“The biggest challenge for a doctor is to tell relatives that a patient has died. For me, it was equally difficult to tell families that they’d had a daughter,” says Dr Ganesh Rakh.
Sadly, even though it may come as a shock to many a progressive thinker, Dr Rakh’s situation is way more common than we’d like it to be.
We live in times that still witness antenatal sex screening and female foeticide, infanticide and discrimination at every level that the surviving girl child continues to live at. Social evils like these have managed to drive the sex ratio down from 976 per 1000 in 1961 to 914 in 2011.
I wonder if all the urbanisation and education, modernity and ‘upliftment’ is doing any good to cause? Well, it is, even if through the hands of very few people.
Dr Ganesh Rakh is one such person.
He established a small hospital in Pune in the year 2007. Disappointment ensued for him with the observation that the kin of every pregnant woman who came in to deliver, would hope for a male child.
“They would celebrate and distribute sweets if a male child was born, but if a girl was born, the relatives would leave the hospital, the mother would cry, and the families would ask for a discount. They would be so disappointed.
“Many told me that they had taken treatment to ensure the birth of a male child. I was surprised, as I wasn’t aware of any such treatment. But they spoke about consulting a holy man, or would talk of putting some medicine into the mother’s nostril to ensure she delivered a boy.”
They asked for a discount? Well, he responded by charging them nothing.
On 3 January 2012, Dr Rakh began his own “crusade” – by launching the Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan (which translates from Marathi into “campaign to save the girl child”).
“I decided I would not charge any fee if a girl was born. Also, since a son’s birth was celebrated by the family, we decided we [at the hospital] would celebrate a daughter’s birth.”
Dr Ganesh Rakh attributes his choice of a career to circumstances; his father worked as a porter in the grain market and his mother, as a domestic help. Surprisingly or not, he initially wished to become a wrestler.
The decision to waive off the fee for the delivery of girl children was a tough one and met with predictable opposition within the family, but his father motivated him.
Recently, he contacted many doctors all over the country requesting them to conduct at least one delivery for free. It yielded.
“I want to change attitudes – of people, doctors. The day people start celebrating a daughter’s birth, I’ll start charging my fee again. Otherwise, how will I run my hospital?” he asks.
We shall wait for the day that happens. Also because we want to see gems like Dr Ganesh Rakh rewarded.