Cry, baby, cry

A premature death seems in store for the "cradle baby scheme" launched with much fanfare by Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha last October, following reports of female infanticide in Salem. This is because between March 23 and April 24, of the 51 babies cared for under the scheme at the Mohan Kumaramangalam hospital, 11 have died within two months of birth. The hospital dean, R Veerabahu, contends the babies died of natural causes such as low weight because of premature birth, congenital defects such as icthyosis (waxing of the skin), improperly cut umbilical cord, intense heat, dehydration, diarrhoea caused by a lack of breast-feeding and infections.

The remaining 39 babies, Veerabahu says, have been entrusted to child care centres in the state. Refuting charges of neglect, Veerabahu disclosed there is a separate cell now at the hospital for round-the-clock care of the infants.