Muzaffarpur CJM cracks whip over AES deaths, orders probe against Harsh Vardhan, Mangal Pandey for negligence



Muzaffarpur Chief Judicial Magistrate Suryakant Tiwari on Monday ordered a probe against Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey in a case of negligence registered against them. The probe has been ordered in connection with the deaths of children in Muzaffarpur due to the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. More than 150 kids have lost their lives in Muzaffarpur alone and hundreds admitted to different hospitals continue to grapple with it. The probe was ordered by the CJM while hearing a case of negligence filed against them by social activist Tamanna Hashmi. The petition said that Vardhan and Pandey failed to fulfill their duty to control the outbreak of encephalitis in Muzaffarpur. Hashmi petitioned that both Vardhan and Pandey had done nothing to create awareness about the disease in the affected areas despite the fact that the syndrome had been killing kids for years. Hashmi said that he has filed the case against them under Sections 323, 308 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In 2012, the disease wreaked havoc in the region, claiming 424 lives. In 2013, the encephalitis related toll stood at 222. In 2014, 379 deaths were reported. In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, the toll was 90, 103, 54 and 33, respectively. Minister Vardhan, MoS for Health Ashwani Kumar Choubey, who is the Buxar MP, and Bihar Health Minister, visited the state-owned Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur last week. Later, at a press conference, Pandey was caught on camera asking someone about the score of India vs Pakistan World Cup clash while Choubey was caught on camera dozing off during a press meet alongside the central minister. He later denied it and said he was in deep deliberation about the shocking deaths. The Centre, on the other hand, is being criticised for failing to act on its promises. During his visit to Muzaffarpur in 2014 at the time of the outbreak that year, the Health minister had promised a super-specialty hospital including for kids. On his visit this year, he repeated his promise and assured that the facility will become operational within six months. Meanwhile, several Bihar leaders including former Health minister CP Thakur have urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Muzaffarpur to take stock of the situation. Chief Minister Nitish Kumars government is being criticised heavily for its alleged insensitivity and failure to arrest the spread of the disease despite the district accounting for numerous children deaths to the same disease year after year. Nitish Kumar, who visited Muzaffarpur a full 12 days after the first death was reported, was greeted with slogans of go back by angry parents. He has chosen to refrain from making any comment on the situation and has largely targeted the media for the negative portrayal of his government.

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