By Arun Srivastava


The utter lack of therapeutic proficiency of the doctors in Bihar has been primarily responsible for death of over 125 kids due to AES in the district of Muzaffarpur alone. In Muzaffarpur 125 kids died during the last fortnight due to inept and careless handling of the patients. No parents even raised their voices to protest doctors’ apathy. Their fraternal bondage has been so strong that even in this situation the doctors in Bihar did not forget to respond to one day strike call given by the IMA. Undeniably this is the highest order of lack of sensibility and responsibility. 


Encephalitis which has become a recurrent health problem for Dalits and extremely poor people of the state, does not motivate the doctors to give their hundred per cent to these hapless kids. In the last ten years not less than one thousand   kids have died due to this disease.


Some doctors have amassed wealth in the name of carrying out research on it. Of course one breakthrough has been achieved and it is rechristening of encephalitis as “chamaki” (a local dialect). That doctors have absolutely failed to fight the disease is evident from the fact that instead of applying their medical wisdom to tackle the crisis, they have been depending on the diagnosis of the rural quacks.


While the number of patients is swelling every day, it’s only recently that a Pediatrics ICU has been sanctioned at Sri Krishna Memorial Medical College, Muzaffarpur. Despite deaths becoming a recurrent annual feature   the basic health infrastructure and hygiene remained inadequate.


It is shocking to notice that the state government has not shown alacrity in fighting the epidemic. The so called icon of good governance and a compassionate chief minister Nitish Kumar, announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 Lakh each to families of the children, but so far could not make out time to meet and console the parents of the deceased kids. This is highest order of insensitivity demonstrated by Nitish. How could a person claiming to be servant of people let the victims lurch?    


His Health Minister, Mangal Pandey trying to present the façade of a government that cares for Dalits and poor said: “We have been carrying awareness campaign in Muzaffarpur and adjoining areas,” but despite this, deaths are taking place.  It is a shame that though the disease has been hounding the kids for last ten year and crores of money has been spent on research, the government was still not ready to fight the dreaded disease. IN this backdrop his claim that government was doing everything to contain the crisis is a misleading statement.


Nitish has been in power since 2005 in alliance with the BJP, barring of course the nearly one an half year period when he ruled with RJD. It is a matter of disgrace that during his long stay in power he did not activate the health mechanism to find out the real nature of the disease.  Why have the doctors who invented the role of litchi in the spread of the disease been maintaining a passive silence all these years.   


After his visit to the area the Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, an MP from Bihar, said, “The entire state is in shock over the death of innocent children. We are with the family members of the affected and ready to provide any kind of assistance”. But his claim was vehemently refuted by the father of a patient admitted at SKMH  who said that there are no arrangements in the hospital. Doctors are not paying proper attention. Since midnight, there are no doctors, only a few nurses are on duty.


One feels pity at the assertion of some research scholars and doctors attributing the deaths to consumption of litchi.  Though encephalitis has been invading Bihar for not less than ten years, a report appearing in Lancet magazine blamed litchi for the disease.  “Children die in Bihar state from a deadly brain disease believed to be linked to a toxic substance found in the fruit”. But they have no explanation for why the disease was also occurring in the areas where litchi is not grown.


It is worth mentioning that most of the kids who died are in the age group of 1 to 4 years. Do these researchers want us to believe that one year old kid could  regularly eat litchi?   The general argument has been that while the parents go for plucking the fruit, he kids also accompany them and also eat litchi.


Some of the parents at the hospital revealed that their kids did not eat litchi but even they were attacked with AES. How can this syndrome be explained?      


IN fact the farmers and people associated with the Litchi plantation view the allegation with suspicion. They feel that it was a propaganda against litchi. In recent times litchi has emerged as the major source of revenue. Despite many years of investigation, researchers have failed to isolate the virus, or any other agent responsible for causing it. Ironically so far no significant link could be established between litchi and encephalitis.


A total of 4400 cases of AES were reported between 2009 and 2014, an average of 733 cases per year. Around 1309 deaths were reported. Interestingly according to a new study, it’s the land and not the produce that was causing the unexplained neurological damage. In 2014, 122 children died in the Muzaffarpur region. The new study, published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, found that a number of pesticides which has been banned since 2011 caused the brain damage among children.


The claim of the Nitish government of being proactive in fighting the dreaded disease is exposed in the move of the Centre and Bihar Government to undertake a special vaccination drive immunising children in districts of Bihar affected by the killer Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) on June 22 and 23. This move should have been taken well before the months of March and April when the disease was likely to descend.(IPA Service)


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