The details of the case are as follows:
An Adivasi resident of village Sukhpuri, Barwani, Baniya Bai, was taken to the Menimata Primary Health Centre (PHC) for delivery by her father-in-law, Dalsingh, on the night of 11th November 2008. They made the 15 km journey on a bullock cart because no other transport was available. After admitting and taking a cursory look at her, the compounder, V.K. Chauhan, and nurse, Nirmala, left the PHC and went home.
The next morning, Baniya was forced by the compounder and the nurse to leave the hospital. Her family was asked for Rs. 100, which they did not have and so Dalsing immediately went to get money from their village. Despite attempts to re-admit Baniya Bai to the PHC, the compounder flatly refused saying that they could not manage the delivery so she would have to go to Barwani District Hospital or Silawad Hospital.
Baniya’s relatives tried to get the Menimata hospital compounder, nurse and staff to call for the Janani Express, which is a scheme of the government to provide transport to pregnant women to carry them to a hospital for institutional delivery, but were unsuccessful. The family was told to make its own arrangements to refer to a better hospital. When forced to leave the PHC, Baniya Bai crawled out of the labour room, on to the road outside the PHC, where she lay down in severe pain.
Eventually, Baniya’s mother-in-law, Suvali Bai, went looking for a Dai or traditional birth attendant, in the marketplace and found Jambai Nana, who had come to the market to collect her wages. After hearing about Baniya Bai's situation, Jambai agreed to assist her, and at around 12PM, conducted a normal delivery on the road outside the hospital. The father-in-law gave his dhoti (loin cloth) to provide cover for Baniya Bai during delivery. Following this incident, a crowd gathered outside the health centre.
Madhuri, who was passing by, inquired about what was happening. She then called up the Silawad Community Health Centre, the Silawad Police Station as well as health officials from Barwani. Upon being informed, senior officials from the health department ordered for a vehicle to be sent immediately to the Menimata PHC. After being denied emergency obstetric care and being forced to deliver in public view, Baniya Bai and her child were taken to the Silawad Hospital for admission. The compounder, Vijay Kumar was suspended after repeated demands for action against him for his negligence from the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, but was soon reinstated.
Not only that a case was filed against Madhuri, Baniya Bai's Husband, Basant and others on the complaint of the erring compounder and it was registered as First Information Report No 93 of 2008 under sections 353, 332, 147, 148 and 342 of the Indian Penal Code which deal with preventing a government servant from doing his duty, illegal assembly and wrongfully confining a person. The complaint was that the accused had forced a pregnant woman, that is, Baniya Bai, who was in a critical condition and was in labour, to deliver in full public view just outside the Menimata PHC instead of allowing the compounder to take her to a well equipped hospital. However, no action was taken in the case against the accused by the Police until in the course of things they filed a closure report, obviously because the case was a false one. It is pertinent here to mention that the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan has been waging a long battle against the corruption and apathy of the bureaucracy not only in the health services but also in the education department and the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which has led to the termination of the services of many government staff who have been found to be guilty of defalcation of funds. There is tremendous local political and bureaucratic pressure on the Sangathan and especially on Madhuri and earlier too she has been served with notices for externment from the district and on one occasion a proposed mass rally of the organisation was violently opposed by the local politicians and bureaucrats. The filing of this false case against the Sangathan members has also been done due to the political pressure against it.
There are several serious issues that arise from this case:
First of all the pathetic state of health services that prevail in remote areas and the apathetic and cynical attitude of the skeleton staff who are present in these health centres despite the running of an ambitious scheme such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana to ensure institutional delivery.
Secondly this case of Baniya Bai is part of a writ petition filed in the High Court Of Madhya Pradesh, Indore Bench, in which this pathetic status of maternal health services was raised in the light of 29 maternal deaths recorded in a span of 9 months in Barwani District Hospital. Yet the magistrate in this case chose to ignore this whole issue and instead gave weight to the application filed by the complainant that the case should not be dismissed. This just goes to show how much the lower judiciary in this country is swayed by local political and bureaucratic pressure when it should be exercising an independent judicial mind to protect the rights of the oppressed.
Thirdly and most importantly what is the future of this country if activists and especially women activists like Madhuri, who are fighting for the rights of poor Adivasis are to be the victims of such brazen oppression from the corrupt and insensitive bureaucracy.
- based on a report by Anubha Rastogi