Odisha govt whitewashes malnutrition death data

Bhubaneswar: In what comes as a shocking development, the state government has blatantly refused to acknowledge the horrific incidents of malnutrition-related child deaths just over one-and-a half-years ago that not only shook the entire state but also made national headlines.

Replying to a question by MLA Chiranjib Biswal in the Odisha Assembly, Women and Child Development Minister Prafulla Samal stated that the state has not witnessed any child deaths in the space of last two years due to malnutrition.

In August 2016, the state woke up to the shocking revelation of dozens of child deaths and extremely impoverished lives of children in Nagada village of Jajpur. What followed was a state-wide outcry and the pictures of abjectly malnourished kids were there for the world to witness.

Here’s another contradictory set of statistics presented in the Assembly. Answering to ruling BJD MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik, the minister had said till January 2018, as many as 26,184 children in state are suffering from malnutrition and are in severely underweight category.  Kalahandi is on the top of the list with 3,114 cases followed by Kandhamal with 2,887 cases, the government data said.

The Opposition claims that the actual figures are far too higher than what the government says.

“If the state government refuses to accept malnutrition deaths, then what the deaths of nearly 30 odd children in a space of just three months in Nagada can be attributed to? The present situation seems as if the chief minister and his cabinet members are trying to fool people by poking them in the eye,” BJP state secretary Lekhashree Samantasinghar said.

“There is nothing more shameful than the state government trying to blatantly deny the malnutrition death cases while the whole world knows about it. This is an attempt to hide their mistakes,” Congress leader Sasmita Behera said.

Experts have also disapproved the statistics revealed by the government.

“We cannot outrightly reject the death cases since we don’t know the exact causes in all such cases,” Child Rights activist Anuradha Mohanty said.

On the other hand, the ruling party stated that there is no such attempt from the government to suppress facts related to malnutrition-related deaths of children in State.