Acute Encephalitis Syndrome has created havoc in Muzaffarpur Bihar. Children are falling prey to this deadly infection. Death toll has crossed the 100 mark and there is no respite for the poorest of the poor. Parents throng the hospitals with their sick children, and most of them return home with their corpses.
Such epidemic is not new to this extremely backward state of India. According to the Times of India, the deadly ailment is characterised by high grade fever which is followed by seizures, and leads to inflammation in the head. It has affected more than 1000 children from 2000 to 2010. The issue is grabbing the attention of big media houses but the administration has failed to curb the enigmatic cataclysm. It is not only an issue of deaths and infections rather a tragedy of extreme magnitude where the downtrodden sections of the society are facing the caught in the mysterious infection and probably the official apathy because the people at the helm of affairs in Muzaffarpur Bihar seem to be less serious. Our governments at Central and state levels are boasting of techno-India but the poorest of poor are dying for basic amenities like proper and adequate medical care, sufficient nutrition and awareness regarding the health and hygiene.
The deaths have evoked sharp criticism from different quarters of the country. It has raised question marks against the national healthcare of the entire country. Why has Bihar’s state government failed so miserably to stop the outbreak of the disease to such a disastrous and extreme magnitude ? Why could not they adopt proper preventive measures to restrict the infection? It is almost a two decade old cocktail of this state. Central ministry of health and medical education is to be bring into the witness box. What has been the role of this ministry to eradicate the root causes of this fatal infection all these years ? If binging Litchi is the main cause of this outbreak , then why don’t the children of urbanites fall prey to it ? Children in urban areas of Muzaffarpur Bihar eat Litchi but why don’t they catch the infection? It is extremely surprising to know that most of the cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome are from Maha-Dalit community, Musahars and scheduled castes. I am not here to see the catastrophe through communal prism but one fails to understand that why are the lower castes neglected and forgotten. Is casteism still a part of India though the Indian Constitution has abolished it?
The disease is still a mystery for medical experts and researchers with unknown underlying reasons but malnutrition and inadequate medical care are probably the main causes of the pandemic outbreak of this disease. Malnutrition and poor medical care, in the age of Internet and space exploration, is criminal and unacceptable. Before leaving for moon and Mars, we need to feed and treat our people well. We should prioritise health over wealth. Is starvation and poor healthcare system a bitter truth of our country ?
The disease has reportedly spread to Champaran, Sheohar, Vaishali and Sitamarchi districts of Bihar. According to the superintendent of district hospital Muzaffarpur, Dr. SK Shahi, the problem has compounded because there is inadequate number of doctors available in the hospital to treat the AES patients. There is acute shortage of drugs which are necessary to treat these patients. The hospital is going through acute shortage of nursing staff. Now, one can raise eyebrows here. If state government has failed to address the medical crisis but what has the union ministry of health and medical education of India done? Had such a horrific incident taken place in some metropolitan city of India, government would have sent the best doctors and medicine there from top hospitals of the country. But the case is quite contrary here. It shows that though the Indian masses have attained freedom from the British colonial rule but we are still ruled by biases and prejudices. Our poor people are treated like animals. They are exploited the way they were exploited by the British. Nothing has changed for these people. Even BJP leader, Rajiv Pratap Rudy has raised fingers about this mysterious pandemic outbreak . He categorically said that taking Litchi can’t be the reason behind this calamity.
It is a big shame for the entire country. On the one hand , India is bragging of her progress and development but on the other side, our poor masses are suffering from hunger and starvation. How can a nation prosper when a big chunk of its population craves for morsels and drops ? India is spending billions of dollars on defence. But health and education should be the priority. Let Indian rulers clear their stand. What they want to convey to the world ? Is Indian government trying to establish its military awe at the caste of its poor people ? Tragically, Indian health ministry is yet to issue a statement in this regard.
It is criminal silence adopted by Nitish regime . It is an ugly blot on the entire the nation. World Health Organisation and other big powers of the world should send their medical experts to Muzaffarpur Bihar. I am extremely surprised to see the silence adopted by UN Secretary general. Let us hope that all the stakeholders will break their hibernation, and the poorest of poor will get rid of the deadly disease.