Since 1995 the advent of summer every year has brought the ravages of the disease called encephalitis in Bihar, claiming the lives of hundreds of children. This year also encephalitis started its scourge in April and will continue till just before the heavy rains arrive. In spite of being well aware of this fact, our governments are not taking the situation seriously. As a result, this year also more than 89 children have so far succumbed to encephalitis. Most of these children were also suffering from malnutrition. The government has done nothing to provide a permanent solution to the problem. Moreover, immediate relief operations are also very slow and hampered by negligence. There is a dire lack of facilities in hospitals, and primary health centres are decrepit, due to which children’s lives are unable to be saved.
The above facts have been brought to light by the CPI(ML) in its investigation report after inspecting the SKMCH and Kejriwal hospitals at Muzaffarpur. The investigation team included former MP and AIALA National President Rameshwar Prasad, CPI(ML) CC member Com. Meena Tiwari, State committee member Com. Kamlesh Sharma, Muzaffarpur district Secretary Com. Krishna Mohan, AIALA district Secretary Shatrughan Sahni, and Office Secretary Sakal Thakur.
The investigation team said that instead of showing seriousness towards saving the children from the disease, the Centre and State governments are indulging in mere tokenism and posturing. The CM of Bihar, along with other Ministers, bureaucrats, and Central ministers have toured the area. Big declarations and tall promises have been made but the snail’s pace of the response still remains the same.
Until last year JD(U)-BJP were in government in Bihar. The Health Department was with the BJP. It is the failure of the Health Department which had been in power for 8 years that it could not find effective ways to stop the deaths due to this disease. Constructive suggestions: to get rid of contributory factors like malnutrition, to break the cycle of transmission (usually through pig and mosquito), to have proper preparation to treat the early patients, as well as to form a team of specialists, conduct research, and find effective means of treatment for this disease which is an annual scourge – were brushed aside. This has resulted in the loss of several children’s lives this year also.
Apart from Muzaffarpur, Beguserai, Sitamarhi, Shivhar, and eastern Champaran areas are also in the grip of this disease. More than 250 children have so far been admitted to the SKMCH and Kejriwal hospitals in Muzaffarpur, out of whom 89 have died. 132 children were admitted to the government hospital, out of whom 40 died, 43 are in ICU, 14 are in the wards, and only 35 have been able to return home.
The CPI(ML) investigation team said that they understood from their talks with the doctors that if first aid is rendered within 4 to 6 hours after the onset of the disease, the child’s life can be saved. But the district level primary health centres, and Block level health centres are all in decrepit condition. As a result, by the time the children are brought to the main hospital, their condition becomes very serious and it is difficult to save them. The two district hospitals also lack facilities. Patients at Kejriwal hospital have to go outside for CT scan and treatment for respiratory ailments, as these are not available in the hospital.
The team said that the government boasts of achievements but has failed to provide facilities like adequate treatment for children and raising the number of mobile vans, which is why this disease is now fast assuming the form of an epidemic.
It is a result of the insensitivity and wrong health policy of the Central and State governments, BJP and JD(U) that today the children are unable to be saved from encephalitis. The team said that the government should make arrangements for Block level medical treatment on a war footing, mobile vans, CT scans, etc. They demanded a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs for the families of the children whose lives have be claimed by encephalitis.