A day after The Indian Express reported on a circular issued by the MP government that male health workers would lose their salaries and face retirement if they failed to get at least one man for sterilisation, the state withdrew the directive while describing it as “a mistake”.
The state government removed Chhavi Bharadwaj, the state’s National Health Mission (NHM) director who issued the circular, and attached her to the Secretariat as officer on special duty till further orders. The 2008-batch IAS officer is currently attending a mid-career training course.
Friday’s move came after the Opposition BJP slammed the circular and asked if it was “part-2 of the Congress’s Emergency’’ in a reference to the aggressive family planning programme conducted by the central government of that time.
State Public Relations and Law Minister P C Sharma blamed the circular on “a mistake by officials’’ and said it has been revoked with immediate effect on orders from Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
The Chief Minister’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja said no target had been fixed and that MP’s National Health Mission officials periodically carry out campaigns to motivate men for sterilisation. Saluja said no punitive action will be taken against any health worker.
The February 11 circular cited the National Family Health Survey-4 report, which said that only 0.5 per cent men were opting for sterilisation in the state, and asked top district officials to identify male workers with “zero work output’’ and apply the “no work no pay’’ principle if they don’t log at least one case in the 2019-20 period.
“Is there an undeclared Emergency in Madhya Pradesh? Is it part-2 of the Congress’s Emergency? The government should act if MPHWs (male multi-purpose health workers) are found wanting in their work but the decision to stop their salary and hand down compulsory retirement is dictatorship,’’ said former Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
BJP MLA Rameshwar Sharma added a communal twist to the issue. “If your concerns about population are genuine, such measures should apply to everyone irrespective of caste or religion. You should appeal to even Muslims to restrict their families. It should not happen that Hindus remain at two and Muslims multiply from five to 25,’’ he said.
He said it would be “dictatorial to drag people against their wishes and force them” to go under the scalpel. Sharma said that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, whose government had imposed the Emergency in 1975, used to call Kamal Nath her “third son”.
Former state BJP chief and Jabalpur Lok Sabha member Rakesh Singh said the government was “becoming a laughing stock because it issues an order one day and revokes it another day”.
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