures such as activation of monitoring committees in 385 village panchayats to keep a tab on pregnant women and counselling high-risk couple into going for sterilisation.
So far, 218 field level social mobilisation campaigns had been launched in rural areas to create an awareness of schemes for girls' welfare right from their birth to marriage. These campaigns also focussed on eliminating gender bias and adherence to small family norms.
A constant vigil was kept on scan centres to prevent sex determination tests. Legal proceedings were initiated against parents who committed infanticide.
The Collector said NGOs dealt with the problem in various angles: while the larger vision was to strive towards retention of babies within the family (they would neither be dispensed with nor handed over to Government), the Alternative for India Development was focussing on sterilisation (last year 28,000 sterilisation operations were done), and the Poonthalir and others on rescuing babies.
Mr. Radhakrishnan said the State Government had sanctioned Rs. 35 lakhs under a DANIDA project, and Rs. 9.25 lakhs through the World Bank-assistated ICDS project III centres for carrying out campaigns against female infanticide.
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