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Archives for : April2018

Open Letter to Health Minister – More than 100 activists condemn the content animation-videos of NHM and PCPNDT Cell




Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare,
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,
Nirman Bhavan, Maulana Azad Road,
New Delhi 110 011


Date: 29 March 2018

Subject:  Request urgent attention to videos credited to the NHM and PC&PNDT cell Rajasthan for review and withdrawal.

    Dear Shri J.P Naddaji,

We, the concerned health networks, women’s groups, civil society organizations and individuals would like to draw your urgent attention to the two videos titled ‘Daughters are Precious’ and ‘Community Engagement for Saving Daughters in Rajasthan’ that are available online and bear the logo of the National Health Mission (NHM) and include credits to the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) cell of the National Health Mission, Rajasthan.


We strongly condemn the content of these animation-videos, which are deplorable and extremely anti-abortion in their content. We urge you to ensure that these videos are immediately withdrawn from circulation.

The videos follow the growth of the foetus over several weeks, with the text referring to the foetus as “baby” and stating developmental milestones – for example, the “baby has fingerprints”, the “baby can feel tickling”, “the baby can feel pain”, etc. The video also provides voice to the foetus who “speaks” to the mother.  The video at the point of three months into the pregnancy has the foetus saying “why are you so worried….I don’t like this doctor……..” and the accompanying text reads “At 3 months the baby is already formed; he (emphasis ours) has only to grow”. This is followed by –

“But his mother and doctor are already discussing how to KILL him”

“How are babies murdered by their own mothers, there are four ways, all are cruel and inhuman”

“Which way the baby will go, either way he will suffer”

The voice returns to say “what is this noise…. Mother, I am scared……..”

Further, the videos describe  in detail four methods (of abortion), the first method is the Vacuum Suction Method (Vacuum Aspiration Method) which is described as ‘like a vacuum cleaner cleaning up dirt, the baby comes out in little pieces!’ or ‘the baby’s body is cut up in small pieces and then taken out’ (शिशुके शरीर के छोटेछोटे टुकड़े कर बाहर निकालते हैं). The second method it describes is ‘ The Cutting Up Method’ (Dilation and Curettage) which is described as ‘the doctor just slice the baby to pieces inside the mother’ and ‘माँ के पेट के अन्दर ही शिशु को काटकर मार दिया जाता है’, the third method described is ‘The Surgical Method’ which is described as ‘the doctor takes the baby out by surgical opening in the abdomen’ and ‘शिशु को सर्जरी  के जरिये बाहर  निकाल दिया जाता है and the fourth method is ‘The Salt Method’ which is described as ‘A salt solution is injected into amniotic sac . Baby is burned to death!’ and ‘नमक के घोल को गर्भाशय मेंइंजेक्ट कर शिशु को जलाकर मार दिया जाता है’ and the video then ends with the text:  “Now you know how your baby will be killed, Will you still do it?” and “Which method will you use to kill your Daughter??????”

The videos are quite emphatically anti-abortion, the text and voice employ terms such as “killing” “murder” and the reference to the foetus as “baby”. Additionally, the content implies the “cruelty” and “inhumanity” of the mother as well as the doctor – abortion provider through a detailed, dramatic textual description and voice to describe the diverse methods used to “kill” the “baby”. Further, the text of the video implies a male foetus while the voice claims to be a “girl”.

The articulation of abortion as “killing” “murder” is extremely regressive, it stigmatizes abortion as well as judges all girls and women who access it. Thus, these messages create further barriers to access to comprehensive, safe abortion care and inevitably result in the loss of women’s health and lives.  The animation videos are undoubtedly violative of the human rights of women, their bodily autonomy, their rights to make decisions about their bodies and pregnancies.

