Bihar encephalitis deaths figure in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi: The death of more than 130 children in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district due to encephalitis figured in the Rajya Sabha Friday, with opposition parties demanding that the government make an urgent intervention and pay compensation to families.

The issue first figured when Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu was reading out obituary references on death of former members as well as those killed in terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Opposition members demanded a similar reference be made for the children who died in Bihar.

Naidu first asked the Secretary General to “take care of the Bihar thing” and bring an appropriate resolution.

Such a reference was not listed in the agenda paper for the day.

But after making a reference to June 21 being celebrated as International Day of Yoga, he said that a number of children had died in Bihar and the House condoles their death.

“We will stand in silence in memory of the children who lost their lives,” he said as members stood in silence for a moment.

Naidu also converted a notice for suspension of business to take up the issue of Bihar deaths into a zero hour notice and allowed Binoy Viswam (CPI) to make a short submission.

Viswam said the government has been calling the deaths an accident but “it should be called a murder”.

Officially, 130 children have died but the number is as high as 180, he said, adding hospitals have no medicines and infrastructure to treat children suffering from encephalitis, a type of brain disease.

Malnutrition and unsafe water is responsible for the deaths, he said, adding 24 lakh children die every year due to malnutrition.

He sought urgent improvement in health system and medical infrastructure and payment of “adequate compensation” to families of victims.

Congress and other opposition parties wanted a discussion on the issue but Naidu did not allow.