Family Planning Camp: India’s Response to a Booming Population

P1050281By: Victoria Iannarone

I left my sandals at the door and walked inside. The operating room was full of people: doctors, nurses, assistants, interns, husbands, and of course their wives. Woman after woman was carried into the room and placed on one of three operating tables. A single doctor moved swiftly, completing each tubal ligation in less than two minutes. Instruments were constantly being sanitized and reused. There was so much noise!

It was my first-ever experience at a family planning camp, also known as a tubectomy camp. Such a program was funded by the Indian government in response to the country’s booming population. The Census of India 2011 reports the total population of India is 1,248,588,577 persons, and the national growth rate from 2001 to 2011 was high at 17.64%.

In order to stabilize population growth, the Indian government supports four major forms of birth control. The first form is tubal ligation, which is arguably the most encouraged. The operation is of no cost to women who have delivered two children. This is an effective manner to promote smaller families. Women are even compensated for their travel and stay at the hospital. Tubal ligations are not the only method employed by the Indian government to curb the population’s booming growth rate. Also supported are intrauterine devices, oral contraceptive pills, and condoms. In fact, upon speaking with Village Health Workers of Saradwadi, I learned that condoms are supplied by the government to rural villages for distribution.

To be honest, I was not sure what to expect when I arrived at Julia Hospital that day. It was seven o’clock in the morning and the terrace was filled with families who had been there since the night before. Hammocks were installed between trees, holding newborns. Grandparents were coddling young children. All the women were inside.

Patients were laying side-by-side on a rug in the hospital’s atrium. They had been given an intramuscular injection of an anesthetic. One by one, the women were picked up and carried into the operating room. Each was given another dose of anesthetic before a small incision was made bellow their belly button. The actual tubal ligations were completed laparoscopically—one stitch afterward and the women were good to go. Instruments were sanitized between uses via hot water, medichlor, fast-acting sterilizer, and simple saline. Everyone was smiling! The doctor wore a cap, gown, and gloves. The women wore their saris. It was unlike anything I had seen before, yet I was highly impressed with the efficiency, cleanliness, and care that I observed all around me!

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