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Sterilization Operations In India Reportedly Kill 9 Women

At least nine women have reportedly died, and dozens more are in the hospital, after undergoing laparoscopic tubectomy procedures at a government-run health camp in Chhattisgarh, a state in central India. The surgeries were performed Saturday; the first death was reported Monday morning.

"Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh suspended four top health officials over the deaths, and a police complaint was lodged against the surgeon who performed the operations," reports the Hindustan Times.

Dozens of the more than 80 women who were operated on Saturday are reportedly complaining of similar symptoms: severe nausea and pain in their abdomens.

"The daily target of a team is 40 sterilizations," suspended Block Medical Officer Pramod Tiwari said, according to India's NDTV, "but the number of operations held on Saturday was double that figure."

Another official mentioned that the camps operate under annual quotas that are expected to be met.

The sterilization operations were part of India's population-control program. In a tweet today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office said he will "ensure a thorough investigation" into what caused the deaths.

The director of health services, Dr. Kamalpreet Singh, tells The Times of Indiathat any negligence will be punished — and that the victims' families will receive around $3,250, in keeping with government policy.

"Botched sterilization operations are nothing new in India," the BBC reports. "In January 2012, three men were arrested in Bihar state for operating on 53 women in two hours. The men had carried out operations in a field and without the use of anesthesia."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.