The doctor whose sterilization procedures claimed the lives of 13 women in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh has been arrested, local media reports said Thursday. The doctor was reportedly awarded a state honor earlier this year for achieving a target in a mass sterilization campaign run by the state's health department.
R.K. Gupta, who conducted operations on 83 women in a span of only six hours, was arrested late on Wednesday at a relative’s house where he was reportedly in hiding since Saturday’s surgeries, following which some of the women had complained of abdominal pain. Gupta reportedly denied responsibility for the deaths and blamed adulterated medication given to the women after the surgery. He also reportedly denied that the equipment used while performing the surgeries were rusted.
"It was not my fault -- the administration pressured me to meet targets," the doctor said, according to NDTV, a local news network. "The surgeries went well but the problem was with the medicines given to the women."
Local governments in India frequently set up sterilization camps as a means to provide affordable birth control to the country's rural population.
"If they kept in that place 83 women, it is my moral responsibility to operate (on) all the women. If I decline to do that I would have faced public agitation," Gupta said, according to Reuters. “I am not the culprit. I have been made scapegoat. It is the administration which is responsible for this incident.”
Some of the sick women were operated by a different doctor at another camp on Monday, Gupta claimed, according to Reuters. Gupta also reportedly said that his team, which consisted of two doctors and six nurses, had undertaken every safety procedure during the surgeries.
The state health department has reportedly ordered an inquiry into the incident, while autopsy reports of some of the dead are expected this week, a chief medical health official told CNN.