A Madhya Pradesh government circular warning of salary cuts and compulsory retirement linked to failure to meet sterilisation targets has ignited a huge controversy, with the BJP targeting Chief Minister Kamal Nath with references to the 1975 Emergency. Following a report by the National Health Mission of Madhya Pradesh falling short of sterilisation targets, the state government order had said if health workers failed to mobilise even one person to go for sterilization, they could face a no work, no pay deal or could be forced to retire.
After the report emerged in the media, move has been withdrawn and action has been announced against the officer behind the circular. "The circular was cancelled the moment it came to the Chief Minister's notice," said an official.
"No one will be forced to be sterilized. No one is losing jobs and we are just spreading awareness. I will not let anything which can hurt you happen," Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Tulsi Silawat said.
The circular, put out on February 11 by the state government's National Health Mission Director, said it would be mandatory for employees to mobilise five to 10 men to go for sterilisation each year. The circular cited the National Family Health Survey-4 report, which recorded that the number of men opting for sterilisation in Madhya Pradesh had dipped.
It asked top district officials and Chief Medical and Health Officers to identify male employees with zero work output and apply the no work no pay principle if they didn't log at least one sterilisation case each in the 2019-20 period, which ends next month. It also said if the situation did not improve, compulsory retirement would be recommended and forwarded to the Health Directorate for action.
The person who signed off on the circular, National Health Mission director Chavi Bharadhwaj, now faces action. Earlier, speaking to NDTV, she had denied any coercive measure on sterilisation. "Not at all. We are simply reviewing ( Laser tubectomy, Non scalpel vasectomy) progress like we do every year Multi purpose health workers. Family planning is not and cannot be a target-bound exercise. The staff has only been asked to counsel and do Inform,educate and communicate in the field. There are no targets or punitive action advised from the state," Ms Bharadhwaj had said.
On the circular bearing her signature, she did not respond.
Congress spokesperson Syed Jaffer said the state government was bound to follow the national program of population control, so all the health officers of the district had been given such targets. "Many times if the officials do not meet the target, then during the month of February-March there is pressure on them; government officials have instructed them to complete the target and if they fail to do so, definitely there will be some action but nobody will sack them or stop increments,"Mr Jaffer said.
The BJP called the circular a reminder of the Emergency of 1975 imposed by the Congress government at the time, when several people were victims of a forced sterilisation campaign. Kamal Nath was a close aide of Sanjay Gandhi, who introduced the campaign.
"It seems there is an emergency and the quartet of Sanjay Gandhi is trying to make its own rules and run the state. Will this kind of forced male sterilisation be done? The employees will be harassed in such a way... I think it is very objectionable," said BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agarwal.