Pradeep Majhi demands ex-gratia as Encephalitis toll reaches 34

Malkangiri: With the death toll due to Japanese Encephalitis mounting to 34 in last 27 days with the death of four more kids today, Congress leader Pradeep Majhi demanded Rs 5 lakh compensation to each of victim’s family and vaccination to all children in the district at the earliest.

Swati Matam of Sindhikela under Mathili block succumbed to the killer disease late last night while Saraswati Kumbhar of Pitakata village died during treatment in the morning.

Former Nabarangpur MP and Congress leader Pradeep Majhi staged dharna with the bodies of two kids in front of the Collector’s residence demanding compensation.

Taking a dig at the state government for its failure in containing the vector-borne disease as it continues to claim life one after another, Majhi said the Congress will continue its agitation till the children of Malkangiri district are not given Encephalitis vaccines. He also demanded shifting of all affected children to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and filling up all vacant posts of doctors with immediate effect.

“The Japanese Encephalitis virus has broken out in more villages of Malkangiri and claimed hundreds of lives the children in the last five years. The State government has utterly failed to reach the children in affected villages with the vaccine. The life of our tribals is cheap for this government. We demand Rs 5 lakh compensation for the families of each deceased”, Majhi said.

The Congress will never tolerate such lackadaisical approach of State government, he added.

Contacted, Malkangiri ADMO Raghumani Gamang said the state government has been suggested to shift the ailing children to AIIMS.

Asked about the steps taken for vaccination of ailing children, Health secretary Arati Ahuja said vaccination cannot be given right now as the disease is in an epidemic state. “The Centre has advised to begin vaccination after November”, she informed.

Ahuja said till date 30 children have died and 67 children have been affected by Japanese Encephalitis. “Out of the 32 dead children, 15-17 were affected by the vector-borne virus while the remaining children died of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).

She also informed that the blood samples have been taken from the children in the affected villages of which 14 children have been tested positive.

The Health secretary said arrangements have been made to isolate the pigs from the human habitations. “Besides, the district administration has been asked to ensure that no sale of pork be allowed in any village”, she added.

Talking about the preventive measures, she said the medical teams have been sent to the affected villages.

“Apart from this, 50,000 mosquito nets have been distributed in the affected villages to prevent the villagers from mosquito bite”, Ahuja said, adding the mosquito population has been drastically reduced due to regular fogging in these villages.

Clarifying the rising number of deaths, she said the treatment of the ailing children was considerably delayed as the villagers took them to the village quacks for treatment.

Taking stock of the situation, Malkangiri Collector has canceled Dussehra holidays of all government employees in the district and asked them to remain on alert.

Meanwhile, taking suo motu cognizance of the media report on number of deaths due to deadly virus, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday served notice on Malkangiri collector and state Health & Family Welfare secretary asking them to submit a detailed report including the steps being taken by them, within four weeks.

The district administration has set up health camps in affected areas. Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak and secretary Arti Ahuja spent two days in the district and took stock of the situation. A team of doctors, which accompanied them to the tribal-dominated district, is currently providing clinical support the health teams.
The minister held discussions with the district officials and carried out a spot review of the situation in some affected areas yesterday.

“We are taking all measures to isolate the infected pigs from human habitation as they are the carrier of the disease. The secretary of Animal Husbandry have come with us to do the needful in this regard”, Nayak had told media. One responsible official in each panchayat has been asked to coordinate with district officials in isolating the pigs and taking forward the cleanliness drive, he had added.