Thousands of poor women in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, were offered free cosmetic breast surgery, including implants, said her health minister on Friday, as “the poor are also entitled to be beautiful.”
The southern state of India is known for its populist programs, which previously included free canteens and provided goats, laptops and bicycles to thousands of underprivileged people, among others.
He will now offer free cosmetic breast surgery to all women, for aesthetic or medical reasons, giving priority to those who belong to the poorest sections of society.
“If a poor woman wants to be beautiful, we will support her financially,” Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar told AFP.
“Whether they require medical procedures or a beauty treatment, it will be free.”
Tamil Nadu is ranked among the best performing states in the public health system in India, compared to other government-run institutions in many other parts of this vast country.
But critics of the new regime have said the state government is wasting public money on cosmetic surgery instead of spending money on serious diseases.
“It is unfortunate that we are now focusing on beauty instead of vital surgeries,” said Dr. S. Elango, former Tamil Nadu public health official, at the IndiaTimes.
Breast cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly popular in India, but private hospitals charge between $ 2,300 and $3,800 for a procedure, the one-year salary for most Indians.
More than 90,000 surgeries were performed in the country in 2016, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, compared with 50,600 in 2010.
The Tamil Nadu program was launched Wednesday in a public clinic in the capital Chennai, with the promise of extending it soon to other districts of the state.
V. Ramadevi, who runs the clinic, told AFP that some women wanted such surgery because they “face psychological problems that can have serious repercussions on their lives.”
“Their career, their marriage has derailed because they are mocked and their trust is broken,” she said, adding that the clinic expects up to 150 women a month to accept the offer.
One of the most prosperous states in India, Tamil Nadu has for decades offered gifts to its marginalized population, mainly under the government of popular actress Jayalalithaa. She died in 2016, but her party still reigns over the state.