Gorakhpur: The official toll of encephalitis deaths in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 has gone up to 400. However, if we factor in deaths that haven’t been reported, the figure will touch around 1000. The National Child Rights panel has finally taken note after CNN-IBN highlighted encephalitis deaths. But why is the government a mute spectator as children continue to die?
CNN-IBN had met a five-year-old boy fighting for his life at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur who was admitted with symptoms of acute encephalitis. Later, CNN-IBN found out that the child, Ankit, succumbed to his illness.
Ankit’s father Ram Janam said, "Who should I blame when doctors and medicines could not save my child."
Ankit’s father doesn't know whom to blame for his son's death, but the fact is, India's entire public healthcare system is on ventilator support, and has consistently failed the very people who need it the most.
At the BRD Medical College, there is just one senior doctor for every 48 patients. The figure is almost respectable if you compare it to the entire district where there are 400 government doctors for a population of 44 lakh, that is if they turn up for work.
In neighbouring Kothai, a village where 250 children have died because of mosquito and water-borne encephalitis, the primary health center was shut at 4 in the evening. Half of the India Mark II handpumps, whose water is clean enough to drink, were not working, and mosquitoes that cause Japanese encephalitis happily breed behind the village school.
"There is no clean drinking water here, no electricity, no medicine. How can we believe that money has been sanctioned for us? The money is coming on paper and being spent on paper. May be it is being spent in Safai and Lucknow, but not in my village," said Om Prakash Sahani, ex-sarpanch, Kothai.
The NCPCR that sent a team to eastern Uttar Pradesh was shocked at the lack of preparedness.
"There is a great degree of insensitivity. Because they are poor children no one is concerned," noted the NCPCR.
The government of India has sanctioned Rs 3350 crore to fight the epidemic. The Uttar Pradesh government claims they have already commissioned projects worth Rs 600 crore. So where is this largess? Well, it's certainly not reached the dying children of Poorvanchal.