Tragedy attracts UN attention

The death of 10 women in Chhattisgarh after a mass-sterilisation camp has pushed the ruling BJP onto the back foot, as it happened in state Health Minister Amar Agarwal’s constituency.

The tragedy attracted the attention of the United Nations too. “If the facts are confirmed, a grave human tragedy has occurred,” said UN Population Fund deputy executive director Kate Gilmore.

As the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre undertook a damage-control exercise, the Congress and the Left came down heavily on the Raman Singh government, demanding the health minister's resignation.

“The government must take stern action against them. I can’t imagine how this could happen, and that too in the health minister's constituency! He must resign,” tweeted Congress leader Digvijay Singh.

“The government must take strict action against the guilty and ensure the best possible treatment and care for those still in critical condition,” said Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.  Both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi conveyed their condolences to the family members of the deceased. Agarwal, an influential BJP leader in Chhattisgarh, kept a low profile throughout the day. While his Twitter handle remained silent, he told a news agency in Bilaspur that it was a tragic accident.

“After the Emergency, we had thought that target-based family planning programmes were a thing of the past, but the state has continued to depend on targets,” said CPM leader Brinda Karat when asked about the incident, which brought into focus target-driven sterilisation camps.

“This is direct result of target orientation because regardless of the consequences to the woman, they just want to fulfil the targets. It is an indication of the extreme callousness of the authorities of that state,” she added.  Of the 10 women who died, eight have been identified as Ranjeeta, wife of Santosh Suryavanshi; Nem Bai, wife of Ramavtar Suryavanshi; Janki Bai, wife of Vidya Sagar; Rekha, wife of Jagdish; Dipti Yadav, wife of Ghanna; Sunita, wife of Ramanuj; Chandrakali, wife of Nandram and Punbai, wife of Rupchand.

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