India sterilisation deaths: Chhattisgarh protests as toll climbs

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Media captionWomen were left on mattresses in the hospital corridor after their surgery, as Yogita Limaye reports

India's main opposition Congress party has called a general strike in central Chhattisgarh state where 13 women have now died after botched sterilisation surgery at a state-run health camp.

Sixty women remain in hospital and at least 20 are in a critical condition following the tubectomy operations.

A team of doctors from the capital, Delhi, are being flown to the state to help out with the emergency.

Health camps are staged throughout India to control its huge population.

The Chhattisgarh government has ordered an inquiry into the deaths and Chief Minister Raman Singh has said "it appears the incident occurred due to negligence" by doctors.

The victims' families, all from poor families, have each been promised a compensation of about $6,600 (£4,150).

Four senior health officials have been suspended and a police complaint has been registered against the surgeon who performed the operations.

But the Congress party in the state has held protests and called a general strike to demand the resignation of the chief minister and Health Minister Amar Agrawal.

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Media captionThe women told the BBC their operations lasted five minutes, as Yogita Limaye reports
Image copyright Bhasker Solanki/BBC
Image caption Dozens of women are being treated in hospitals after the botched surgery

The shutdown is being supported by the state's chamber of commerce and several other organisations.

The impact of the protest is being felt in Bilaspur district where many schools are shut and there is little transport on the streets, reports BBC Hindi's Alok Putul from Bilaspur.

Explaining female sterilisation: Michelle Roberts, Health editor, BBC News website

Female sterilisation works by sealing the fallopian tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the womb. This can be done using clips, clamps or small rings or by tying and cutting the tube - this stops the egg and sperm meeting, so pregnancy can't occur.

Eggs will still be released from the ovaries as normal, but they will be reabsorbed by the body instead.

The procedure is very effective and straightforward when carried out correctly and by a highly trained professional. But it is not without risks.

It requires an anaesthetic and there is a risk of damage to other organs during the procedure. There can be bleeding and infection too. It should also be considered permanent - it is difficult to reverse.

Why do Indian women go to sterilisation camps?

The tubectomies were carried out on 83 women on Saturday in Pendari village in Bilaspur district. According to government rules, one surgeon should only perform 35 operations in a day.

When the women were brought in, they were vomiting continuously and their blood pressure had fallen dramatically, the BBC's Yogita Limaye reports from the Chhattisgarh Institute of Medical Sciences in Bilaspur.

Doctors say their condition keeps fluctuating rapidly, and it is hard to say if anyone is out of danger, our correspondent adds.

A team of four doctors from Delhi's premier AIIMS hospital (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) is on its way to Chhattisgarh to help with the treatment of women admitted to four hospitals there.

Image copyright ALok Putul/BBC Hindi
Image caption Doctors say many of the women are still in a critical condition

Chhattisgarh health officials have denied any responsibility for the deaths, but some suggested that medics were under pressure from the authorities to perform too many sterilisation operations in too little time.

Preliminary examinations showed the deaths had been caused by infection or shock as a result of blood loss, state deputy health director Amar Singh told the Press Trust of India news agency.

But health officials told BBC Hindi that the cause of the deaths would be known only after post-mortem reports were available.

Botched sterilisation operations are nothing new in India.

In January 2012, three men were arrested in Bihar state for operating on 53 women in two hours. The men had carried out operations in a field and without the use of anaesthesia.

Authorities in India have been promoting family planning for several decades, trying to convince people to have smaller families.

The 2011 census shows that the country's population is now 1.2 billion, which means that India is on course to overtake China as the world's most populous nation by 2030.

More people live in the country than in the US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh combined.

Sterilisation camps are frequently held to carry out mass tubectomy operations for women - or vasectomies for men - and in some states, health workers receive money for each person they bring to a clinic to be sterilised.

Reports say a sum of about $10 was given to each of the women at the Bilaspur district camp.

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