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Defending Defenceless

Defending Defenceless

On September 6, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra directed doctors of Mumbai’s JJ Hospital that a ‘medical procedure’ be conducted on a 13-year-old rape victim, to ‘abort’ a ‘32-week foetus’, despite the report of a Supreme Court-appointed medical board, comprising doctors of the same hospital, advising against such action.

The parents of the rape victim had to seek the Supreme Court’s permission because Section 3(2)(b) of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, prohibits abortion of a ‘foetus’ once pregnancy crosses 20 weeks.

The girl was allegedly raped by the associate of her father but it was only a month ago that the family discovered that she was pregnant. At the cost of being judgemental, I have to say here that if the child did not report the rape, it speaks volumes about the kind of relationship she has with her parents. This is an area where a child needs maximum help and protection from parents. Is it not natural for a child to confide about the rape to at least her mother?

Following the permission from India’s highest judicial authority, the parents of the rape survivor got her admitted for the ‘procedure’. However, doctors refused to undertake the ‘procedure’, knowing fully well that it amounted to murder, as they were dealing with the life of a human who would be a fully-mature baby in four more weeks. The doctors informed the parents of the girl that even her life would be at risk.

The parents then allowed the hospital to conduct a caesarean and the doctors delivered a baby boy weighing 1.8 kg. Within hours, the parents of the victim and five other couples came forward to adopt the child. The baby boy was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit of the JJ Hospital as most of his organs were underdeveloped but he died 48 hours after the delivery.

Four more weeks may have made the crucial difference to the child’s life. Medical science advises even young couples not to try for a baby before the mother is 21 years old, so that the womb would be mature and in best position to conceive. This baby was born out of a criminal act of man and the trauma of the 13-year-old cannot be easily understood. She would be affected by the rape throughout her life. The aversion that her parents had towards the ‘seed of a rapist’ is also understandable.

But the Indian state, the custodian of every defenceless Indian, spoke up for the abandoned baby and argued in the Supreme Court against abortion of the foetus as it was too late for termination of pregnancy.

Surely, there are adoption centres in the country that could have taken care of the child if the victim was allowed to complete her pregnancy, with the wait being only a maximum of 8 more weeks. Unfortunately, everyone in position of responsibility ignored expert medical advice.

Contrast this with a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra asking Kerala’s Attingal Municipality, earlier this year, to explain the alleged killing of stray dogs in its jurisdiction by a local group, shortly after a woman was attacked and killed by stray dogs in the district.

While the unorganised public raised a hue and cry over the killing of a woman, stray dogs had an eminent counsel in Prashant Bhushan, hired by an animal activist, to file a contempt petition against a ‘dog eradication group’ and the municipality. While animal welfare is something humans should be taking care of, it cannot be at the cost of human existence. The unhindered growth of stray dogs ever since culling has been banned is like a ticking bomb which will wreak unimaginable havoc in India sooner than later.

A Chief Minister spends crores of taxpayers’ money on animal shelters when children in his state-run hospitals die for want of basic facilities. The question is about giving priority to human life and existence above anything else. We celebrate the right to privacy but are not even aware every other right comes after right to human life, including the life of unborn defenceless babies , whatever medical name we give them.

Parochial Priorities

Three years after we first heard someone bragging about bullet trains whizzing across the country, we finally have a foundation stone for it in Ahmedabad. The line to Mumbai will cost Rs 1.08 lakh crore by today’s estimates.

I guess more and more people are used to such figures since Vinod Rai came up with a presumptive theory on what the nation lost by not auctioning a band of its airwaves. However, such a figure does not come easily to my mind, despite being one of the better maths students in my class.

But I could never imagine even five years ago that we would have a Prime Minister with no qualms in promoting just his own state over 28 others. Remember the days when Narasimha Rao made a habit of speaking only in Hindi despite knowing 15 other languages? Remember the I-Day speech in 1996, when Deve Gowda mumbled and stuttered in Hindi at the ramparts of the Red Fort?

These men were perhaps conscious that they could be derogatorily called ‘Madrasis’ if they did not speak India’s most-spoken language. Notwithstanding the false ‘national status’ given to Hindi, their idea was to gel with a larger population of the country, apart from those from the home state who anyway would be more supportive and proud of having a PM from their state.

Narendra Modi has no such qualms. When Chinese Premier Xi came calling a few years ago, he was on the swing with him on the Sabarmati river front, even when the People’s Liberation Army was making incursions on the border. Now Modi has become the tour guide for Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in his home state. The Japanese PM’s entire visit to India will happen not in the national capital but in and around Gujarat’s capital.

The Rs 1.08 lakh crore (without accounting cost escalation and interest payment) for the bullet train is quite exorbitant and one wonders whether India needs it. Even if the answer is yes, on what basis has it been decided that the bullet trains should ply between Ahmedabad and Mumbai? If there is only a single bullet train corridor, should it not be between the country’s capital, New Delhi, and its financial capital, Mumbai? Winning assembly election in one’s home state can be an important priority for a PM but I find it appalling that Modi is behaving like he is just the PM of Gujarat.

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 18th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 38)