BJP's Bihar lawmaker Rajiv Pratap Rudy today said it was unfair to claim that eating litchis was the cause for the outbreak of encephalitis in the state, a disease that has killed over 130 children in three weeks. Mr Rudy alleged a conspiracy to damage the brand name of the fruit and demanded a probe from the state government over linking the fruit to the deaths of children from the disease. He also said it was "amusing" to believe that the litchi is the cause for encephalitis.
"We are told that eating litchi by children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur may be cause of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). This is a conspiracy to damage the brand name of litchi... We are eating litchis since our childhood but we did not suffer from AES (Acute Encephalitis Syndrome)," Mr Rudy said in a parliamentary debate during Zero Hour, reported news agency PTI.
Mr Rudy also said misinformation has led to people not eating litchis and drinking litchi juice.
Expressing concern over litchi exports being stopped after claiming that more than 30 hectares of the fruit were produced in the state, Mr Rudy urged to not "kill this industry". He also said the reason for the spread of the AES disease could be "something else".
"My concern is, is it actually litchis or something else. Litchi is a cash crop. Don't kill this industry, let's be more pragmatic and find the reason behind the children's death. Around 120 lives have been lost. Nonetheless it is very amusing to believe that litchi is the cause," Mr Rudy was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Pushing for a state government probe, Mr Rudy also said the interests of litchi farmers must be protected.
"The government must probe if there is conspiracy to harm interest of Indian litchi farmers by linking death of children due to AES in Muzaffarpur to consumption of litchi," he was quoted as saying by PTI.
Experts have blamed the high incidence of hypoglycemia on a toxin found in unripe litchis, believed to be consumed by malnourished children. However, medical experts remain polarised over the origin of the outbreak in Bihar's Muzaffarpur.
117 of the 136 children who died from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome were from the Muzaffarpur district.
(With Inputs From PTI, ANI)