Criminal negligence in state-run hospitals in BJP-ruled states

Dismal Numbers

Each day, 1043 children die in the state and for reasons eminently preventable. In Uttar Pradesh alone, more than 1000 children died between January and August 2017 due to lack of medicines and shortage in oxygen supply. 290 children had their lives cut short at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur in August. 213 were in neonatal ICU and 77 in the encephalitis ward. Most notably, Uttar Pradesh has the highest Mortality Rate for children. 64 infants under one year and 78 children under the age of five years die in a year out of 1000 babies, shows the NFHS report of 2015–16. The infant mortality rate (IMR) of UP, India’s most populous state, is now worse than 2013 when it was 50 per 1000 live births.

The state government’s rationale? Encephalitis has taken lives before.

If lack of oxygen is the cause of deaths, facts are twisted, and the media managed. The state continues with business as usual. The BJP supporter looks on, untouched and unperturbed.

In Jharkhand, 52 infants died at Jamshedpur’s Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College hospital in the August 2017. In fact, 164 children lost their lives in the same month in the last 90 days. This year alone, 660 children have died in Ranchi’s Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences.
Then, in Maharashtra, deaths of infant and children totalled 21,985 in the last two years — 17,944 infant deaths and 4,041 children. As per the latest report of NFHS, at least 64 children below the age of six died every day in Madhya Pradesh and its infant mortality rate is worse than that of some African countries. The MP Health department report states that 116 malnourished children died last year. Ministry for Women and Development report revealed that 25,440 children in the age group of 0–6 years lost their lives due to diseases like diarrhoea, measles, in the year 2016.

Rapid strides in public health care under UPA

UPA 1 and 2 went beyond rhetoric when it came to the empowerment of women and the welfare of children compared to the non-performance of NDA. Children’s protection and welfare keeping in view, the Congress-led UPA set up the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. Strict laws have also been passed to prohibit child labour and child marriage. In the health sector, Fertility Rates have come down. Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) improved from 301 per 100,000 live births. In 2003 it has come down to 212; Institutional deliveries have risen from 41 per cent in 2006 to 73 per cent in 2009.

It has been a concerted effort by the UPA to provide easy access to quality and affordable health care through programs like Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK). In order to ensure dignity, safety, and prosperity for children, the then government introduced the Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Act 2005, Maternity Benefit (Amendment Act) 2008 etc.

On every core issue from economy to jobs, the government is floundering. Not just that, it has also reversed the gains in public health care made during the UPA. Their strategy: Maintain silence on core issues and distract people with noise on non-issues. How long can NDA go while maintaining strategic silence on a tragedy like this?