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India: Joint Memorandum on Deaths and serious health consequences for women following sterilisation procedures in Chhattisgarh

21 November 2014

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Shri Dr Raman Singh,
Chief Minister,
Chief Minister’s Office
Civil Line, Raipur
Chhattisgarh – 492 001

17 November 2014

Subject: Deaths and serious health consequences for women following sterilisation procedures in Chhattisgarh

Shri Dr Raman Singh,

We, Health networks, Coalitions, Women’s Groups and concerned citizens, are deeply shocked at the negligence of the Health Department, Government of Chhattisgarh that has led to the deaths of 16 women and the critical condition of 47 other women following procedures of laparoscopic sterilisation in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh.

As you are aware that these deaths and morbidities are evidently a result of a botched-up sterilization operation camp organized by the Department of Health and conducted in the premises of a non functioning and abandoned private hospital under the National Family Planning Programme in Takhatpur Block of Bilaspur District on 8 November 2014. Horrifically, during this camp, 83 women were subject to surgeries in a short span of 5 hours. Those who have died—predominantly Dalit, tribal, and OBC women—are victims of the worst violation of their reproductive and health rights, and have left behind shattered families and young children.

This tragedy raises grave questions about the unsafe, unhygienic conditions and the slipshod attitude with which these operations were conducted. Moreover, the women who are presently critical continue to get treatment in inadequate conditions, exposing them to further risks and danger.

The surgeries were conducted in complete violation of the Supreme Court Orders (Ramakant Rai Vs Govt. of India, 2005 and Devika Biswas Vs Govt. of India, 2012). These orders instruct that a maximum of 30 operations can be conducted in a day with 2 separate laparoscopes only in government facilities. Also, one doctor cannot do more than 10 sterilizations in one day. Despite this, a single surgeon in Chhattisgarh performed about three times the permissible number of surgeries (83) in less than 5 hours in a private hospital which has reportedly remained closed for 15 years. a blatant and complete violation of standard protocols.

The announcement of Rs 4 lakh compensation and suspension of officials (Director–Health Services; State Family Planning Nodal Officer; BMO,Takhatpur; the operating Surgeon; and Bilaspur CMHO) are not adequate to ensure that such incidents will not happen again. The systemic failures which led to this incident need to be addressed.

While understanding the specific lapses in the way the sterilisation camp in Chhattisgarh was organised, one should not forget the role played by the misguided and dangerous policies and practices of the governments in the area of family planning services. Such ‘Camps’ (euphemistically called ‘fixed day static’ camps) are routinely organised in many States tin the country in an irresponsible manner. Health providers in many parts of India, confess that they are under pressure to fulfil unwritten targets coming from the top.

The state still focuses on permanent methods of family planning rather than temporary methods. In addition to this, the two-child norm significantly contributes to the pressures for sterilisation. All this despite the Government of India’s promises of ‘Repositioning Family Planning’ – to move away from permanent methods to spacing methods, and to increasing access to safe and effective contraceptives.

This incident must be declared an emergency, and we demand that:

-* Immediate responsibility must be fixed in terms of criminal negligence not only on the medical team which performed the operations, but also in identifying higher officials of the state who sanctioned this particular camp.

  • A proper epidemiologically-sound investigation into this incident should be carried out. A three-member probe team has been constituted but these members are a part of the state, which signals a serious conflict of interest and thus, there should be an independent inquiry committee.
  • Further deaths and damage should be minimized. It must be ensured that the technically most competent medical care is provided to the women to avoid further deaths.
  • The ‘camp method’ of sterilization needs to be stopped with immediate effect as quality of care is seriously compromised in mass sterilization programme to meet earmarked targets. Instead, sterilization should be provided as a service through strengthened basic primary health care services.
  • Women, adolescents and men need to be provided with safe choices for contraception. Emphasis should also be placed on male sterilization such as vasectomy, which involves comparatively lesser health risks.
  • Quality of contraceptive services, including counseling, has to be monitored both from within the system and from outside through community monitoring.
  • The family planning programme needs upheaval and a re-analysis, that centre-stages the reproductive and health rights of women.

    Endorsed By
    1. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
    2. Sama Resource Group for Women and Health
    3. CommonHealth
    4. National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights
    5. Medico Friend Circle
    6. Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes (CEHAT)
    7. Saheli
    8. North East Network
    9. Manasi Swasthya Sansthan
    10. Muslim Womens Forum
    11. Nirantar
    12. Sadhbhavana Trust
    13. Vanangana
    14. Sahiyar Stree Sanghtan
    15. National Alliance for Peoples Movements (NAPM)
    16. SOPPECOM
    17. Olakh
    18. SANGRAM
    19. Queer Feminist India Reclaim the Night
    20. Jagori
    21. LABIA
    22. Forum Against Oppression of Women
    23. Prayas
    24. AIDWA
    25. Oxfam India
    26. Centre for Health and Social Justice
    27. Partners Law In Development
    28. AIPWA
    29. AKL KA DHABA Collective
    30 . National Federation of Indian Women
    31. PWESCR
    32. Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh
    33. Bhopal Group for Information and Action
    34. Dr Kavita Panjabi
    35. Prof Gita Sen
    36. Prof Uma Chakravarthy
    37. Admiral L Ramdas
    38. Lalita Ramdas
    39. Prof Ilina Sen
    40. Rajashri Das Gupta
    41. Dr Veena R Poonacha, SNDT Women’s University
    42. Shahida Murtaza
    43. Rachana Johri , AUD
    44. Neeraja Ved Malik
    45. Nandini Rao
    46. Anuradha
    47. Farah Naqvi, Journalist
    48. Sadhana Arya
    49. Kalyani Menon Sen
    50. Surabhi Sharma
    51. Juhi Jain
    52. Ayesha Kidwai
    53. Radhika Desai
    54. Poulomi Pal
    55. Ramlath Kavil
    56. Supriya Madangarli
    57. Amrita Shodhan
    58. Geetanjali Gangoli
    59. Shreya Ila Anasuya
    60. Lata PM
    61. Vasudha Mohanka
    62. Prof Vibhuti Patel
    63. Runu Chakraborty
    64. Swati Sheshadri
    65. Sumi Krishna
    66. Prof Mohan Rao
    67. Dr Amar Jesani
    68. Dr Dhruv Mankad
    69. Dr Veena Shatrugna
    70. Paromita Vohra
    71. Dr Joe Varghese
    72. Dr Bijoya Roy
    73. Sulakshana Nandi
    74. Indira Chakravarthi
    75. Ravi Duggal
    76. R. Srivatsan
    77. Kiran Shaheen
    78. Lata Singh
    79. Dr Sunil Kaul
    80. Sandhya Srinivasan
    81. Bindhulakshmi TISS
    82. Dr Mira Shiva
    83. Nandita Gandhi
    84. Roshmi Goswami
    85. Janaki Abraham
    86. Amrita Nundy
    87. Dr Hazel D’Lima, Retired Prinicipal, Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work
    88. Astrid Lobo
    89. Dr Kaveri RI, WSS
    90. Dr Padmini Swaminathan
    91. S. Srinivasan LOCOST
    92. Kamla Bhasin
    93. Soma KP
    94 Jarjum Ete, APWWS
    95. Dr Anita Ghai
    96. Rohini Hensman

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