November 16, 2014

AIDWA Condemns Deaths Due to Criminal Negligence of BJP Govt

The All India Democratic Women’s Association has issued the following statement on November 11: THE AIDWA is absolutely shocked at the death of 12 women at the hands of the health department, Chhattisgarh government and appalled at the level of negligence that has led to nearly 50 more women being hospitalised and still in serious condition. These women were participating in a family planning camp organised at a private hospital under the National Family Planning Programme, in Takhatpur Block of Bilaspur District on November 8, 2014. All of them were under 32 years of age and had put their lives and their future in the hands of the health department, which the department so negligently snatched away. It is absolutely deplorable that in complete disregard of the Supreme Court’s order, the surgeon performed nearly 83 operations in 5-6 hours. The scale of this incident clearly shows that these operations were not done in clean and sterilised conditions. The quality of drugs and other consumables also come into question. The motivation for such government programmes to be held in private sector hospitals, rather than in government ones is questionable. This is not the first time that women have been at the receiving end of the government’s pro-privatisation, pro-profit, and anti-poor policies in the last few years. In 2012 nearly 7000 women had their uteruses taken out by private hospitals within a period of 30 months in order to profit from the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana package money. From 2011 to 2013, more than 80 people lost their eyesight due to botched up cataract operations. This year in Raipur city, more than 30 people died of Hepatitis E outbreak, of which nearly half were pregnant women. All these incidents reflect the utter callousness of the government of Chhattisgarh in ensuring any kind of health for its people, especially poor and rural women. The only step that the government has taken on this incident is to announce a mere Rs Four lakh compensation for the families of the dead and suspension of the Director Health Services, State Family Planning Nodal Officer, BMO, Takhatpur, the operating Surgeon and Bilaspur CMHO. However, such incidents illustrate the systemic failures and the person responsible for taking all the critical decisions, the health minister, needs to be removed and legal action taken against him for the criminal lapse. The three-member probe team constituted to enquire about this incident are part of the government machinery itself. We fear that like in many previous cases, the enquiry will simply be an eye wash. We demand that the investigating team should include people who are not a part of the health department in Chhattisgarh, and respected experts. All the victims who are currently in serious condition should be given the best of care and it should be ensured that no further deaths occur. Such ‘camps’ keep getting organised daily in various parts of the state. The government gives unwritten targets to all its health functionaries. Sterilisations are often dependent on doctors coming from other blocks, district or the private sector. This leads to huge delays and long waiting period for the women. Many a time the ‘camp’ has to get cancelled because the doctor does not come or he/she comes only if certain number of cases arrive. All this leads to extreme harassment of the women patients. The state still focuses on the more permanent methods of family planning rather than the temporary methods and subjects especially women to such surgeries. We demand that women be provided with safe choices for contraception. The public health system has to be made to function properly, with quality so that poor people do not get exploited by the private sector. In Delhi, women belonging to AIDWA, JMS Delhi, representatives from other organisations like SAMA marched to the Chhattisgarh Bhavan in New Delhi condemning the deaths of women. The protest demonstration was addressed by Jagmati Sangwan, (general secretary, AIDWA), Sudha Sundararaman (vice president, AIDWA ), Sonia Verma, president, JMS, and Susheela from SAMA. A memorandum was submitted to the CM, Chhattisgarh, through the resident commissioner demanding the following: 1) High level investigation of the whole incident. 2) Strict action against those who are responsible for the deaths. 3) Sufficient compensation to the victim families. 4) Make the population policies free of existing gender bias.