Social activists have denounced the amendment that was passed by the Chhattisgarh government to a 1979 order of the then undivided Madhya Pradesh government, according to which the right to sterilisation can be allowed to primarily vulnerable tribal groups (PVTG) after they apply for permission and get a clearance letter from their subdivisional magistrate. While government officials assert that the amendment passed on May 26 was a ‘step forward’, on the other hand, activists have criticised it. As per the reports by Indian Express, according to the activists, the decision continues the inhuman practice of not giving the tribes autonomy over their own bodies.
The Health and Family Welfare department passed the May 26 amendment, which states, “The family will have to write an application, writing of a desire to get sterilised and submit it to the subdivisional magistrate. The officer will give a letter of proof, which says the application is being given on the applicant’s own volition, and they have been given information on the consequences of the operation. Then sterilisation can be done. For this, the help of the chief medical officer, or a civil surgeon of the health department or other officials can be taken.”
But this does not seem convincing enough as according to the activists there has benn no real change to 1979 order. Activists said that in 1979 order too, a provision was mentioned by which only government officials could give permission for sterilisations and for that reason, the tribals could not decide to go for sterilisation on their own.
Indian Express report suggests that the women of PVTG families who are mostly settled in the forests of the Achanakmar Tiger Reserve, had borne several children and were suffering from health problems. Further, the they have almost nothing to feed their children. 10 Baiga families, one of seven tribes listed as PVTG in the state, along with two organisations – Jan Swasthya Sahyog and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan that work in rural health in Chhattisgarh – had approached the Bilaspur High Court in February fighting for their right to be allowed to seek sterilisation without the involvement of government officials. But they all were turned away.
Dr Yogesh Jain of the Jan Swasthya Sahyog raised his concern over the issue aske why should a woman go to any office to get permission for what is a personal right and need? While Sulakshana Nandi of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan said that the state government has simply reiterated its control over the bodies of PVTG women and men. He also said that getting permission from the government has never been easy.