The baby girl, whose parentage is under dispute after two newborns were swapped apparently by mistake in Jodhpur's Ummed Hospital's delivery rooms on March 25, had her first taste of mother's milk late on Monday. Luck smiled on the child after the intervention of the Rajasthan High Court.
Poonam Kanwar, wife of Chain Singh, breastfed the newborn after initial attempts by her to suckle the child were turned down by the hospital authorities. The couple are insisting on a DNA test on the girl child to establish its parentage.
The couple, hailing from Siwana in neighbouring Barmer district, were handed over a baby boy initially on March 25 night. However, the hospital staff soon took back the child to replace him with the baby girl. The couple refused to accept the explanation of the hospital authorities that the boy was mistakenly handed over to Poonam and the infant was born to Reshma Devi, wife of Sagar Ram, hailing from Wayatu, also in Barmer district.
Suo motu case
As the media highlighted the plight of the girl child and the wrangle by the couples, Justice Sandeep Mehta of the Rajasthan High Court took suo motu cognizance of the case and asked the city's Chief Judicial Magistrate to coordinate among the hospital and the concerned persons to settle the matter at the earliest and also to ensure breastfeeding for the baby girl. The court invoked the provisions of the Protection of Women [Domestic Violence] Act in connection with the case.
“Poonam Kanwar was allowed to breastfeed the baby girl last [Monday] night,” said Narendra Changani, Superintendent of Ummed Hospital. He denied reports that the hospital authorities had earlier stopped any of the mothers from feeding the infant.
Poonam has been asked to feed the infant every three to four hours.
On Tuesday, Rajlakshmi Choudhary, amicus curiae appointed by the High Court the previous day, moved an application before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate asking for directions to the hospital administration for extending all necessary facilities to Poonam and the infant girl.
After the Jodhpur Collector and Dr. Changani contacted the Delhi lab where the DNA samples have been sent, they have been reportedly promised a report in a fortnight's time.
Rajasthan Commission for Women chairperson Ladkumari Jain told The Hindu that the Commission would insist on a probe into the whole episode as the developments at the Ummed Hospital were clear symptoms of a social malady — son preference. “Both the couples are from Barmer, a district notorious for female foeticide and female infanticide,” Prof. Jain said.
“We at the Commission were also shocked at the callousness of the hospital authorities in refusing breast feeding of the baby girl. I have asked them also to probe the role of the hospital staff, the nurses, attendants and the doctors on duty in the ward that time. I have my doubts about whether the swapping of the child was a deliberate act or a mistake. In either case, the hospital staff have to be made answerable,” she asserted.