Several social movements, community organisations, child rights and women groups and students protested at Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi on June 17 afternoon against the “inaction and incompetence” of the Bihar and Union governments, which they alleged led to the death of 100 children due to encephalitis in Muzaffarpur district.
Calling the protest as part of the “national outrage against the lackadaisical attitude and complete collapse of the health system in Bihar”, those who took part in the demonstration included National Federation of Indian Women, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Delhi Solidarity Group, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Mancha, Right to Food Campaign, others.
The protest also witnessed presence of students from IIT Delhi, Panjab University and general public who sympathized with the cause. The protesters raised slogans against the government, demanding chief minister Nitish Kumar’s resignation. They handed over their demands in a memorandum addressed to Nitish Kumar. Two officials from Bihar Bhawan accepted the memorandum on behalf of the Bihar government but refused to reveal their designations or full names.
The memorandum regretted that despite relatives of the deceased and the admitted children complaining about the lack of basic facilities and absence of doctors at night and low nurse:patient ratio, nobody paid heed to it. The Health Minister of state, Mangal Pandey, took 12 days to pay a visit to the hospital, “irresponsibly” blaming the weather and destiny for the deaths.
The memorandum to the officials of Bihar Bhawan demanded immediate action like setting up an inquiry committee and punishing the culprits, free medical treatments and diagnostic tests for suspected cases at both private and government hospitals, increasing the number of beds and a separate research division to prevent such tragedy in future.