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Malnutrition kills 70 kids in MP's Sheopur. How about a surgical strike?

Shailendra Tiwari | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

While the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is busy courting foreign investors and claiming to have made strides of development in Madhya Pradesh, children in many parts of the state are dying out of hunger.

At least 70 cases of malnutrition deaths have come to light during the past two months in Sheopur district alone, raising some serious questions on the government welfare machinery. Government data suggests over 13 lakh children are suffering from malnourishment across the state.

Cornered over the recent deaths, the state government has now announced it will bring out a white paper on the issue. It has assured that it will lay down a roadmap to tackle the problem through the white paper.

Photo: Patrika

Dire situation

Malnutrition is not a new phenomenon in the state. Every year, thousands of children are reported dead due to hunger.

The government and the administrative system cover up the real cause of these deaths by linking them to other causes.

According to the data presented in the Vidhan Sabha, around 60 children die of malnutrition every day in MP. Most of these children are below the age of six years.

Photo: Patrika

In an answer to a question posed by Ramniwas Rawat, former minister and MLA from Vijaypur in Sheopur district, the state government said there were 13,31,088 malnourished children in MP. Out of these, 19,724 children were in the Sheopur region.

Significantly, the problem is not restricted to the rural areas alone. There are 26,164 malnourished children in the state capital Bhopal. The state's main industrial hub, Indore, does not fare any better, with an estimated 22,326 malnutrition cases among children.

There is not a single district in MP where the number of such cases does not run into the thousands. Some estimates suggest approximately 9,167 children have died because of hunger in the state from January to May this year. The average comes down to around 60 children each day.

Focus on Sheopur

Photo: Patrika

The situation is most alarming in the tribal-dominated Sheopur district. The region suffers from an acute lack of basic amenities.

Rawat, who has visited the entire district to take stock of the situation, claims at least 72 children have died in this region during the past two months. Rawat has released the details of every single case.

"The situation is quite grim in the entire state. However, it is alarming in my region. Yet, nobody is willing to address the issue. I have apprised the government on many occasions in the Vidhan Sabha, but the government has no action plan. One fails to understand what the government wants," Rawat said.

Govt plan

Rustam Singh, the state health minister, accepted that children had died, but he attributed different reasons for them. However, he accepted that many of these lives could have been saved if the children were treated on time. Singh admitted there were loopholes in the system, and underlined the need to improve the health facilities.

Stating that the government would soon come out with a white paper on malnutrition deaths, Singh said a committee was looking into the matter. "The white paper will give details of the government's action plan to address the problem," he said.

A different (and incorrect) opinion

JN Kansotiya, principal secretary in the state government's women and child development department, expressed a different opinion. He insisted that 'nobody ever dies because of malnutrition'.

"The children have not died in Sheopur because of malnourishment. The children are suffering from diseases because of poverty and ignorance towards sanitation. The malnutrition is weakening their immune system," Kansotiya said.

Kansotiya wondered why such cases were reported only in Sheopur, when every district had malnourished children.

But his claims were contradicted by the fact that a malnourished child has recently died in Vidisha district as well, and the number of such deaths is only increasing.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 30 September 2016, 8:39 IST
Shailendra Tiwari @shailendra_mona

State Bureau chief at Patrika, Madhya Pradesh