Infant Mortality and Indian Public Health Standards: Fact-Finding Mission in Banki, Odisha

n terms of the Human Development Index, the state of Odisha ranks at the bottom 22nd position (out of 23), and, according to the Planning Commission’s Tendulkar Committee Report 2009, the poverty headcount ratio of Odisha at 57.2 percent is the worst among all Indian states and way above the national average of 37.2 percent. Moreover, the extent of poverty is not evenly distributed in all the regions and among all social groups. The scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) of the state that comprise about 40 percent of the total population have high proportion of poverty as compared to the SCs and STs in the country as a whole. Odisha has the third highest IMR in India, and roughly “70 per cent of infant deaths take place in the first month of the child’s life largely from preventable causes. Low skill levels of medical and paramedical staff are a continuing challenge for quality service delivery. A fact-finding team from the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) traveled to the Cuttack District to research an infant death and the Indian Public Health and Safety Standards in the Banki region. The cause of infant death this time being crushed skull of baby due to the use of forceps. Although the baby was born alive, it died few hours after delivery.  The team met and interviewed the ASHA who attended the pregnant mother, interviewed the Anganwadi workers at the local AWC, met with medical staff at the Dampara CHC, the CMO and other doctors/medical staff at the SDH, the Banki Police Inspector and the Cuttack CDMO.