Chief whip of Congress in Lok Sabha, Jyotiraditya Scindia, squarely blamed the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government for the child malnourishment deaths and poor health services in Sheopur district, especially in tribal areas.
Scindia demanded an independent agency be appointed by the government to probe the situation leading to deaths, rampant corruption and unproductive utilization of resources.
Two children died on September 16, taking the toll to 20. Earlier, officials had confirmed the death toll at 18, with 10 in Vijaypur block and 8 in Karahal block. The infant mortality rate, according to the 2014 sample registration system (SRS) baseline survey, is 57 and 35 for rural and urban areas.
“The situation is worse than the Emergency period. Rampant corruption in the implementation of government schemes is taking its toll on the mid-day meal scheme and on the fight to eradicate malnutrition,” he told a gathering on Sunday.
The former union minister reached Sawai Madhopur early on Sunday morning and visited those villages which recently reported malnutrition deaths.
Scindia, who visited malnourished children at the district hospital, asked the government to wake up from slumber and take prompt steps to check malnourishment. “The need of the hour is saving the lives of children. Children in many parts of the state, including this region, are dying due to malnutrition and other ailments.”
Barring the woman and child development (WCD) minister, none of the state ministers visited these places or took stock of situation, he rued. Scindia urged Union WCD minister Maneka Gandhi and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to take stock of situation in Sheopur.
“The Congress is prepared to cooperate with the government… And if the government didn’t act, the Congress will take the people’s fight to street.”
“Earlier, a 2006 survey by Unicef revealed that nearly 94% infants in Sheopur were malnourished out of whom 15 % were critically malnourished. But the government failed to take necessary steps. There is a shortage of nutritional rehabilitation centres,” he added.
In Bhopal, state Congress president Arun Yadav and several other Congress leaders will sit on dharna and observe silence at the state Congress office at Link Road no. 1 on Monday to protest what he said the state government’s indifferent attitude towards the problem of malnutrition and deaths caused by it.
The party men will observe the protest from 11.30 am to 4 pm.
Arun Yadav said in a statement on Sunday the state government was spending Rs 2,200 crore every year for eradication of malnutrition but the figure of deaths caused by malnourishment was growing by the year.
He said death of more than 18 kids was a glaring example of state government’s failure and massive corruption in the government machinery.