Op­er­a­tion cover-up

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

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

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


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