As Shikha Bibi was going into labour in a hospital in West Bengal, she felt intense pain. Someone had just swabbed her causing her a burning sensation on her inner thighs and legs. She believes those attending to her at the government hospital in Murshidabad used acid to swab her instead of an antiseptic.
"I don't know what was it, as soon as they gave it, it started burning as if I was on fire. They told me they had to apply it because of a foul smell, afterwards they put water on it, but it was too late because there was a big black spot there, and it was paining very badly. Everybody is saying that was acid."
Shikha Bibi's trauma has been worsened by the fact that the baby boy she gave birth to has died. Her husband, a daily wage labourer, is in Delhi. Other family members at the hospital say that minutes after her delivery, they were told that the newborn was in a critical condition.
The doctors, however, told NDTV that the baby was stillborn. Shikha Bibi's family alleges a cover-up by the hospital.
Officials at the hospital, which is run by the government, have ordered an inquiry. But a senior health official in the district admits that it's possible that an acidic solution was administered to her. "The sweepers may have made a mistake and exchanged the bottles. The solution is of the same colour," said BP Shau, Deputy Chief Municipal Health Officer, Murshidabad.
In Kolkata, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is also the state's Health Minister, has blamed the Left which was in power till she took over for Bengal's poorly-equipped government hospitals. Last week, over 40 babies died at the BC Roy and the Burdwan Hospitals. The government has said the infants were admitted to both places in critical condition and there was no negligence.
"40,000 children used to die during the Left rule. They have stolen all the money. There are no doctors, no nurses, no pathologist, no CT Scan, no MRI. I have given Rs. 1200 crore to slowly upgrade the rural health infrastructure," Ms Banerjee said.