Sterilisations carried out under torchlight on Dalits, SC asks why


The Supreme Court today sought the stands of the Centre and various state governments on a plea alleging sterilisation surgeries on women under torchlight, in various places, specially in Bihar, in gross violation of the medical and ethical norms.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale issued notices to the Centre and various states and sought their replies within eight weeks on a public interest litigation by non-governmental organisation Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) which bought to the court's notice the alleged horrific incidents, particularly in Bihar.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel Collin Gonsalves told the bench that operations "were performed by doctors under torchlight and activists of an NGO were administering anaesthesia to the patients."

According to the NGO HRLN, a sterilisation camp was held at the Kaparfora Government Middle School at Araria in Bihar in January this year by an NGO in coordination with the State Health Society, where a private doctor used the school classroom as an operating theatre for sterilisation surgeries on at least 53 poor, Dalit women.

Devika Biswas, the activist who filed the petition said women were operated on paddy straws provided by the local villagers leaving three women bleeding severely and requiring their subsequent treatments at a private medical hospital, the NGO said in its petition.

"In clear violation of the government guidelines and the basic human rights, the doctor performed surgeries at night, under torchlight. During the two hours he was operating, the doctor did not wash his hands, change gloves, or wear a surgical gown and cap," the petition alleged.

Most of the women from the camp had to seek costly private care later, the petition alleged adding that none of the women were counselled, either before or after the surgeries.

"The horrific human rights violations extend beyond these events in Bihar," the petition added.

"After their surgeries, untrained NGO workers placed the women on straw paddy provided by the families. The doctor operated on one pregnant woman, Jitni Devi, who miscarried days after her surgery. The doctor and NGO staff left three women profusely bleeding, including Saraswati Devi, who spent 8 days recovering in the hospital," the petition stated.

"Doctors and health facilities across the county routinely flaunt the ethical and procedural guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the constitutional obligations and international norms. The Public Interest Litigation specifically outlines examples of coerced and unsafe sterilisations in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan," it claimed.

The Financial Express, 2 April, 2012, http://www.financialexpress.com/news/sterilisations-carried-out-under-torchlight-on-dalits-sc-asks-why/931637/0

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