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Angry Relatives Protest Against Nitish Kumar as Bihar Struggles to Contain Encephalitis Outbreak

The National Human Rights Commission had also sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and Bihar government on Monday over reports of increasing deaths of children due to the disease.

News18.com

Updated:June 18, 2019, 3:15 PM IST
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Angry relatives of patients on Tuesday raised slogans against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who was on a visit to the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur, two weeks after the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak in the state.

The chief minister, who interacted with doctors and parents of the ailing children, was greeted with slogans of ‘Go Back’ as protesters questioned the state government’s negligence in handling the epidemic which has claimed the lives of 108 children so far.

Earlier, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan visited the hospital to take stock of the situation. His cavalcade too was stopped by protesters while he was returning from Muzaffarpur to Patna and black flags were waved at him. The police then resorted to mild baton charge to disperse the crowd.

The National Human Rights Commission had also sent notices to the Union Health Ministry and Bihar government on Monday over reports of increasing deaths of children due to the disease.

The commission has observed that in spite of reported measures taken by the government agencies, deaths of children in such a large number indicate towards a "possible flaw" in proper implementation of the vaccination and awareness programmes.

"Not only vaccination, but all precautionary measures such as cleanliness and hygiene are also required to be taken sincerely to ensure that kids do not fall prey to the fatal disease. It is a case of violation of human rights of the victim children and their families, as the state appears to have failed to protect the young innocent lives," the rights panel said in the statement.

The epidemic broke out in early June but the state government maintained that the children had died due to hypoglycemia, a condition caused by extremely low level of blood sugar and electrolyte imbalance.

The issue has snowballed into a political slugfest, with the RJD and the Congress accusing the Nitish Kumar government of ignoring the epidemic.

The Congress on Monday hit out at the Centre and the Bihar government, saying better preparedness could have saved lives. Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also posted a video on Twitter in which Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey is heard at a meeting asking for the score of the India versus Pakistan World Cup cricket match on Sunday.

"Bihar's Health Minister Mangal Pandey seems more worried about cricket score than the death of children due to Encephalitis," Surjewala tweeted and tagged the video.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said the central and state governments should do everything possible to control the situation. "It is unfortunate that in 2019, in the 21st century, so many children have died. There are some shortcomings on the part of the government and administration because they know that in the summers encephalitis hits Bihar so the health department should have been ready," he said.

Former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi questioned Kumar’s silence on the issue, saying it was the state’s health department which was in the ICU.

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