Moreover, the videos overlook the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTPA), which provides legal sanction to terminate a pregnancy, albeit in a very limited manner and with several conditionalities. They also overlook the National Health Mission (NHM) guideline on ‘Ensuring Access to Safe Abortion and Addressing Gender Biased Sex Selection’, MoHFW 2015 (, which calls upon public health professionals and activists to “actively ensure that that over-zealous implementation of the law for one issue does not negatively impact the other”.  It acknowledges “the challenges in simultaneously addressing gender biased sex selection while protecting women’s access to safe, legal abortion services” but says that the “guidance is expected to provide information for making sustained efforts towards addressing both issues”.  The animation- videos thus violate the guidance issued the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The Rajasthan Government’s PC&PNDT Cell’s concerns about sex selection are not unfounded, given that the State has one of the worst child sex ratios in the country at 888 female children per 1000 male children (Census 2011). While the state must adopt measures to address this adverse impact of gender inequality, it must be done in a way that does not demonize girls and women, abortion service providers and medical procedures for abortion,  which continue to remain largely inaccessible.

Moreover, while awareness against discrimination and gender biased selection is necessary, there is also an urgent need to spread awareness about the legal status and information regarding the availability of comprehensive abortion care. Women, girls and even health care providers are frequently in the dark about the legal provisions under the MTPA as well as about the MoHFW guidance for access to safe abortion. Information resources and public campaigns on this are negligible as compared to those available for sex-selection.

We urge the NHM and the PC&PNDT Cell, Rajasthan to urgently review the content and public messaging and strategies against sex selection and for enabling access to safe abortion, towards ensuring that these are not biased and moralistic. We urge you to ensure that these messages and campaigns speak and act against gender based discrimination, the devaluation of girls and women in society, but not at the cost of violating girls’ and women’s autonomy and rights.

