Eight women have died and 20 others were in critical condition Tuesday after undergoing sterilization surgery under a government-run program in central India, an official said.

The state of Chhattisgarh has suspended the three doctors who performed the operations on a total of 83 women Saturday, Bilaspur District magistrate Siddharth Komal Pardeshi told The Associated Press.

The women were sent home Saturday evening following their surgeries, but more than two dozen were later rushed in ambulances to private hospitals after falling ill. By Tuesday, eight women had died, Pardeshi said.

"They have all had the same symptoms," including low blood pressure, headaches, breathing problems and signs of shock, said Arvind Gupta, the director of Apollo Hospital, one of the facilities where the sick women were rushed. Autopsies were being performed on the victims.

India's government — long concerned with fast growth in a country whose population has reached 1.3 billion — offers free sterilization to women who want to avoid the risk and cost of having another child. In many cases, the women are offered a one-time payment incentive for undergoing the surgery. Hundreds of thousands of Indians live in poverty.