As the number of children dying from Encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar continues to rise, there is a national outrage against the lackadaisical attitude and complete collapse of the health system in Bihar. Several social movements, community organisations, children’s and women groups, students gathered at Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi, condemning the inaction and incompetence of Bihar and Union government.
The protest was jointly organized by National Federation of Indian Women, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Delhi Solidarity Group, Dait Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Mancha (DASAM), Right to Food Campaign, #NineIsMine childrens campaign among others. The protest also witnessed presence of students from IIT Delhi, Panjab University and general public who sympathized with the cause.
The protesters raised slogans against the government, demanding Nitish Kumar’s resignation, timely action and handed over their demands in a memorandum addressed to Shri Nitish Kumar. Two officials from Bihar Bhawan accepted the memorandum on behalf of the Bihar government but refused to reveal their designations or full names.
In the past two weeks, more than 100 children in Muzaffarpur alone have died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The relatives of the deceased and the admitted children have complained about the lack of basic facilities, absence of doctors at night and low nurse: patient ratio. The Health Minister of state, Mangal Pandey, took 12 days to even pay a visit to the hospital and when he did he passed an irresponsible remark blaming the weather and destiny for these deaths, rather than the incompetence of the health system.
The memorandum to the officials of Bihar Bhawan demanded immediate action like setting up an inquiry committee and punishing the culprits, free medical treatments and diagnostic tests for suspected cases at both private and government hospitals, increasing the number of beds and a separate research division to prevent such tragedy in future.