Endorsed by-

  1. Deepa Venkatachalam, Sama- Resource Group for Women and Health
  2. Prabha Nagaraja, Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI
  3. Manisha Gupte, Co-Convenor, Mahila Sarvangeen Utkarsh Mandal (MASUM), Pune
  4. Dr. Sunil Kaul, The Ant, Assam
  5. Sarojini Nadimpally, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
  6. Deepika Joshi, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chhattisgarh
  7. Dr. Shakeel Ur Rehman, Centre For Health and Resource Management (CHARM), Bihar
  8. The YP Foundation
  9. Subha Sri, Common Health
  10. Anuradha Kapoor, Swayam, Kolkata
  11. Sulakshana Nandi, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chhattisgarh
  12. Dr. Shilpa Shroff, Assistant Coordinator, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership (ASAP)
  13. Meena Seshu/ Aarthi Pai, Sangram
  14. Kiran Deshmukh, Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP )
  15. Girls Count
  16. Veena Johari, Advocate, Courtyard Attorneys
  17. Kandala Singh, Public Health Resource Network (PHRN)
  18. Renu Khanna, SAHAJ
  19. Action India, Delhi
  20. Maternal Health Rights Campaign (MHRC), Madhya Pradesh
  21. National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights (NAMHHR)
  22. Sanjeev Sinha, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samithi (BGVS)/ Jan Swasthya Abhiyan Uttar Pradesh
  23. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Forum Against Sex Selection (FASS)
  24. Gouranga Mohapatra, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Odisha
  25. Abhijit Das, Centre for Health and Social Justice (CHSJ)
  26. Dr. V Rukmini Rao, Executive Director, Gramya Resource Centre for Women, Telangana
  27. Saheli Women, Delhi
  28. R Srivatsan, Senior Fellows, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad
  29. Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali
  30. Health Watch Forum, Uttar Pradesh
  31. Mukti Bosco, Healing Fields Foundation, Hyderabad
  32. Prof. Imrana Qadeer, Delhi
  33. Farah Naqvi, Writer and Activist, Delhi
  34. Dr. Janaki  Abraham, University of Delhi
  35. Prof. Rajni Palriwala, University of Delhi
  36. Prof. Uma Chakravarti, Delhi
  37. Dr. Amar Jesani, Mumbai
  38. Prof. Mary E John, Delhi
  39. DrAnant Phadke, Pune
  40. Pro f Lakhsmi Lingam, Mumbai
  41. Prof. Rama Baru, Delhi
  42. Ravi Duggal, Mumbai
  43. Dr. Veena Shatrugna, Hyderabad
  44. Prof . Mohan Rao, Delhi
  45. Anubha Rastogi, Advocate, Mumbai
  46. Suneeta Dhar, Delhi
  47. Rosamma Thomas, Jaipur
  48. Saurav Pandey
  49. Padma Prakash, Social Activist
  50. Sumi Krishna, Bengaluru
  51. Abha Bhaiya
  52. Swarna Rajagopalan
  53. Malini Ghose, Delhi
  54. Sunita Bandewar, Pune
  55. Jashodhara Dasgupta, New Delhi
  56. Radha Holla Bhar
  57. Shruti Arora, Feminist Activist
  58. Brajaraj Sundar Ghosh
  59. Amrita Shodhan
  60. Nisha Biswas
  61. Ritu Dewan
  62. Rita Manchanda
  63. Teena Gill
  64. Pamela Philipose, Delhi
  65. Dr. Vandana Prasad, Delhi
  66. Dr Prabir Chatterjee
  67. Dr Narendra Gupta, Rajasthan
  68. Dr Sunita Bandewar, Pune
  69. Pallavi Gupta, Public Health Professional, New Delhi
  70. Indira Chakravarthi, Public Health Researcher
  71. Jahnvi Andharia, Specialist-Gender and Development
  72. Jagdish Patel, Gujarat
  73. Shahbaz Khan Shervani
  74. Manu Aggarwal, Delhi
  75. Jyoti Rajput, Udaipur
  76. Swatija Manorama, Mumbai
  77. Deeksha Singh, Delhi
  78. Dr Prabir Chatterjee
  79. Dr Narendra Gupta
  80. Dr. Nidhin Joseph
  81. Dr. Sejal Tambat.
  82. Anand Philip
  83. Nashata Hayatullah, Lucknow
  84. Padma Bhate-Deosthali
  85. Souvik Pyne
  86. Geetha Nambisan, Delhi
  87. Runu Chakraborty, Delhi
  88. Manish Kumar, Udaipur
  89. Amita Pitre, Consultant, Public Health and Gender Justice
  90. Noyana Khatoniar, Delhi
  91. Sandhya Phadke
  92. S Maya , Kerala
  93. Dr. Rina Mukherji , Journalist & Researcher, Pune
  94. Saswati Ghosh, Academic and activist
  95. Devaki Nambiar, Public Health Practitioner
  96. Subhash Mendhapurkar
  97. Gita Chadha
  98. Shewli Kumar, Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  99. Maya Philomaya, Kerala
  100. Megha Kain, Delhi
  101. Ruchi Bharagava, Delhi
  102. Rizu, Delhi
  103. Ojaswini Bakshi, Delhi
  104. Pallavi Gahlaut, Delhi

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India – Modi ne April Fool Banaya!

Jumla wasn’t the only joke Prime Minister Narendra Modi pulled on the nation. On the appointed annual day for tomfoolery, Upala Sen takes sombre stock of the many rides the nation has been taken for


It was always apparent for anyone who chose to see it for what it was. By the time the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, was done campaigning for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he had participated not only in 400-plus rallies but also 1,350 3D hologram-based interactions that were broadcast to 5,390 locations.

Now, a hologram is a three-dimensional image, created with photographic projection. A sleight of light on eye and reason. It was reported that in several remote parts of the country, when projectors beamed the image onto the darkened stage, villagers took the hologram for the man. And when the lights came on at show-end and he was nowhere to be found, it puzzled them a little. But it was nothing compared to the thrill of having such a big leader interact with their humble selves.

The BJP’s 2014 campaign was not only high on visuals but also on rhetoric, and when it came to power, it became its manner of functioning. With a year to go before the next general elections, here’s a look at some of the promises that captured the imagination of the electorate and then, in large measure, remained imagination.

