An India state has announced that it will provide free breast implants to those living in poverty, Indian Express reported.
The announcement was made on Wednesday when Tamil Nadu's health department launched the free service at a clinic in Chennai, capital city of the southern state.
Speaking about the initiative, Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijaya Baskar said that the procedure is being offered for free as beauty treatments should be affordable for the poor.
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"Why should beauty treatment not be available to the poor?" he said in his address. "If we don't offer [the procedure for free], they may opt for dangerous methods or take huge loans for it."
The clinic in Chennai had already been providing breast reconstruction surgery to cancer patients. However, now the procedure will also be offered to people who wish to alter the size of their breasts for cosmetic or other health reasons.
Dr V Ramadevi, who heads the plastic surgery department at the clinic, said some of her patients told her they wanted to have a breast reduction surgery to alleviate pains in their shoulders and back.
Many other sought to increase or shrink their breasts to improve their self-confidence, she added.
“There is a psychological benefit. Many girls who have larger breasts don’t like to go out," Ramadevi said. "There is no reason this surgery should be restricted from the poor."
Ramadevi also said the procedure would also be available to men.
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Cosmetic surgery has slowly grown popular among Indians as their income level grew, with about 420,000 procedures performed in 2016, compared to about 390,000 six years earlier.
According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, there were about 33,000 breast augmentation surgeries carried out in India in 2016, versus about 50,600 procedures in 2010.
The same group recorded an increase in the number of Indian men seeking the the cosmetic surgery, with 25,640 seeking breast reduction in 2016, an increase of 11,000 patients from the 2010 figures.
Apart from providing cosmetic surgeries in the breasts, the Chennai clinic will also perform free cleft lip surgeries for children as well as hand transplants, among other procedures.
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Many in India hail the Tamil Nadu government for its altruism, particularly under former chief minister Jayalalithaa, who pioneered free food canteens and distributed wedding jewellery as well as financed wedding venues to the poor.
But not all are happy with the state government's move.
Dr S Elango, a former public health director for Tamil Nadu, criticised this latest scheme, calling the health programme "populist".
"State funds are required for emerging non communicable diseases and communicable diseases. It is sad that we are now focusing on beauty instead of life-saving surgeries."
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