“A daughter is one of the most beautiful gifts this world has to give”

Laurel Atherton

He was born and brought up in a poor family. His father was a laborer at Market Yard and did not have money for his education. He did well in studies and supported it through government scholarships. Struggling against all odds he completed his BAMS and finally MD. This was no small achievement, but there is something else which made him larger than life. Moved by the increasing incidences of female feticide, and gender discrimination,   he kicked off a unique initiative on January 3, 2012, to waive off complete delivery charges if a girl child is born. The birth of a girl child is celebrated in this hospital by not only distributing sweets but also by treating the mother and the child for free.

It is my privilege to present before you, Dr Ganesh Rakh, MD, who runs the 24-bed multispecialty hospital located behind the Amanora Park Township in Pune.  Following the Beed female infanticide cases, he stopped charging fees to deliver a girl child. He explains why he decided to waive the Rs. 20,000 fees, that would usually be charged for a delivery. The Medicare Multi specialty Hospital in Hadapsar completed one year of this special service. The initiative was launched on the occasion of Savitribai Phule birth anniversary on January 3, 2012.Till 2013, the hospital has given free treatment to 135 women and their newborn girls.” I wanted to give back in some ways to society,” Rakh said.

Dr Ganesh Rakh

Usually,Rakh said, family members cry in the hospital after hearing the news of the birth of a baby girl. “Then they start arguing among themselves over the footing of the hospitalization and medicines bills. It was very painful. I decided to give it a full stop and decided to not charge any fees for the girl child’s birth in my hospital,” he said. For first three months,Rakh said, he bore the cost of anesthesia and fees of the doctors.Slowly,other doctors also joined him  and they too decided not to charge for the girl child’s deliveries in the hospital.Dr Iqbal Shaikh and Dr Anil Chavan are not charging anything for the past nine months, he said.

When asked how the finances of the hospitals have been affected following this decision, Dr Rakh said it is a multi-specialty hospital. They do not feel the pinch of these free treatments. About 22 deliveries take place in the hospital every month and half of them involve the girl child. I do not mind for not charging them. It gives me immense satisfaction. At the same time, it is shocking that doctors are equally responsible, along with the family members, for female foeticides.It cannot be done without the help of doctors, he said.

He started as a lone ranger about two years ago and today nearly 3,000 doctors from the interiors of Maharashtra are with him fighting social biases and prejudices against girl child. Maharashtra has a high incidence rate of female feticide and a dismal sex ratio. The arrest of the doctor couple in Beed blew the lid on the impunity with which doctors aided large scale female foeticide.Village heads, other medicos doing their bit to take Dr Ganesh Rakh’s initiative forward. However, this act of Rakh has now snowballed into a social movement of sorts, an effect that even he didn’t foresee. “After reading media reports about my work, I was contacted by nearly 17-18 gram panchayats and hundreds of doctors who have not only promised to stop sex determination tests and abortions but welcome girl children by motivating families,” said Rakh.

Arjun Buddhwant, sarpanch of Karadwadi village in Ahmednagar district, said, “We held special village meetings and invited Dr Rakh to talk about saving girl children. We also resolved to monitor pregnant women and report to the police if any villager indulges in female feticide. “In Solapur district, sarpanch Vinod Kekan of Vanjarwadi village in Karmala taluka has taken up cause since January 26, 2014. “We announced a prize of Rs10, 000 to any person who gives information or helps to stop female feticide.” I had seen the interview of Dr Rakh and got inspired by it. We decided if one man can do it, why not the entire village?” said Kekan.Besides, many doctors such as Dr Pravin Dungarvar, who runs Anand Hospital at Kunjirwadi in Haveli taluka, got inspired by Dr Rakh’s initiative.

“Though it is not possible for me to completely waive off the charges, I saw his work and decided to do my bit too. Hence, since the last few weeks, I have started charging half the amount of a normal bill if a girl child is born at the hospital,” Dr Dungarvar said.

Talking over the phone from Pune, Dr Rakh told that” female foeticide is rampant because regressive social norms are not only anti-women but are even anti-girl child. As a medical professional I have seen the torture that a mother undergoes when she comes to know that she has delivered a girl.” It was this mental trauma of the mother and the bias that a girl child faces even as she opens her eyes in the world, which made him take a decision to waive off all maternity fees if the child born was a female. “Over the years I have been noticing this demeaning and degenerate behavior. It is quite disturbing. Initially he received a luke-warm response from his gynecologists and pediatricians. “I told them the hospital will bear the expenses of neo-natal care, they were quite skeptical whether I would be able to run the hospital in such a manner,” he added.

But the impact of the emotional trauma of the about-to deliver woman was too deep on his psyche “The toughest job in a hospital is to convey the news of the death of a patient to their relatives. I found that to convey the news of the birth of a girl child was just as tough,” Dr Rakh said. “I used to see that when a baby boy was born, the family celebrated the moment and willingly paid the hospital bill. But unfortunately, when a girl was born, the relatives would walk off. They would make grim faces and not take proper care of the new-born baby and her mother. There were even fights among the family members about paying the hospital bill if a girl was born,” Dr Rakh remarked.

“Telling the relatives that a girl was born was like informing them of sad news. All this deeply pained me and I decided I will not charge for the deliveries of the girl child. After some time, my entire staff supported me by not taking their fees for this cause. This is my way of fighting the problem of female foeticide,” Dr Rakh stated. Even other doctors see it every day in maternity wards of hospitals. The tension on the pregnant woman for nine months is so severe and acute that you can actually see it in the fluctuations of her hemoglobin and blood pressure.”Dr Rakh’s silent efforts and persistence towards altruistic goals won over other doctors and soon they also decided to join hands with him. “After the word trickled out, my batch-mates and doctors working in districts like Beed, Ahmednagar, Solapur and other interiors wrote to me and said that they will stop carrying out procedures like indiscriminate sex-determination tests or unwarranted medical termination of pregnancy. And the numbers of doctors in this long haul is growing every day.”

Doctors like Ganesh Rakh are a rare breed; they are angels spreading happiness everywhere. No national or international award can be befitting enough for the great work he is doing. The day is not far off when people like Dr Rakh will be able to change the mind set of people, and make this world a better place to live in .May his tribe increase!

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