BJP govt forced to act against sterilisation deaths

BJP govt forced to act against sterilisation deaths

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is finding himself on the back foot over 13 sterilisation deaths even as his Health Minister Amar Agrawal has refused to resign for the tragedy.

Singh, who was asked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act immediately, has been unable to explain to the BJP higher-ups what went wrong and why his government failed to prevent the terrible tragedy.

Sources say the BJP high command may have to ask Singh to divest Agarwal of the health portfolio before the opposition makes it a big issue in Parliament when the winter session opens on November 24. A decision may be taken after the prime minister returns from abroad.

Modi is understood to have not minced words when he spoke to the chief minister from Myanmar soon after the sterilisation deaths at a government run health camp.

With Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi visiting the victims' families in Bilaspur on Saturday, the BJP top leadership is likely to press Singh to take more concrete action against those having links with the spurious medicine trade, which is now blamed for the deaths. Both the chief minister and the Health Minister have so far dismissed the Congress’ demand for their resignation, saying that won’t solve the problem. Singh has also said none held guilty after the probe would be spared. Agarwal, on the other hand, has held that the party had to decide on his removal though he accepted “moral responsibility.”

Officials not probed

The doctor who conducted the surgeries has been arrested. Though Singh said standard operating procedures for the surgery were not followed, the government has been forced to investigate the arrested doctor’s allegation that the drugs given to the women were spurious.

What is snowballing into a major controversy is the fact that, despite a previous case of supplying spurious drugs, the state government had not stopped purchase of medicines from the supplier. The supplier is said to be close to some relatives of the chief minister, party officials say.

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