New Delhi: The government of Bihar on Monday told the Supreme Court that it is taking all necessary steps to control the outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur and that the situation is “absolutely under control.”
A division bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai was hearing a petition filed by two advocates — Manohar Pratap and Sanpreet Singh Ajmani — seeking the constitution of a team of medical experts for the treatment of children suffering from encephalitis disease.
The court while expressing serious concerns over the issue, said that “it is a matter of great concern. This (death of children) cannot go on.”
The apex court also issued a notice to the Centre, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh governments asking them to file affidavits within seven days giving details of facilities pertaining to public health, nutrition, and sanitation for the treatment of children suffering from AES.
The two advocates had sought a direction to the Centre and the Bihar government to immediately arrange a 500-bed ICU (Intensive Care Unit) with required medical professionals to deal with the emergent situation.
The petitioners had also pleaded for a direction to the Bihar government to notify an “extraordinary government order” directing all private medical institutions in the affected area to admit and provide free-of-cost treatment to the patients.
Petitioners contended that the disease is “completely curable” and lives of children are being lost due to the “inaction” of the state machinery, which failed to take any steps to prevent the outbreak.
Despite the death of more than 100 children, the state government has shown “no prompt” steps to prevent the spread of the disease in adjoining districts, the plea contended.
“There is a complete failure of the state machinery to deal with the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis (JE), AES or ‘Chamki Bukhari.’ There is no availability of doctors, beds, intensive care units to deal with an epidemic-level situation, which has resulted in more than 126 reported death of children in Bihar, particularly in Muzaffarpur and its adjoining areas,” it stated.
The petitioners also sought a direction to the Centre and Bihar government to constitute a fact-finding committee to determine the role of persons or entities who were negligent resulting in the deaths.
It further submitted that the Bihar government should pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased.
Encephalitis is a viral disease that causes mild flu-like symptoms such as high fever, convulsions, and headache.