Gender
A nexus of private hospitals, government officials and insurance companies scammed women

Around four years after the scam first came to light, the Bihar Human Rights Commission on Tuesday awarded compensation to over 708 women who had been misled about their health and underwent unnecessary hysterectomies.

The BHRC awarded Rs 18 crore as compensation to 708 women who had undergone uterus removing surgeries under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana in 2012.

Here’s an explainer of how the scam, commonly known as the womb scam, worked:

What is Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana?

According to the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana official website, the RSBY is a health insurance scheme for the Below Poverty Line families with the objective of reducing out of the pocket expenditure on health and enable increased access to health care. Beneficiaries under RSBY are entitled to hospitalization coverage up to Rs 30,000 per annum on family floater basis, for most of the diseases that require hospitalization.

How did the scam come to light?

The scam was exposed when Samastipur district magistrate Kundan Kumar, organised special medical camps to re-examine the women, after the administration received complaints about bogus or unnecessary surgeries.

Preliminary enquiries revealed that over 15,000 women across the state underwent hysterectomy in 2011. But according to a report submitted by the administration based on the re-examination of 2,606 women, healthy uteruses of 316 women were removed. In some cases, there was just a superficial cut on the patient’s body and the insurance claims were made for the surgery.

According to a Times of India report, 16,765 cases of hysterectomy had been performed in 11 districts between 2010 and 2012. Districts such as Samastipur, Begusarai, Madhubani and Saran had reported large number of such cases.  

What happened in Bihar?

A lot of hospitals in Bihar carried out unwanted uterus removal surgeries (hysterectomy) to pocket the insurance money.

In the majority of cases, a nexus between private hospitals, government officials, insurance companies misled the women into thinking that a surgery was required. In some cases, even the beneficiaries were involved. According to the reports, the following were the main irregularities that were found:

Most hospitals , where the surgeries were conducted, belonged to non-doctors or medical practitioners, who are not entitled to do so.

Most hospitals and nursing homes that were enrolled under the programme were not of specialised nature.

A large number of operations were carried out on younger girls

When did BHRC get involved in the case?

In August 2012, the BHRC took suo motu of the reports that talked about the irregularities in the implementation of RSBY. The panel sought a report from the state government and an expert committee was formed, following CM Nitish Kumar’s directive.

The committee report has identified 540 victims and has granted compensation ranging from 1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh, on the basis of their age. 

Details about 123 other cases are still not out and the age of 168 victims is yet to be established.