Surat civic body’s women staff made to ‘strip for medical test’, probe ordered

Municipal Commissioner said, “We have received the complaint from one of the SMCEU members and have formed an inquiry panel. On the basis of the report, appropriate actions will be taken.” (Representational Image) 

Women employees of the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) were allegedly stripped in groups at the civic body-run hospital for a medical test, prompting authorities to order a probe.

Even as SMC Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani instituted a three-member committee to probe into the complaint made by the employees union on Thursday evening, the National Commission for Women (NCW) demanded a high-level probe and questioned the need for such a medical test that “violates human rights and privacy” of women.

The complaint, however, doesn’t mention how many women were allegedly made to undergo the test.

The incident comes days after students of a women’s college in Bhuj were allegedly forced by hostel authorities to remove their undergarments to prove they were not menstruating. Pani has directed the probe committee to submit a report within 15 days. SMC Employees Union (SMCEU) president A A Shaikh in his application to Pani has mentioned that the trainee employees, who had served for three years, had been regularised and for that medical fitness certificate was necessary.

Head of the department of gynaecology at Surat Municipal Institute of Medical Education and Research (SMIMER), Dr Ashish Vachhani, told The Indian Express, “If a woman employee is unmarried, we only note down the details of her medical history, including her menstruation cycle. For employees who are married, besides taking down their entire medical history, pregnancy and child birth, we carry out a PAP smear test for cervical cancer. If an employee comes for medical fitness certificate, he or she has to undergo a series of tests beginning with eye and heart check-up, blood and urine tests, and gynaec check.”

“We didn’t ask the 10 SMC employees to stand in a queue and strip (as alleged) as it is impossible. In our routine OPD, on an average 125 to 150 patients come other than SMC employees. We function as per government guidelines,” he said. “There are three medical examination cabins, where first the employees get themselves registered, in the second cabin, the doctor checks her blood pressure and takes down her medical history, and later if needed, the employee is taken for medical examination in a small room.”

SMIMER Medical Superintendent Dr Vandana Desai said, “I am not aware of the incident. It is not possible for 10 women to stand together in the gynaecology department as the space is small. It is a simple test wherein women doctors collect details of the applicant’s medical history. If there is any complications, then further checking is done.”

The complaint states that the women shared the “awkward” experience with other women employees who approached the SMCEU to take up the matter with the Municipal Commissioner.

Municipal Commissioner Pani said, “We have received the complaint from one of the SMCEU members and have formed an inquiry panel. On the basis of the report, appropriate actions will be taken.”

Surat Mayor Jagdish Patel also assured stern action against the culprits. “This issue is very serious. Such physical tests are conducted on all those employees who are getting permanent after finishing their training period. We will take strict action against the culprits if the allegations levelled by the women staffers are found to be true,” said Patel.

(With PTI inputs)