07/06/2007, 00.00
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Baby girl survives after being buried alive by her grandfather and mother

by Nirmala Carvalho
Husband leaves wife and because the family has too many girls, the last one is buried alive in a field, but a farmer finds her driving his tractor. Female infanticide is a widespread and socially accepted practice in the more backward areas of Andhra Pradesh.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – A two-day-old baby girl was reportedly buried alive in a field about a kilometre outside the village of Oktur in the district of Mahbubnagar (Andhra Pradesh) allegedly by her grandparents because there were too many girls to be taken care of. Fortunately for her, a farmer who was going on his tractor to the field saw her hand jutting out of a sandpit and saved her.

Venkatachary, a paediatrician at Mahbubnagar District Hospital, was surprised the girl survived despite being under the pit for three to four hours but holes in the pit might have let air through.

“The baby is now active though a little dull. There are multiple abrasions on her body due to injury from sand and stones. She is very weak and weighs only 1.7 kg, but her condition is better now,”' the paediatrician said.

The baby was moved to government-run Niluofer Hospital in Hyderabad.

Police have arrested the girl’s grandfather and uncle. The newborn baby's grandfather reportedly told the police that he has already seven girls, five of who are still to be married off. He explained that the decision to kill the child was taken with the consent of Mehrunnisa, the baby’s 21-year-old mother whose husband allegedly deserted her.

Lion C Francis, former national vice president of the All India Catholic Union, told AsiaNews that in Andhra Pradesh, it is socially acceptable to wrap up an unwanted baby girl in a blanket and let her die.

Last year nearly eleven newborn baby girls were starved to death by their parents in a tribal hamlet in Ranga Reddy district, 80 km from Hyderabad. These are official figures though and the real number is probably much higher.

Among the Lambada Tribals in Cheruvu Mundali tanda (Kulkacharla mandal) female infanticide is practiced by letting the child starve to death. The same is true in Rokatigutta Tanda, Gorigadda Tanda and Nerellagadda Tanda.

Since most deliveries are done at home, villagers can claim that the babies were stillborn or premature.

A midwife from one of these remote areas said that she had delivered 11 female babies in her village but all of them ‘died’ soon after.

Meanwhile in the neighbouring state of Orissa, a judge sentenced a man to five years in prison for forcing his wife to have an abortion. She filed charges against him and her brother-in-law for torturing her and forcing her to abort her third pregnancy.

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