Bhopal: Hours after reports of Madhya Pradesh Health department issuing orders for almost a forceful sterilisation for males, the state government swung into action, removing the National Health Mission director Chhavi Bhardwaj and the controversial order was also withdrawn.
Taking cognizance of low male sterilisation figures in Madhya Pradesh, the NHM had ordered health workers to either get at least one male for sterilisation or face action like stalled salary or voluntary retirement.
To add, soon after the report had gone viral, social media had turned abuzz with several likening the order to forceful ‘nasbandi’ campaign of the emergency era under late PM Indira Gandhi’s son Sanjay Gandhi.
E-CM Shjivraj Singh Chouhan was quick to react on twitter asking "if it was emergency part 2". If Male Multipurpose Health Workers are lacking, the state government should act but withdrawing salaries and forceful retirement is autocratic.
मध्यप्रदेश में अघोषित आपातकाल है। क्या ये कांग्रेस का इमर्जेंसी पार्ट-2 है? एमपीएचडब्ल्यू (Male Multi Purpose Health Workers) के प्रयास में कमी हो, तो सरकार कार्रवाई करे, लेकिन लक्ष्य पूरे नहीं होने पर वेतन रोकना और सेवानिवृत्त करने का निर्णय, तानाशाही है। #MP_मांगे_जवाब pic.twitter.com/Fl7Q8UM9dX — Shivraj Singh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) February 21, 2020
Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargav and some others too reacted sharply to this order.
Public Relations minister PC Sharma, who was the first to react on the issue, accepted that there was something wrong and claimed that Health minister Tulsi Silawat would look into the matter.
The order might be a human error and no employee would be forced into any sterilisation target, Sharma claimed.
However, as the matter snowballed into a major controversy, Silawat was quick to issue an order withdrawing the previous one from the NHM director.
Initially, the minister had termed this order a directive from the Centre (NHM) and had promised to review it.
Also, the director Chhavi Bhardwaj, known as one of the honest and aggressive officers of the state bureaucracy, was removed and has now been posted at Mantralaya as an Officer on special duty. Presently, Bharadwaj is in Mussoorie for mid-term training.
Congress media cell coordinator Narendra Saluja said that male sterlisation is a voluntary practice and as no target has been fixed, there was no issue of any action on anyone.
Sources claimed that Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who is in Chhindwara, personally intervened in the issue and got his ministers to take swift action to save his government from further embarrassment.
The circular, quoting the National Family Health Survey report that only 0.5 per cent males opted for sterilisation in Madhya Pradesh in 2019-20, said the figures were “highly dissatisfying”.
Addressing administrative and health officials, the order instructed inclusion of at least five to 10 males for sterilisation in the health camps organised in districts.
Issuing orders for identification of all male workers who failed to mobilise even one male for sterilisation in 2019-20, and keeping in account their ‘zero output’, orders were issued to withhold their salaries until they convince at least one male.
The circular says reports of all the ‘inactive’ workers will be sent to health directors via district administration for compulsory retirement in case no improvement is visible in their works.
The order comes close on the heels of a rapidly declining number of male sterilisation cases in the last five years in the state. As of February 20, 2020 the number of males who opted for the procedure was only 3,397, compared to 3.34 lakh women who underwent sterilisation. In 2015-16, the state conducted 9,957 vasectomies. In the three subsequent years, the numbers were 7,270, 3,719 and 2,925, respectively.
Pragya Tiwari, NHM dy director also claimed there has been “almost no participation” from men in the family planning programme in the state. “We are not saying you use coercive methods. We want them to strength advocacy. There are many who want to limit their family size but lack awareness. It’s their job. If you can’t motivate even one person in one full year, it shows your work output. What’s the use of spending tax payers’ money on salary?” Tiwari was quoted as saying by an English daily.