A general strike has been called by India’s main opposition party in central Chhattisgarh state after 13 women died after failed sterilisation surgery at a health camp run by the state.
The tubectomy operations resulted in 60 women being admitted to hospital, of which 20 are in a critical condition. A team of doctors from Delhi, the capital city, are being flown out to help.
Due to the huge population in the country, health camps are placed throughout India.
An inquiry has been ordered into the deaths by the Chhattisgarh government, with the Chief Minister, Raman Singh, saying that it appears that the problem was due to negligence. The families of the victims have each been promised compensation of around $6600 (£4150).
The incident has resulted in the suspension of four senior health officials and an official complaint has been lodged against the surgeon who performed the surgical procedures.
The strike has called for the resignation of the chief minister, as well as the health minister, Amar Agrawal.
The procedure was done on 83 women in Pendari village in the Bilaspur district. Government rules state that a surgeon is only allowed to perform 35 operations in one day.
Reports from the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences in Bilaspur state that when the women were admitted to the facility, their blood pressure had declined drastically and they were vomiting continuously. According to the doctors, their conditions fluctuated rapidly and it was difficult to say if they were out of the danger zone.
The health officials in Chhattisgarh have denied responsibility for the deaths, but suggested that it could be due to medics being placed under pressure to perform too many of these procedures in a short space of time.
Preliminary examinations indicated that the deaths were caused by infection or shock due to blood loss. However, health officials have stated that the official cause of death will only be known after post-mortem reports are made available.
Bungled sterilisation operations are not a new event in India.
When a woman is sterilised, her fallopian tubes, which transport eggs to the womb from the ovaries, are sealed. This is achieved by using clamps, clips or by tying off and cutting the tube, to prevent the sperm and egg meeting. This is a straightforward and effective procedure when done property, but it carries risks. A general anaesthetic is required and there is danger of damage to other organs during the surgical procedure. The procedure may result in infection and excessive bleeding.
During January 2012 in Bihar state, three males were arrested for operating on 53 women over the course of two hours. They had performed the operations in a field and did not make use of anaesthesia.
Family planning has been promoted by Indian authorities for several decades in a bid to reduce the population. The population of India amounted to 1.2 billion after the 2011 census and this places the country on course to pass China as the most population country by 2030.
Sterilisation camps are a frequent occurrence where mass male vasectomies or female tubectomies are done. In some of the states, health workers are rewarded financially for each person they accompany to the clinic for sterilisation.
According to reports, the females each received $10 at the Bilaspur district camp.
Image Credit: Salvatore Barbera