Safe Motherhood Express Derailed

The maternal mortality rate in India is 400 deaths per 100000 live births and in the state of Madhya Pradesh it is even worse at 490 per 100000 live births. Recognising this to be a serious problem the Government of Madhya Pradesh has introduced a scheme called the Janani Suraksha Yojana or Maternal Security Scheme. The stress in this scheme is on increasing the number of institutional deliveries and the mother is also paid Rs 1600 to facilitate this. There is also a provision for a special ambulance at the nearest government health centre or hospital for ferrying women who have entered into labour to the health centres. These special ambulances have been named Janani Suraksha Express or Safe Motherhood Express. However, the reality in remote tribal areas is quite different. In Sondwa block in Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh there is only one qualified doctor at the Primary Health Centre in Sondwa. Consequently he is tremendously overloaded. He along with his nurse and attendant together demand Rs 800 from the expecting mother and her family to deliver the baby. Moreover this doctor gets irascible when the mother in labour is brought to the PHC at night time. The special ambulance has broken down and so most expectant mothers have to be brought to the PHC in private jeeps at their own expense which is about Rs 1200. One such mother from village Attha was brought to Sondwa on the night of 4th October 2010. The doctor got very angry and started shouting that they should not have come to him. When the driver of the jeep protested that there was no other doctor and he had to deliver the baby the doctor got even angrier and phoned up the Police Inspector complaining that some hooligans were threatening him. The Police Inspector who was drunk came and immediately began beating up the driver and his helper. Both were beaten up badly and locked up in the police station. One is left wondering as to when the poor women in this country are going to really get a genuine safe motherhood express service.

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