An infant is being denied her mother's milk in a Jodhpur hospital while two couples are fighting over the possession of a boy child.

In a case of erroneous child swapping, two infants born in the Ummed Hospital's labour rooms on March 25 night got mixed up between two mothers and now the woman, who was first handed over the infant boy, refuses to accept the girl as her child. The hospital authorities have decided to get a DNA test done to confirm the parentage of the children beyond doubt.

Poonam Kanwar, wife of Chain Singh, was first told after delivery that hers was a boy child. And she was handed over the baby. However, after two hours the hospital staff took back the child from her saying that there had been some mistake and that the boy child was born to Reshma Devi, wife of Sagar Ram, who, too, had her delivery the same night.

Noisy protests from Chain Singh and his family members, who hail from Siwana in the neighbouring Barmer district, led the hospital authorities to hurriedly constitute a committee to look into the case.

Though after matching the blood groups of the parents and the newborn the committee reached the conclusion that the girl child belonged to Poonam and Chain Singh, the family — confounded by doubts and perhaps the desire to have a boy child — filed a complaint with the Khanda Phalsa police station against the hospital administration.

Torn between the clashes over her identity, the girl child became a victim of neglect as the hospital authorities refused to let Poonam breastfeed the child. Chain Singh said the hospital authorities were insisting on his wife giving an undertaking in writing that she accepted the baby as her own child before they allowed her to suckle the infant. “We thought it unfair not to breastfeed a week-old newborn,” Mr. Singh, a school teacher, said while remaining non-committal about accepting the baby as their own.

“The child is in good condition. We asked the mother to give it in writing that it was her child prior to breastfeeding it. There is a dispute and only after putting it on record that we can hand over the child again to her,” said Narendra Changani, superintendent of Ummed Hospital — Jodhpur's biggest mother and child care hospital.

The hospital authorities said four staff members on duty at the time of the incident have been served notices under 17 CC (dereliction of duty, etc.) of the Rajasthan Service Rules.

There are some grey areas in the episode as there have been instances in the State in the past of attendants in the labour room trying to replace a male child by a female after conniving with parents who insist on carrying back home only a boy. Sources said Reshma Devi and Sagar Ram had two girls earlier while it was Poonam's first delivery. Observers pointed out that this kind of insistence on the gender of their newborn by the couple could have been prompted by their prior knowledge of its sex — after illegally getting a gender test done during pregnancy with the help of sonography machines.

District Collector Siddarth Mahajan said the result of the DNA test would take time to come in and in the meantime a way out had to be found for the care of the newborn. Both women may have to stay at the hospital till a decision is taken.