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Sterilisation horror! 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' should target the Operation Theatre first

Sterilisation horror! 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' should target the Operation Theatre first
New Delhi: With its mass sterilisation programme turning into a mass murder, Chhattisgarh has just made a mockery of the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' (Clean India Campaign). Fourteen women died of what is medically called 'toxic shock' because the instruments were lethally rusty, venue itself not sterilised and medicines of questionable quality.

All the above three 'killers' are well entrenched in our public healthcare system and are found in abundance in hospitals across the country. It is precisely because of this that the first target of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cleanliness campaign has to be our healthcare system. Dry leaves and banana peels on roads, garbage in our backyard, clogged drains etc are surely harmful but a dirty operation theatre can kill instantly. Hence, the urgency!

The 'Swachh Bharat' campaign should subsume in itself a 'clean hospitals' drive. It should be made mandatory for those nominated and participating in it to visit their nearest public hospital or clinic and enforce cleanliness. Politicians and influencers should graduate from dried leaves on the roadside to real dirt in real places posing a real threat to life. Celebrities wielding the broom in front of TV cameras and poor hapless women dying at a dirt-strewn, germs-infested sterilisation camp in Bilaspur where TV cameras don't reach -- are contradictions that this country has lived with for long, but can do so no longer.

There is an urgent need for fixing priorities for the Clean India Campaign and targeting it towards critical areas. Under the banner of this 'Abhiyaan', it should be made mandatory for government doctors to ensure that their facilities are disinfected, instruments and equipment in perfect working condition, medicines of high quality and nursing staff well trained. Considering the broken nature of our public healthcare system it might not be prudent to put these on doctors' shoulders alone (in many rural hospitals doctors are not even available) - and this is where the government and the civil society step come in and help out.

Dr RK Gupta, who operated upon the women at Nemi Chand Jain Hospital in Bilaspur, pulled the trigger and has been arrested as he should be. But it is also true that the system within which he 'operates' (pun intended) has been spawned by the entire state administration. Much blame lies there and mere resignations will not do. Starting from the chief minister down to the sarpanch should pick up the proverbial broom and detoxify the state's healthcare system. And that should be mirrored across all states in the country. The 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' itself now faces the danger of turning into a 'celebrity'. It's high time this campaign dives into the muck lying at the doorstep of relief and a longer life - hospitals.


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