Following the Bihar medical crisis which claimed the lives of 102 children, a case was filed by Social activist Tamanna Hashmi on June 17 against Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey in a court in Muzaffarpur district on charges of negligence leading to the deaths of innocent children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) over a period of 9 days.
The activist alleged that ministers failed in creating awareness and in sensitising people in the affected areas despite the fact that AES had been killing children for years. Speaking on the case, Hashmi said, "The case has been filed against the accused, Harsh Vardhan and Mangal Pandey, under 323, 308 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A large number of children died due to negligence and lack of infrastructure to give them timely proper treatment”, he said.
The case alleged how Harsh Vardhan and Mangal Pandey had failed to fulfill their duties to control the outbreak of AES, and that both had done nothing to create awareness and sensitise people in the affected areas despite the fact that AES had been killing children for years.
While excessive heat and humidity, hypoglycemia, eating litchis on an empty stomach have been cited as the reason behind so many deaths, the questions as to why the state or Centre failed to combat this illness remained unanswered.
However, what has been more shocking is the sight of the Ministers evading questions and their refusal to claim responsibility. While most engaged in a series of false promises, others turned a blind eye to the crisis that has caused the deaths of a notable number of children.
A day before, Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey who is from the state chose to celebrate his party BJP's Lok Sabha victory over visiting the ailing children and distressed families in the hospital. When a journalist asked him about his conduct, Minister Choubey lost his cool and displayed shocking high-handedness. He angrily responded and avoided answering the question and said that journalist was trivialising the serious issue in the state adding that he should not make such personal accusation.
Also on Sunday Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan accompanied by Union Minister of State for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey, visited the state-owned Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) to review the current situation. Addressing a press conference after reviewing the situation, Harsh Vardhan explained the efforts taken by the Centre and the state.
"I took an overall comprehensive view. The efforts made by the government till now is good. We have set the timelines to improve the situation after meeting with Bihar Health minister. An epidemiologist will be posted immediately to study this district continuously," he said. A day before, Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey was also caught blocking the way of an ambulance to make way for his convoy to pass. On the other hand, regarding the absence of the Chief Minister of the state Nitish Kumar, another Bihar cabinet minister Shyam Rajak brazenly stated that the "Chief Minister is doing efforts that are important"