- Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey was at a press meet in Muzaffarpur
- A major issue on agenda was the death of 100 children due to Encephalitis
- On asking how many wickets had fallen, Mr Pandey got the answer "four"
Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan held a press meet with Minister Of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey in Muzaffarpur on Sunday. On the agenda were several pressing issues, including the death of more than 100 children due to encephalitis over the last two weeks and strategies the centre should adopt to ensure that such tragedies don't recur in the future.
Sometime during the press meet, Mangal Pandey decided to ask the reporters a question instead. It was not related to the subject at hand.
A video posted by news agency ANI showed the state minister enquiring about the latest score in the World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan, which was taking place in Manchester at the time. "How many wickets have fallen till now?" he was heard asking, to which he received the answer: "Four wickets."
#WATCH Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey asks for latest cricket score during State Health Department meeting over Muzaffarpur Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) deaths. (16.6.19) pic.twitter.com/EVenx5CB6G— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2019
Opposition parties, including the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, Hindustan Awam Morcha (HAM) and the Left, have demanded Mangal Pandey's resignation for displaying "insensitivity" at a time when the state was facing a major threat. "Pandey was more interested in knowing the cricket score while Harsh Vardhan was telling mediapersons on they plans to alleviate the situation arising from the encephalitis outbreak," news agency IANS quoted RJD leader Ram Chandra Purve as saying.
HAM spokesperson Danish Rizwan said the State Health Minister's priority was cricket, and not children dying from encephalitis. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also expressed a similar sentiment on Twitter.
Mangal Pandey's query about cricket came at a time when Ashwini Kumar Choubey was already facing criticism over photographs that seemed to show him sleeping at another press conference on encephalitis-related deaths in Muzaffarpur. He, however, sought to clear the air today by claiming that he was not dozing but in "deep thought".
Over 100 children have died of encephalitis in Muzaffarpur over the last 16 days, and 300 others who contracted the disease continue to languish in local hospitals. According to official data, 83 children died at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital while 17 lost their lives at Kejriwal Hospital in the Bihar city.
Encephalitis is a viral disease that causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions and headaches in patients. The state health department has cited hypoglycemia, a condition caused by very low levels of blood sugar, as one of the main reasons for the deaths.
The Centre has promised to set up a state-of-the-art research centre within a year to tackle future encephalitis outbreaks.
(With inputs from Agencies)