Newborn baby
[REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGE] The Bangalore Police have located a two-day old infant girl after she went missing from the hospital on Thursday.Creative Commons/matsuyuki

A number of vaidyas (practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine) at a herb mela (fair) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, claimed to have medicines that would change the gender of a child when it is still inside the mother's womb.

Ironically, the claims were made at the fair organised by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led Madhya Pradesh government, which started an initiative to save "the girl child for a healthy gender balance in the society". The initiative, Beti Bachao Abhiyan, was launched "under the personal stewardship of the Chief Minister".

A Hindustan Times reporter, disguised as a patient, went to the ayurvedic practitioners at the fair and found out that they were selling medicines that "had the power to change the girl child into a boy in mother's womb".

"Yes this is possible. I would place a flower on the palm of the woman who wants a son and that would produce the desired result," a female vaidya from Kanpur said.

When the reporter approached another vaidya, he asked her to contact him over the phone and not in the fair. During the telephonic conversation, vaidya Ramdin Shahu asked the reporter to buy an ayurvedic medicine – "Shivling" seeds and powder – from his shop 'Amleshwar Jadi Booti Kendra' for Rs 1,100.

Shahu also advised the reporter to take the medicines with milk after performing a puja. 

Mohd Firoz Akhtar from Himganga Herbal, Satish Bharti from Vaishnav Aaushadhi Sansthan and a vaidya from Anandeshwar Gram Seva Samiti are among others who made similar claims, according to Hindustan Times

Their claims were proven baseless by Ayurveda expert Dr Umesh Shukla, who said that no medicine in Ayurveda "can change the gender of the baby".

Meanwhile, the government has claimed that the vaidyas who made such promises must be some "quacks".

"It is not possible that vaidyas at the fair are making these claims... Perhaps some quacks are wandering around there and making such assertions," forest minister Gaurishankar Shejwar said.