MP government revokes order to penalise MPHWs if they fail to achieve male sterilisation target

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New Delhi: The under-fire Madhya Pradesh government on Friday revoked the order that earlier sought to penalise 3,850 multi-purpose health workers (MPHWs) with “no work, no pay” and be given “compulsory retirement if they failed to achieve male sterilisation target”.

“The order related to male sterilisation has been cancelled with immediate effect,” MP health minister Tulsi Silawat told mediapersons.

A controversy erupted following the National Health Mission’s (NHM) February 11 order that warned MPHWs of dire consequences as only 4% of the target could be achieved until January 30 in the current financial year.

Though MP’s male sterilisation target was 60,000, only 2,514 men have been sterilised in the entire state. Data shows that seven of the 52 districts have reported in three digits and an equal number of districts in single digits.

The opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was quick to corner the Kamal Nath-led government, invoking the order as a flashback to the Emergency.

“Madhya Pradesh is in the middle of an undeclared Emergency. Is this Congress’s Emergency 2.0? If MPHWs’ performance was below par, the government should take action but withholding their salaries and threatening compulsory retirement is nothing short of a dictatorship,” said Shivraj Singh Chouhan, national vice-president, BJP.

Narendra Saluja, MP Congress president’s media coordinator, tried to downplay the row. “The NHM routinely issues such orders for creating awareness among people. There was no target fixed for MPHWs,” he said,

The MP health officials justified the order and argued that the circular didn’t mention adopting any coercive measures for sterilisation. They insisted that the order was only aimed at the MPHWs in a bid to remind them of their duties amid the declining trend of male sterilisation over the past five years.

Earlier on February 11, NHM director, Chhavi Bhardwaj, had ordered “mobilisation of 5-10 beneficiaries of sterilisation by each MPHW in district sterilisation centres”.

Her order said, “all such MPHWs should be identified who have failed to mobilise a single male in the entire financial year 1919-20. In view of their zero work-output, their salaries should be withheld on a no work, no pay basis until they mobilise at least one person for sterilisation.”

Bhardwaj’s order appears to have let her being shunted out to the state secretariat as an officer on special duty (OSD). Her ‘transfer’ was confirmed by MP National Health Mission (NHM) chief secretary SR Mohanty, Friday evening.

Currently, Bhardwaj is undergoing a training programme.

The officials in the Union ministry of health said that there was no practice of setting targets in line with the family planning programme, which was launched in 1952 to curb population growth.

“There are no targets or incentives; adopting family planning measures is purely on a voluntary basis,” said a senior health ministry official requesting anonymity.

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