Seven aborted foetuses were found in a canister in Karnataka’s Belagavi district on Friday, NDTV reported, citing the police. The state health department has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

The residents of Mudalagi found the foetuses near a bus stop on the outskirts of the town and informed the police, who have registered a case.

“Five-month-old embryos were found to have fetal sex detection and murdered,” said Mahesh Koni, the district health and family welfare officer. “A team of officials will be formed and [the matter will be] investigated immediately after informing the district authorities.”

Koni told The Times of India that investigators will look into the possibility of an active female foeticide racket in the district. Female foeticide refers to the selective abortion of female foetuses. Tests to determine the sex of a child are banned in India.

“The foetuses have now been shifted to the mortuary of the local government hospital,” he told the newspaper. “Soon, a forensic test will be conducted on them.”

Local MLA Balachandra Jarkiholi described the incident as a “matter of shame and a heinous act”.

He added: “I have instructed police to find out the people behind this crime. I have asked the health department to ensure such incidents do not recur.”

In 2013 too, at least 13 foetuses were found on the banks of Hiranyakeshi river in Belagavi. Anbukumar, who was the then the deputy commissioner, had launched a drive to scan all health centres, nursing homes and medical colleges in the district in view of the incident.