Thirty-year-old Chandran saw nothing amiss in being asked to lie down on a bed in the Primary Health Centre for a blood test. But after he woke up groggy on the bed in the centre, he was told that a vasectomy had been performed on him.
Divorced in 2009 a year after his marriage, Chandran belongs to the Paniya community (Scheduled Tribe), and his hopes of re-marrying are marred by the fact that he cannot have children. He has now filed a complaint in the Pulpally police station.
For the residents of the Palamoola tribal colony in Pulpally village where Chandran lives, the incident has brought back memories of 2010, when a number of tribal people in the Wayanad region were forced to undergo sterilization without their knowledge and consent.
“I had gone for work that day and this official from health department told me I have to undergo some blood tests so that they could prescribe vaccinations. Although I did not understand anything, I went with him to Primary Health Centre. On the way he asked me to tell the doctor that I have two children, even though I don’t have any,” Chandran told The News Minute.
He says he was made to sign some papers at the health center before the procedure was carried out.
“The doctor asked me to lie down on a bed and gave me an injection. After that I was not fully conscious, but could hear some sounds around. When I got up they asked me to go home and even gave me Rs 1000,” said Chandran.
Chandran’s family learned of it only the next day when he felt unwell and tired and they took him to the hospital in Mananthavady.
Local Panchayat member K Premarajan, told The News Minute that doctors of Mananthavady government hospital confirmed that Chandran had undergone vasectomy and said that it was a major lapse on the part of health officials.
“Chandran had signed some papers that he was not able to read properly. That’s why they’re claiming that Chandran was well aware about the operation,” Premarajan says.
However, Premarajan thinks that the case may have been one of mistaken identity. “The junior health official who took him to the hospital may have mistaken Chandran for another man by the same name in the colony who has six children,” Premarajan says.
However Junior Health Inspector Pradeep Kumar who took Chandran to the PHC for sterilisation claims that Chandran was not kept in the dark. “He was aware of the procedure and approached me. That is why we helped him to undergo vasectomy,” Pradeep claims.
Pradeep told The News Minute that the health department encourages vasectomy because “tribal families don’t follow proper family structure. They have many relationships which increases the number of children in the colonies. Many children in the tribal colonies are abandoned and there is no one to look after them. That is why we create awareness about vasectomy,” he said.
He says that health workers are given vasectomy targets and in case something is botched up, it is the junior officers who are made scape goats.
The state government officially maintains that they do have sterilization targets to achieve, but according to health officials and workers the targets are “unofficial”.
“We do everything according to the department’s directive. But when such incidents occur, only one side (the ground level workers’ fault) is projected. The department gives us weekly or monthly targets for vasectomies. But we don’t force anyone to do so. We just create awareness,” said Pradeep.
In November 2010, vasectomies were performed on 32 tribal men without their consent. In 2012 the Kerala High Court had sought an explanation from the government on vasectomies.