The Bihar government has requested the Central government to cancel the registration of at least 30 doctors and 50 private hospitals in the state for illegally removing the uteruses (hysterectomy) of 708 women belonging to the below-poverty-line (BPL) category in 2012 spread across 13 districts to siphon off money under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. These doctors and hospitals conducted the operations on women in the age group of 18 to 40 years, and above, to claim money under the scheme. Officials in Bihar fear that the actual number of victims could be much more and that several women who have not registered any complaints may not be aware that the operation done on them was not needed. The Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Lok Janshakti Party MLAs, who were in opposition when the matter first came to light in August 2012, had claimed at the time that the uteruses of at least 16,000 women from the BPL category were removed and the doctors and the hospitals pocketed Rs 30,000 for every such operation done under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana.
After the incident came to light in mid 2012, the Nitish-Kumar led government appointed an expert committee to investigate the matter. However, for four years, nothing moved beyond the files and despite the Bihar Human Rights Commission (BHRC), which had taken suo moto cognizance of the matter, repeatedly asking the state government to submit a detailed report, the state government continued to drag its feet.
Later, the BHRC threatened the government that the matter would be concluded without seeking the cooperation of the state. The Principal Secretary, Labour Resources Department, and Principal Secretary, Health Department were not cooperating with the BHRC despite repeatedly being requested to appear in front of the Commission and explain the matter. It was then, in 2016, that the state government got active and filed a report in which it stated that 540 unwarranted surgeries were performed in various districts of Bihar. It also added in its report to the BHRC that there is another group of 168 women who have been subjected to unwanted surgeries but their age has not so far been established. The state government in its report has also stated that there were 123 more cases in different districts for which details are awaited.
One of the women, whose uterus was removed, was below 20 years of age. As many as 103 women who were operated upon were between 20 and 30 years of age, while 288 were in the 30-40 years age group. 163 victims were above 40 years of age.
The BHRC has granted compensation ranging from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh to the women, depending on their age. The total compensation amounts to Rs 18 crore to 708 women.
According to Bihar government officials, in some cases money was siphoned off without doing any surgery and distributed among the officials and the doctors. In some other cases, operations were performed by quacks and unqualified persons. In a large number of cases, the uteruses of young underage girls and women below the prescribed age were removed taking away their right to become a mother.
Emails and texts sent to the Union Health Minister and calls made to the head of the ethics committee of the Medical Council of India did not elicit any response till the time of the story going to print.