Indian state offers free breast implants to poor

NEW DELHI, Feb. 25

Poor women in a southern Indian state have been offered free breast surgeries, including implants, for both aesthetic or medical reasons.

The Tamil Nadu state government launched the new scheme earlier this week at a state-run clinic in its capital Chennai, with priority given to the poorest women there. Authorities have promised to soon expand the free service to other districts of the state.

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, about 33,000 breast augmentation surgeries were carried out in India in 2016. At private hospitals, a procedure costs 2,300 to 3,800 U.S. dollars, which is almost a year’s wage for most Indians. C. Vijayabaskar, the state’s health minister, said the scheme aims to stop people opting for dangerous methods of breast reconstruction or taking out huge loans for it.

“If a poor woman desires to look beautiful, we will support her financially,” he told AFP on Friday. According to the clinic, some of its patients seek breast reduction to alleviate shoulder and back pain, while some want to augment or shrink their breasts for aesthetic reasons.Tamil Nadu is known for its populist schemes, which have previously included free food canteens and providing wedding jewelry and venues to the poor, according to the Guardian.

However, the new scheme has been criticized for not being an ideal public health program. “It is sad that we are now focusing on beauty instead of life-saving surgeries,” said Dr. S. Elango, a former public health official of the state.

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