A police complaint was filed on Tuesday against several people in Bihar's Vaishali district for protesting against the state government over the death of 160 children due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and Japanese Encephalitis. Some of the people named in the complaint include parents of those who have died since outbreak of AES on June 1.
One of the persons alleged to have participated in the protest is bed-ridden, sparking further outrage.
Last Tuesday, residents of Harivanshpur village in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district -- the worst hit district with 430 children admitted so far, of whom 131 died -- protested at the highway connecting Vaishali with Muzaffarpur against lack of water supply and the deaths of children. The villagers blocked the highway, assuming that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar would be passing through on his way to Muzaffarpur to visit encephalitis patients.
The Nitish Kumar government has been under attack for its handling of the outbreak, and petition filed in the Supreme Court alleged that the deaths of the children were "a direct result of negligence and inaction" in handling the outbreak. The top court on Monday gave the state and central governments seven days to respond to the petition.
A First Information Report was filed against at least 39 people, news agency ANI reported. Following outrage over reports of the police complaint, the police, however, are unlikely to take action in the case. "None of the identified people have been arrested so far and investigations are on to identify the unnamed accused," a police officer was quoted as saying.
People who lost their children believe that the state administration has not done enough to contain the outbreak of AES. "Two of my sons died due to Acute Encephalitis in a matter of an hour. The elder one was seven while the younger one was two years old. There were no awareness campaigns by the administration regarding the disease," one of the villagers was quoted as saying by ANI.
He further blamed the chief minister for mismanagement of the crisis. "The Chief Minister has done nothing to spread awareness regarding the disease. There are no arrangements in the hospital for children suffering from the disease," he said.
According to the Bihar health department, the AES outbreak affected 20 of 40 districts and more than 700 children since June 1.
Teams of health officials from the Bihar government conducted a survey of 289 families in Muzaffarpur district and concluded that poverty, and not litchi consumption, was one of the major factors behind the deaths.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI)