Arun Mitra writes about customised babies through garbh vigyan sanskar.
As per some reports, Arogya Bharti, an organisation established in November 2002, is holding workshops to prepare women to deliver 'Uttam Santati' — a perfect, 'customised child' with the purpose of making 'a strong India'. This needs to be viewed from various angles. The medical angle for its scientific correctness; the social angle for its social impact; and the political angle. Arogya Bharti claims that through giving good food and advice about the time of sexual intercourse based on planetary configurations they do shuddikaran (purification) which lead to transformation of genes and production of healthier superior babies. According to them, recitation of religious hymns helps in the birth of healthier babies. By doing this, they claim that generations to come will improve.
But the whole concept of producing uttam santati through gene transformation via changes in food habits and selection of time for sexual intercourse based on planetary configurations is without any evidence. Commenting on the issue, Dr Balbir Singh Shah, Vice President of Society of Andrology, India, said that "genes are known to undergo mutation from time to time. But that this can be done in a few weeks time through shuddhikaran does not hold true on evidence. The claim that the male's sperm and the female's egg will become free of genetic defects through shuddhikaran needs to be verified scientifically. That the time of sexual intercourse based on planetary configurations and horoscope will lead to gene transformation and the birth of tall, fair healthy baby is totally unscientific. That chanting of shlokas and mantras by the mother helps in the mental growth of the baby and eliminates labour pain and the baby will gain up to 300g more weight is only a myth".
The claim that through this exercise, Arogya Bharti has been able to ensure the birth of 450 such babies so far has to be followed up in time to come to see whether the children born in such a manner are superior to other children! There has to be an epidemiological study on the claims by comparing the results with control groups. That all this is being done under the shield of Ayurveda is exploiting people's faith in our traditional system of medicine.
The RSS-patronised Arogya Bharti says that they got this knowledge from Germany, a country which was destroyed during World War II, but was resurrected soon after. This they claim is through the birth of strong babies, which was done by the Mother of Germany. One of leading surgeons from Germany and a leading member of the German affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Dr Christopher Kreamer, whom I contacted to substantiate this claim, said that there is nothing like Mother of Germany. "Though I have never heard of this 'Mother of Germany', it was so interesting for me to hear with a right wing movement (and government) that I wanted not only to tell you that, in my eyes, this 'Mother of Germany' story is misleading. Germany's resurrection has several other reasons which are political and economic and in no way based on the concept of mother of Germany".
For various reasons, a section of people in our country will opt for male babies. The whole concept of uttam santati is patriarchal and masculine. We are already fighting hard to restore gender balance in the population. There are ample laws which prohibit sex determination tests because it is illegal and against the constitutional obligations of equality among genders, now even trans-genders. Then, how and why such a campaign is being allowed? Among the 450 super babies which the proponents of this exercise claim to have created, how many are male and how many females? This must be made public. Since many of these babies have grown by now and many of them would have attained the age of nine years, their comparison with other average children must be done.
However, such an exercise meets several objectives of some outfits to spread obscurantism, medieval ideas and myths. It is for the medical bodies, rationalist societies and right thinking people with scientific outlook to question this whole exercise. People like Mahesh Chand Sharma, now a retired Rajasthan High Court Judge, saying that female peacock gives birth, not by mating but because it licks the tears which flow out of the eyes of the peacock has to be countered outrightly. Modernity cannot be achieved through medieval ideas. The health of our people, particularly of women and children, cannot be left to be exploited by people with irrational ideas. There has to be a concerted effort to develop a healthy India through scientific outlook. We cannot let our country be again looked down upon as a country of serpents but be seen globally as a nation marching forward as a modern industrially, agriculturally educationally fast-growing country with the efforts of scientists, technocrats, workers, peasants, professionals and other sections of intelligentsia with achievements in medicine, space and nuclear science. IPA
(Dr. Arun Mitra is a leading ENT specialist based in Ludhiana. He is the Senior Vice-President of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) and presently a member of the core committee of Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare in India. Views are strictly personal.)