Promise 1: Jobs

‘If BJP comes to power, it will provide one crore jobs.’

Narendra Modi

November 2013, at a rally in Agra

Modi had promised to create 10 million jobs every year if voted to power. There is no one way to measure this, nor any one consolidated figure, but according to a report published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd – a business and economic database and research company – in February 2018, post demonetisation, the unemployment rate continued to rise steadily. And by February end, it was at 7.1 per cent. In 2013-2014, India’s unemployment rate had been 4.9 per cent.

In the report titled “Sharp increase in unemployment rate”, Mahesh Vyas states that the estimated number of persons unemployed and actively seeking employment almost touched 31 million by February end. He writes, “The labour force shrunk by 30 million – from about 450 million before demonetisation to close to 420 million within six months of demonetisation… The labour force has still not recovered entirely.”

The government instead of owning up to the employment gap has been busy looking for new narratives to explain away the shortfall. The PM said in a television interview not long ago, “In one year, EPF [employees’ provident fund] accounts of 70 lakh youth… have been opened. Seven million new EPF accounts, doesn’t this show new employment?” In that very interview, he also made the comment about pakoda selling being a viable employment but one that would not reflect in any consolidated data.

The EPF-employment generation connect was borrowed from a paper titled “Towards a Payroll Reporting in India” that was actually making a case for creating a more foolproof measure of employment in India. Its optimistic note was recognisable in this year’s Economic Survey too, when it stated: “Notwithstanding the caveats regarding the specific numbers, the broad conclusion is likely to be robust: formal payrolls may be considerably greater than currently believed.”

And while everyone here was looking for hopeful signs, definitions, maybes and playing down the reality, China continued to keep its nose to the grindstone. Against its 2016 target of 10 million annual jobs, it created more than 13 million new jobs a year.

Promise 2: Farmers

‘You will be surprised to learn that the number of farmers who have been forced to commit suicide is more than the number of jawans who died fighting the wars.’

Narendra Modi

April 2014, in Pathankot, Punjab

In its 2014 manifesto, the BJP promised to ensure for farmers a minimum of 50 per cent profits over the cost of production. Other than that, the party spoke of adopting a National Land Use Policy, implementing farm insurance and so on and so forth.

In January 2018, NGOs ASHA-Kisan Swaraj Alliance, Jai Kisan Andolan, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha, People’s Action on Employment Guarantee, Rythu Swarajya Vedika and Swaraj India came out with the Kisan Green Paper. The report exposed how the government had reneged on its minimum support price (MSP) promise “by solemnly affirming in the Supreme Court that this formula suggested by the National Farmers’ Commission… as unworkable”.

Some of the other points the Green Paper makes are: MSP was not only not increased to the promised level, it was brought down to a level lower than what it was during the UPA regime; how the government had tried to stop state-specific bonus on select crops offered by the state governments and tried to dilute the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The Centre, it says, even made a “determined bid” to scrap the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and when it could not – owing to public opinion and the Supreme Court – it “choked the programme of adequate and timely funds”.

It makes the point that when farmers were just about recovering from a spell of droughts, the demonetisation blow left them gasping for air. And it also takes note of the fact that the debt relief burden was shifted to the states, which in turn were doing a poor job of the loan waivers announced. It reads: “This, despite the fact that much of the agrarian crisis can be attributed to Union Government’s policies.”

Last month, thousands of farmers in Maharashtra embarked on a long march demanding loan waivers and, among other things, the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which says farmers should be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production.

In full poll mode, party president Amit Shah said while campaigning in Karnataka this week, “We are often told by the opposition parties that there are rampant farmer suicides in the country but I would like to inform you that there have been BJP governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for the last 15 years and the number of farmers committing suicides in these states has been very low.”

Suicides by farmers, according to Shah, have happened mainly due to depression and personal issues.

