Improve India’s Public Health by Fixing Government Health Camps

Improve India’s Public Health by Fixing Government Health Camps
Indian women who underwent sterilization surgeries receive treatment at the District Hospital in Bilaspur, in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Nov. 12, 2014 (AP photo).

The death of 13 women last November in a government-run sterilization clinic, followed by the news of dozens of patients blinded by free cataract surgery, put the spotlight on the poor state of public health infrastructure in India. It was a particularly alarming wake-up call amid celebrations and positive press over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election victory last May and his much-touted promise to improve governance and shake up the status quo. But as those incidents—followed by the announcement of a 20 percent cut in the state health budget—showed, India’s health care woes only seem to be stacking up and taking a turn for the worse.

Sterilization policies in India in particular have a contentious and fraught history, marked by forced sterilization programs in the 1970s and the ongoing and shadowy practice of coercive sterilization of many vulnerable women, particularly in the poorest and most remote parts of the country. As a doctor in India, I recall how female sterilization procedures and tubectomies were the more commonly preferred method of contraception and family planning, both among the urban poor and rural populations. I don’t recall ever having been taught how to do a vasectomy in the course of my medical training, nor do I remember seeing one done, though I assisted in many tubectomy operations.

The government’s current health policy incentivizes community health workers and doctors to refer cases for sterilization. But the root problem is more than that, despite so much media attention on a simplistic question of why these procedures happen in the first place.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review