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Sterilization programs or mass murder?

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Sterilization programs or mass murder?
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In a shocking case of medical negligence, the government-run sterilization program in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh went wrong claiming the lives of 14 women.

Around 83 women had undergone laparoscopic sterilization in the region as a part of annual family planning camp that was designed to control the country’s billion plus population. The women died were all under 35 years of age and 25 of them are reportedly critical. The surgeries were conducted by a ‘doctor’ who performed the 83 surgeries in just six hours in a private abandoned hospital building in Pendra village with zero medical facilities and unhygienic conditions. The building had remained closed for months and reports also revealed that the medicines provided had passed the expiry dates. The women later had complained of severe pain in the abdomen and vomiting. The doctor, R.K.Gupta, is considered an expert in the field and was awarded by the Chief Minister on January 26 this year for conducting 50, 000 laparoscopic tubectomies. As per the government norms, a doctor should not perform more than 35 surgeries a day. Four medical officials were suspended including the Chief Medical Officer and the government has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the victims. Prime Minister Modi had expressed shock over the incident and ordered a thorough investigation into the matter.

It is not the first time forced sterilization programs are taking place in the country. There have been controversial incidents in the country’s history previously. A forced mass sterilization campaign spearheaded by Sanjay Gandhi, son of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was conducted to curb the rise in growing population. Men and women were either compelled to undergo or lured into undergoing such surgeries by promising better facilities. Several international, Human Rights and World Health agencies strongly opposed the inhumane act that denied the rights and freedom of individuals. Sterilization programs are still being performed widely, particularly in North India, resulting in several deaths from botched surgeries while many women are left bleeding.

The people belonging to impoverished classes often become vulnerable to the government demands when they are promised offers like a small amount of money, a bucket or other house hold items. Rajasthan government, two years back, had offered a Nano car for undergoing such surgeries and according to the reports, around 50, 000 people had responded. In another controversial episode, three unqualified ‘doctors’ operated upon 53 women in two hours in the Arara district of Bihar, in 2012. The surgeries were conducted in a Government school that did not have basic amenities like running water or sterilizing equipment. With increasing education and a rise in the standard of living, people nowadays are aware of the birth control measures and are adopting methods other than surgery. Despite the fact, women, particularly in rural areas, are routinely dehumanized in such unsanitary sterilization camps in the country. With yet another tragedy, it is time the government be aware of the matter with utmost concern and seriousness.

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