India has always leaned heavily on sterilisation, neglecting other methods of birth control
Oasked if she knows about spacing N BEING methods like intra uterine device (iud) or contraceptive pills, Takhatpur survivor Rina Patel answered in the negative.She also said that no one counselled her at the camp about side effects and post-operation precautions after sterilisation. (See ‘Sterilisation overdrive’.)
Overemphasis on sterilisation has its roots in the policy followed by India since 1952 when it became the first nation to adopt an official family planning programme. A United Nations Advisory Mission visited India in 1965 and persuaded the government to fix targets for widespread use of iuds.The next year, the government set up a department of family planning within the health ministry. While iuds did not become popular, India embarked on a targetdriven, camp-based approach. Incentives in the form of money and goods like transistors were offered to sterilisation candidates.
The first camp was organised in 1970 in Ernakulam, Kerala, for vasectomies. Other parts of the country followed and in 1970-71, nearly 1.3 million vasectomies took place in India. During Emergency, scores of men were coerced into vasectomy. Addressing the joint conference of the Association of Physicians in India in January 1976, then prime minister Indira Gandhi said, “We must now act decisively and bring down the birth rate... Some personal rights have to be held in abeyance for the human rights of the nation.” Nearly 6.5 million men were sterilised by the end of 1977.
Gandhi had to pay a price after 1,774 sterilisation-related deaths and her party lost the elections after the Emergency. “The lesson learnt was: don’t touch the men.And then, the focus shifted to women,” says Mohan Rao, professor of public health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
The department of family planning was also renamed department of family welfare to make it sound more agreeable. Following a spurt in female sterilisations and irregularities in operations, the ministry issued guidelines for sterilisation.By the late 1990s the