53 women sterilized in Bihar in 2 hours by Dhananjay Mahapatra
The Guinness Book of world record would have been happy to include this feat by a surgeon on January 7 in Bihar's Araria district - 53 sterilization operations on females in two hours with the help of unqualified staff in Kaparfora Government Middle School that did not have basic amenities like running water or sterilizing equipment.
Instead, the Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Union and state governments on a PIL alleging similar cases being repeated in most states where female sterilization (minilap procedures) were outsourced to NGOs that take help of private doctors to conduct these surgeries in woefully unhygienic conditions.
Appearing for PIL petitioner Devika Biswas, a native of Araria and a health right activist, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves told a bench of Justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale that despite extensive guidelines issued by the apex court "inhuman sterilizations, particularly in rural areas, continue with reckless disregard for the lives of poor women" and cited the Bihar incident as a case study.
"In clear violation of nearly all the guidelines, government Accredited Social Health Activist under National Rural Health Mission workers recruited between 50 and 63 below poverty line, scheduled caste and other backward class women for NGO (Jai Ambe Welfare Society) sterilization camp at Government Middle School, Kaparfora, on January 7. Neither the NGO nor the surgeon conducted pre-operative tests to determine suitability of the enlisted women for sterilization," alleged Biswas, who hails from Araria and claimed to be an eye-witness.
"As a result of these operations, three women were left profusely bleeding. Another woman was operated, despite being three-month pregnant. She miscarried days after the procedure. The surgeon left immediately after operating 53 women between 8pm and 10 pm. After the surgeries, all 53 women were crying out in pain. Though they were in desperate need of medical care, no one came to assist them," she added.
Throughout India, rural women are routinely dehumanized in such unsanitary sterilization camps, she said. "Reports and fact-findings from Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh demonstrate that standards of hygiene, consent and care are routinely ignored in sterilization camps. In all cases, poor, tribal and rural women are the victims of these unsafe and illegal practices," Biswas alleged.
The PIL petitioner sought an independent inquiry by a body like National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights into incidents narrated in the petition and also into the status of implementation of the guidelines passed by the apex court in Ramakant Rai vs. Union of India. She also sought a thorough probe into the January 7 sterilization camp incident at Kaparfora School and action against the delinquents.