Promise 3: Fighting Corruption

‘Mera mantra hai, na khata hoon, na khane dunga… My mantra, I won’t indulge in corruption, nor will I allow anybody else.’

Narendra Modi

May 2014, in Amethi

The main thrust of the 2014 polls was ending corruption. The UPA’s contribution to the rhetoric cannot be ignored – 2G spectrum scam (2008), Commonwealth Games scam (2010), chopper scam (2012), cash-for-vote scam (2011), Antrix-Devas scam (2011), coal scam (2012)… All through the pre-poll campaign Modi harped on his seminal identity – that of a chaiwalaas opposed to the Congress’s shehzada.

In the manifesto, the party had also promised transparency in governance. Because of all this, when the PM urged countrymen to go through with the demonetisation exercise, a lot of people decided that even if they couldn’t keep the grin, they’d bear it. A year on, even when it started to get clearer that no obvious gain had come off it – experts also pointed out that the fake currency in circulation was a tiny fraction of what had been killed – there was no chorus of complaint.

In the meantime, there surfaced allegations that a company co-owned by Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah, had grown “16,000 times” in one year. More recently, it came to light that diamantaire Nirav Modi had run out on the Punjab National Bank and the Indian taxpayer with Rs 11,000 crores. NiMo fled the country in the first week of January. Weeks later, before the scam became public, he was spotted in a group photo with the Indian PM. Before NiMo, Vijay Mallya had been allowed to slip away. Even the judiciary has not been exempt from suggestions of compromised honesty, as indicated by four Supreme Court judges.

But the biggest breach of transparency and one that makes a fool of the Indian electorate is the introduction of electoral bonds. In the 2017 budget speech, finance minister Arun Jaitley introduced this mechanism, which will legitimise anonymous donations to political parties and also open up Indian elections to foreign lobbying for the first time. And it did so by tweaking four different statutes – the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, the Representation of People Act 1951, the Income Tax Act 1961 and the Companies Act 2013 – which, because they were part of the finance bill, didn’t have to be tabled before Rajya Sabha. On one hand, Jaitley maintained: “These bonds will be bearer in character to keep the donor anonymous.” And on the other, he insisted this was going to be, “a substantial improvement in transparency”.

Promise 4: Ek Bharat 

‘Acche din aane wale hain… Good times are a coming.’

Narendra Modi

May 16, 2014, after poll victory

The BJP manifesto read: “The biggest reason for a sorry state of affairs is bad intentions on the part of those who have ruled… And this where we would show the first difference… the goal of the policies and practices would be: Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat.”

Indeed. In the past four years, BJP has done everything to lay over the plurality of India with a monolithic construct of Indianness. And all square pegs have got the message that they have to recast their old ideas and beliefs, somehow, anyhow, to fit into the round hole.

The measures have been varied. Genial suggestions: read the Vedas, practise yoga, say Bharat Mata ki Jai or else… Blanket diktats: stand up in movie theatres when the national anthem plays or else… Rituals: convert to Hinduism or else… Brute force: venerate who we venerate or else… Rampant vigilantism in the name of cow protection has claimed many lives and left millions of cattle-farmers fear-struck. According to data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, since 2012, the country has witnessed 78 cow-related hate crimes and 97 per cent of these occurred since BJP assumed power. News reports suggest there were 8,000 instances of ghar wapsi or ritual conversion in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014; 53 in Jharkhand in 2017.

Post the BJP’s Tripura triumph over the Left last month, party supporters vandalised Lenin’s statue in the state triggering similar lumpen behaviour across the country. As statues of Syama Prasad Mukherjee, Vivekananda, Ambedkar and others fell, the PM, who is known for his characteristic silence off campaign trail, stirred. The PMO issued a statement that read: “Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has strongly condemned the reported incidents of vandalism in certain parts of the country and said stern action will be taken against those found guilty.”

When it comes to this party, imagery – light or stone – is serious business. You might express surprise or discomfort now, but it was always apparent for anyone who chose to see it for what it was.

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