Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar refuses to answer questions on deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur .As many as 125 children have died since June 1 in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, the epicentre of AES Epidemic in India, but still both the state and central governments are sitting and reviewing the situation, just to officially calm down the people who are furious over the inept handling of the brain fever outbreak.
Doctors are investigating whether it is a cyclic return of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) or Chamki fever or ‘Deadly Litchi Toxin’ that has engulfed one of India’s poorest and malnourished states, Bihar, lead to hospitalisation of 309 children in Muzaffarpur.
The chief minister evaded the reporters by keeping the windows up and refusing to give any reply despite repeated requests by the reporter.
Nitish was in Delhi to attend the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi were “one nation, one election” and other important topics were discussed.
In Muzaffarpur, despite intensive study by experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta (USA), there are two competing theories of the epidemic: one, caused by heat stroke, and two, caused by a toxin found in lychees eaten by children who come from very poor socio-economic backgrounds, who go to bed with empty stomachs.
AFter 17 days, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar spared some time from his precious schedule and visited the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital, where more than 80 children have reportedly died from the disease.
The state government is facing flak after several of its minister’s apparent apathy towards the deaths was caught on camera. On Monday, during a state health department meeting, state Health Minister Mangal Pandey was heard asking about a cricket match. In a video of the meeting, Pandey can be heard asking, “What about the match?” to which another person replies “4th wicket down.”
The Nitish kumar government is being criticised for alleged negligence and unpreparedness in handling the situation , but the state government maintains that all steps have been taken to tackle the crisis.
On Sunday, Union minister Harsh Vardhan visited SKMCH in Muzaffarpur to take stock of the situation. Finding no fault in the lack of facilities at the hospital, he extended his support to doctors for their efficiency in dealing with the crisis and also promised to set up a “multi-disciplinary institute” to “identify the reason behind the disease”.
He also advocated setting up of a research institute to identify the reason behind the disease. In 2014, a similar AES outbreak claimed 379 lives. Harsh Vardhan, who was the Union health minister in the Centre then had visited the hospital but even after five years, the situation on the ground has not changed much.
By Arti Bali