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A year after Chhattisgarh sterilisation deaths, review process still on

A quick check on where we are on the investigation into this and sadly there is still not much clarity.

twitter-logo E Kumar Sharma        Last Updated: November 26, 2015  | 12:04 IST

E Kumar Sharma, Associate Editor, Business Today
This month last year, 11 women had died at a sterilisation camp in Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, allegedly because the post-operative drugs they were given had rat poison mixed with them.

The incident made international headlines, putting a sharp focus on the quality of some of the drugs being marketed and sold in India and the status of the public health care delivery system.

A quick check on where we are on the investigation into this and sadly there is still not much clarity. For, as it appears, the progress in this matter is still being reviewed by the enforcement authorities. Part of the problem has an administrative dimension.

For instance, P.V. Narsinga Rao, the state drug controller in Chhattisgarh, is not in a position to help much. "I have taken charge only 20 days back and will need to look into the details of the case to be able to comment," he says.

But then, though it is a subject that a state regulator would have to first look into, given the significance of this case and the coverage it received in the print, television and digital channels, ramifications of what happens here go far beyond one region or state.

So, the obvious question is what is the take of the Drug Controller of India on this? G.N. Singh, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) says, "Our understanding is that some of the drugs used in this case were not of standard quality. As a result, as per the provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, we immediately directed the state to stop the production, marketing of the drugs and to begin investigations...where the medicine was manufactured, it was closed and its production and marketing suspended...I don't think they are still operational and will not be operational till the things are rectified and remedial actions taken. That was the action that was immediately taken and even certain drug recall orders were also issued."

This brings us back to what is the current status and to this, the DCGI says: "I am planning to send a team around the first week of December to look into the compliance issues and also look at the follow up actions taken so far by the state enforcing agency."

He intends to soon issue orders that a compliance report on the subject be submitted to the office of the DCGI by its own team of inspectors after their visit to the region, looking at the preventive and corrective actions being taken by the state regulatory authority.

The idea, he says, is to ensure that such incidents do not get repeated either in Chhattisgarh or anywhere else in the country.

Sure. Good thoughts. But then, all said, at the moment, we are still not clear on where we stand as far as correctives taken, fixing accountability and taking action against those involved in wrong doing.

Call it the inefficiency of our enforcement mechanism or a sad reflection of our public health care delivery system that one year after an incident, we are still reviewing the progress made, if at all, in the case.

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