Chhattisgarh sterilisation tragedy: Despite deaths, 26 more tubectomies were done in one hour in another camp

Officials suspect non-sterilised equipment, spurious drugs; law flouted as women of protected tribe also operated upon.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Bilaspur | Updated: November 13, 2014 9:12 am
The grieving mother and sister of Chaiti Bai, a member of the protected Baiga tribe. The grieving mother and sister of Chaiti Bai, a member of the protected Baiga tribe.

Even as the women who underwent laparoscopic tubectomies in Takhatpur reported complications and were admitted to hospital on Sunday, the government went ahead with another sterilisation camp in Gaurela hospital of Bilaspur on Monday. If 83 women were operated upon in five hours in Takhatpur, 26 tubectomies were done in an hour in Gaurela — about one every two minutes.

One woman who was at the Gaurela camp died on Wednesday, while at least 20 have reported post-surgery complications. Fifteen were brought to the Bilaspur district headquarters today.

The woman who died has been identified as Chaiti Bai, a Baiga — a protected tribe. With their population showing a dip over the years, the state government has banned the sterilisation of members of this tribe, who are primarily forest dwellers. Several schemes worth crores are being run for their welfare.

Yet, Chaiti was among the women taken to the sterilisation camp. At least one more Baiga woman, Mangli Bai, who also underwent the operation in Gaurela, is reported to be critical.

“I don’t know anything about the operation. Mujhe kya pata usne kyon karvaya (I don’t know why she did it),” said Chaiti’s sister, Lalli Bai. Their mother, Nan Bail, stood outside the mortuary of the Bilaspur district hospital with her granddaughter crying in her arms. They were waiting for the body, so that they could make the long journey home — their village of Dhanauli is about 150 kilometres away. Chaiti’s husband, Budh Singh, was waiting at the village with their other daughter.

As was the case with the Takhatpur surgeries, the two women did not know about the operation. They said someone had persuaded Chaiti to go to the camp.

Meanwhile, the Takhatpur death toll increased to 13 on Wednesday, as one more woman, Shiv Kumari, died at a Bilaspur hospital. Nearly 50 women are still admitted in Bilaspur hospitals, and over 20 are reported to be critical.

Taking suo moto cognizance of the incident, the Chhattisgarh High Court on Wednesday asked the state government to file a detailed report within 10 days. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also issued a notice to the state government directing it to file a report within two weeks. The Supreme Court, however, refused to take suo motu cognizance, saying “the Chief Minister has taken up the issue with the Prime Minister”.

With their condition showing little change even after over 48 hours of intensive care, the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences, where many of these women have been admitted, has now decided to examine the matter afresh.

“The matter is now turning very complicated. Earlier, we thought it was a case of faulty procedure that caused septicemia and subsequent deaths. But now it seems that septicemia alone cannot cause so many deaths and severe illness to almost all of them,” said Dr Yogendra Badgahiya, head of Department of Community Medicine, CIMS. Badgahiya will head an interdisciplinary committee of doctors to examine these women afresh.

Suspecting spurious drugs, he said: “All these women showed similar symptoms within hours of taking the two post-surgery drugs. We will also examine whether it was a case of spurious drugs.” The women were given two medicines after the operation — Brufen and Ciprofloxacin.

The Chhattisgarh government on Wednesday banned six medicines that were used during the operations. “The drugs were found to be of suspicious quality,” said a government statement, adding that the samples were being sent to the central drug laboratory in Kolkata.

A team of four doctors from AIIMS also visited Bilaspur today. They spent a few hours at the hospitals and said they were “satisfied” with the arrangements for patients.

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