General Ershad ran and oversaw one of the biggest human sterilisation programmes in the world. Three million mostly poor people were neutered including many allegedly with forced or induced vasectomy and tubectomy, Yet till today, none of our newspapers wrote about this controversial chapter in our history.
It was partly bankrolled by the top Western donor agencies, but even their roles in this aggressive population control drive was never examined or scrutinised. Some of the military officers, who ran the country as part of the civil-military administration in the 1980s were also involved, according to former officials who were familiar with the drive. Yet, Ershad never faced any questions about his role in the state sponsored sterilisation programme.
Poor people who had two children were told that thry won’t get food relief if they were not neutered. Local councilors and rural family planning officials were set targets for monthly and annual sterilisation figures. If they failed to achieve goal, they were punished. The campaign was conducted so aggressively that the annual human sterilisation figures jumped from little less than 400 in 1972 to a record 550,000 in the 1984-85 financial year.
Unfortunately, even Bichitra, the weekly magazine known for its trailblazing investigative journalism, never wrote a single story on this hugely controversial neutering drive, which, some experts say, have destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of young people.
The drive was only rolled back after Ershad was overthrown in a mass movement in 1990. USAID, one of the biggest donors of our family planning programme, too had a hand, according to a source. The American aid agency complained about the inducements, being used to coerce poor people to give up their reproductive right.