18 July 2019 02:11 AM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 22 JUNE, 2019

Muzaffarpur: The Sadness Pervades

As we look the other way


As the tragic deaths continue in Muzaffarpur district and the mayhem and chaos across Bihar has yet not ceased – chances of life limping back to normal or what you can define as some form of normalcy in the pathetic conditions prevalent for all those families that have lost children is nowhere in the horizon.

It is abysmal to see the lack of ownership and responsibility by the civil authorities, the state government and the ruling government with total disregard to being accountable for what has happened.

Everyone has either shrugged their shoulders or walked away with a shake of their heads (I feared their heads would fall off at the furious speed they were being shaken around!) or just completely ignored what had occurred or did what always happens in such circumstances… Pass the buck and start the blame game!

The state and central governments have been grossly unprepared for this outbreak of encephalitis. They have been caught off-guard and their indifference towards the tragedy has been disgusting. Launching last-minute efforts has no meaning in such circumstances. Control centres set up by the state and central governments have little or no impact after an outbreak such as this. Child nutrition and healthcare should have been on top priority but the Bihar government has been indifferent to the signs and problems prevalent.

Shortcomings and carelessness is rampant in every corner. Hospitals are not able to cope with the sick children. Yes malnourished children in India is a huge issue… Yes we have tragic deaths due to illnesses year after year… Yes we discuss it on the every news channels and write about in in every newspaper and argue on social media and berate one and all… But when will change for betterment come about? We all need to review our closed mind-sets…be more action oriented and take responsibility for what is happening around us.

The truth is each one of us is equally responsible. The apathy of those in power is on display.

Healthcare in India needs to be made top priority. The combination of malnourishment and an inadequate health care system is disastrous. There are health issues all around us and yet we turn a blind eye to it. Most people brush off what is happening around as ‘something that is not of their concern’ and this is exactly where the problem lies. Just because you have not been personally touched by a calamity does not mean that you wash your hands off all responsibilities or look the other way. On the contrary this is the time to think, plan and take action to improve our surroundings and stop the complete breakdown of everyday life.

All those that come to power and rule the roost so to say make big promises and speak of long ‘to-do’ lists which by the way are thrown in a corner as soon as they win elections. Things that need urgent attention and restructuring are pushed behind new lists that involve land-grabbing, personal income growth, freeloading on the cost of the exchequer and tax payers. When the civil administration is ill-equipped to handle any emergency of sorts be it a natural calamity, man-made or disasters, it is only the people of the land who are going to suffer.

I am astounded that starting from the PM and working downwards, no one understands the pulse of what is happening in Muzaffarpur…or what is happening in their own country on ground level. Innocent children are dying… But the ones who need to take policy decisions and handle the situation are only ‘flying high’ renouncing the world of all their responsibilities.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar declared an ex-gratia of Rs. 4 lakh to the families of those who had died due to the disease after several meetings with the health department officials. Can this money be measured to the loss of an innocent child and what the families have suffered?

I can’t help but remember these lyrics are apt for the current scenario.

“The sick become now the dead
Breaking out of the boundaries
Leaving all behind with or without regrets
Spawning out as new entities
The ones left behind mourn their loss
Not wanting to let go but the corpse”


There, in the spaces between darkness and light, a feeling of despondency hangs thick in the air – sometimes it is not spoken of as a sign of respect for the dead, yet the sadness pervades.

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