Meanwhile, the doctor who carried out the sterilization of 83
women in less than three hours at a hospital in the eastern state of
Chhattisgarh denied reports the equipment he used was rusty or dirty
and blamed adulterated medicines for the tragedy.
"I am not the culprit. I have been made (a) scapegoat. It is the
administration which is responsible for this incident," Dr. R.K.
Gupta told Reuters in a dimly lit police hostel room after being
taken into custody on Wednesday night.
Gupta said health workers gave the women ciprofloxacin, a commonly
prescribed antibiotic, and the painkiller ibuprofen after their
operations, which were conducted in a grimy room of an unused
private hospital in a village called Pandari.
Thirteen have died and scores are in hospital. Some of the sick
women were operated on by another doctor at a second camp, which
Gupta said was evidence he was not to blame.
The government of Chhattisgarh, one of India's poorest states,
banned medicines used at Gupta's sterilization camp, including
Indian-made brands of ciprofloxacin and ibuprofen.
"We have stopped the sale and distribution of all the medicines that
were used in the camp," state Chief Minister Raman Singh said,
adding that preliminary investigations indicated that sub-standard
drugs had been administered.
"Owners of the companies that were responsible for the sale of drugs
have been summoned. They will all be questioned and we have sealed
their factories," he told reporters.
India is the world's top sterilizer of women, and efforts to rein in
population growth have been described as the most draconian after
China. Indian birth rates fell in recent decades, but population
growth is among the world's fastest.
With more than four million Indians sterilized every year, a system
of quotas encourages officials and doctors to cut corners, activists
Rights groups say India's sterilization program is coercive because
ill-educated women are often offered money to accept surgery without
knowing the full risks. State government officials who run the
program are pressed to meet quotas.
"Access to information, informed consent, and quality of services
are often sacrificed by this target-driven approach," Human Rights
Watch said in a statement.
Lalit Mohan Pant, a surgeon who claims to have carried out the
highest number of sterilizations in the world, defended the use of
quotas as necessary to motivate government employees.
Pant, who lives and works in central India, holds the record for
sterilizing 816 people in one day and says he has sterilized more
than 330,000 patients during his career, helping prevent, by his
estimate, the births of almost one million Indians.
"I am doing god's work," Pant told Reuters.
[to top of second column]
NINETY OPERATIONS A DAY
Gupta, who says he has conducted more than 50,000 female
sterilizations, faces charges of causing death by negligence.
Visibly upset, he said it was the government's duty to control the
numbers turning up at the family-planning camp.
"If they kept in
that place 83 women, it is my moral responsibility to operate on all
the women," said Gupta, who was awarded a state honor 10 years ago
for his sterilization work.
Gupta said he generally took between two and five minutes on each
operation, but gave his assistants time to clean scalpels.
"They are dipped in spirit after an operation and then re-used. If I
feel it is not working, well, I change it. I do about 10 operations
with the same knife," he said.
Protocols state doctors should spend at least 15 minutes on each
operation and perform a maximum of 30 in a day. Several doctors told
Reuters it was common to perform up to 90 sterilizations a day,
leaving little time to maintain hygiene.
Gupta said it was the responsibility of the government to clean the
operating room, which police say was filthy, hung with cobwebs and
littered with bloodied sheets after last Saturday's operations.
The room was sealed when a Reuters correspondent visited the
hospital on Thursday. Black mattresses and a few stretchers were
visible through a broken window. Outside there were piles of medical
waste including used syringes and blood-stained cotton swabs.
Women who survived the operation said they had been promised 600
rupees ($10), but several interviewed said they received less than
that or nothing at all.
Mangli Bai, who was recovering on a drip at a nearby hospital, said
she was given 230 rupees. "The health worker duped us, saying the
rest was for photocopying and conveyance."
(Additional reporting by Rupam Jain Nair and Andrew MacAskill in New
Delhi and Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar; Writing by John Chalmers;
Editing by Mike Collett-White)
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