Even as the aggrieved people who are still coping with the deaths of over 200 children in Bihar, the MLAs in the state are busy celebrating a mango festival in the assembly. In this super exclusive story, Republic exposes the shameful mango fest held in the Bihar assembly where the lawmakers are being given a basket of mangoes and mango saplings.
The Bihar administration under Nitish Kumar has so far refused to take responsibility for the tragedy that has gripped the state. CM Kumar and his Deputy Sushil Modi had both tersely told the media to back off when questioned on the deaths of hundreds of children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). But it appears that celebrating with a bounty of mangoes is deemed as appropriate by the government, even as some experts believe that one of the reasons behind the AES is malnutrition in children.
The distribution of gifts to the MLAs, which this year is mango goodies and saplings, are part of an annual tradition in the Bihar assembly.
This year goodie bags with mangoes and mango saplings were brought in a truck and were then kept in a room, in a shamefully brazen display of celebration of the harvest. The agriculture minister Prem Kumar, a BJP MLA, is distributing the mango goodie bags on the occasion of presentation of the agriculture budget and everybody from the ruling JD(U) and BJP, to the RJD which is Opposition, are accepting the gifts.
Image of mangoes brought in a truck:
Mangoes kept inside the assembly:
When asked about the celebrations and the mangoes stored in the room, the marshals in the assembly denied it and asked the Republic's crew to go out of the building.
Republic TV confronted the agriculture minister Prem Kumar over the distribution of mango, he said that he was sad over the deaths of children owing to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. He also said that the issue was raked up by the Opposition
"We are extremely sad over it, but since it is the occasion of the budget, we distributed the mangoes," he said. "This issue is being raked up as Opposition has no other agenda," he added.
When reminded that one of the factors of the children suffering from encephalitis was malnutrition and that the fruits should be distributed among them than the MLAs, he promised to send them mangoes within 15 days.
"I agree with you, I will send them the mangoes. I am announcing this on your channel and I will definitely do it in 15 days".
He also spoke about calls for the resignation of Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey who is from JD(U)'s coalition party BJP that 'there is no reason why he should give quit.'
Meanwhile, RJD leader RJD Bhai Virendra spoke about his party members gleefully accepting the gift baskets from the minister, whose party they had been severly criticising for not taking accountability for the casualties of the AES outbreak.
"We got the information that MLAs are getting mango baskets and mango saplings. Over 200 children have died. We have respect for the children who have died. The government is not sensitive towards the children and wants to distract the people."
When reminded that his party members were also accepting the mangoes, he said, "I can't speak for others, I am speaking for myself. People in my party are not accepting the gifts. And it is not because of the media. It is because of our sensitivity due which we did not accept."
But he added that he would not raise the matter in the state assembly. "There is no question of raising this is the assembly, we have already placed the issue to the public," he said.