Rat poison theory offered by the Chhattisgarh government to explain the sterilisation deaths is a facade, finds an investigation by Jyotsna Singh. The deaths have exposed deep flaws in India's approach to family planning
Anews of the deaths of women sterilised at a camp at Takhatpur S THE block of Bilaspur district started to filter in on November 10, officers in Chhattisgarh’s health department pro-actively called all the 83 women present at the camp to hospitals in the district headquarters. Then, news came that women who had attended other camps too were feeling unwell. Within hours, the operation to gather all the 137 women who were sterilised in four camps—one on November 8 at Nemi Chand Jain hospital in Sikri, Takhatpur, and three on November 10 in Gaurella block—was initiated. (See ` How the tragedy unfolded’ on p28).
Once the women’s health stabilised, they were sent home with a bag of goodies that included a shawl, blanket, saree, salt and a kit of toiletries for their babies. The administration began brainstorming the cause of deaths.It sought the list of medicines given to the women post-surgery in all four camps. Four drugs were common in the list—diazepam, ibuprofen, ciprofloxacin and povidine iodine. Looking at the symptoms of the affected women, they zeroed in on two drugs, namely ibuprofen and ciprofloxacin.Of these, ibuprofen tablets were manufactured in 2013 and were in circulation for some time and, therefore, considered safe.
“We found that ciprofloxacin, on the other hand, was manufactured in October 2014.This made us suspicious and we tested it,”said Ayyaj Fakirbhai Tamboli, mission director, National Rural Health Mission (nrhm), Chhattisgarh. Preliminary tests of ciprofloxacin tablets showed they were contaminated by zinc phosphide, commonly used as a rodent killer. The state government says the labs in Delhi, Nagpur and Kolkata have confirmed the presence of rat poison but it has not made the reports public. The owners of Raipur-based Mahawar Pharmaceutical Private Limited and Bilaspur-based Kavita Pharma were arrested for culpable homicide.
The culprit had been found. The poison that killed the women had been discovered.Or so it seemed.
Survivors of the tubectomies recuperating in a Bilaspur