It’s hands off mothers-to-be | india | Hindustan Times
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It’s hands off mothers-to-be

india Updated: May 06, 2009 02:37 IST
Salil Mekaad
Salil Mekaad
Hindustan Times
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Government-funded health workers often refuse to treat pregnant Dalit women. When they do, they demand bribes and then refuse to touch the patients while medically examining them. Even injections are administered without touching the women.

A survey by Jansahas, an NGO, and Unicef reveals these, and other, gruesome cases of caste discrimination in four districts — Jhabua, Sheopur, Katni and Ujjain —in Madhya Pradesh. Hindustan Times reported this first on Tuesday in a report titled Apartheid funded by the Indian tax-payer.

The survey has revealed that assistant nursing matrons (ANMs) or Asha Workers, who are responsible for delivering government-funded health benefits to poor people, seldom visit dalit localities. When they do, they don’t touch pregnant Dalit women while medically examining them.

And finally, Dalit women have to pay a major part of the monetary benefits they receive under the government’s Janani Suraksha Yojana (Mother Protection Scheme) as bribes to these ANMs and, sometimes, even to doctors.

The ANMs visit the villages once a month without intimation and examine pregnant women only in Anganwadi centres. “Since most of the Anganwadi centres are run from the homes of upper caste peoples, Dalit women, who are denied entry into these, are deprived of any medical attention,” Jan Sahas activist Ashif Sheikh told Hindustan Times.

In cases where they do receive treatment, Dalit women are the last to be examined — after the last non-dalit woman has left.

Then, even injections are administered without touching them, the survey showed. Injections administered in this manner increase the possibility of the needles breaking, thus, exposing the patients to medical complications.

“As many as 42 per cent of the young Dalit mothers surveyed claimed that they avoided visiting the Anganwadi centres because of caste discrimination,” he said, adding that 96 per cent of Dalit women surveyed said they had experience some form of discrimination, the most common being casteist abuses.

Around 23 per cent of Dalit women are deprived of the monetary benefits they are entitled to under the government’s Janani Surakhsa Yojana.

“Legally, they are entitled to free medical care during deliveries, but in practice, 86 per cent of Dalit women had to spend money,” said Sheikh.