When in trouble, blame god.
In the election season, when politicians of all hues are promising the moon to the voters, two ministers in Chhattisgarh have come up with their own interpretations – bordering on the bizarre – to explain 17 jaundice deaths in the state in the past 10 days.
While state women and child development minister Ramshila Sahu held god responsible for the upsurge in cases of jaundice (viral hepatitis infection), health minister Amar Agrawal blamed the "ignorant" people.
The ruse of the two ministers was ostensibly meant to convey that the government cannot be held accountable for deaths caused by jaundice.
Besides the deaths, over 350 patients are undergoing treatment in different hospitals of Raipur and Durg, the two most affected districts.
It is, of course, a different matter that polling for Chhattisgarh's 11 Lok Sabha seats are over and the BJP government led by chief minister Raman Singh has no need to appease the people with soothing words.
"It's the will of god. And we accept it that way. There are no administrative lapses. We express regret over the deaths," Sahu said.
She lashed out at media persons who sought a clarification on how god and not the state administration be held responsible.
"Are you are a human or demon (Aap manav ho ya danav)? Ask questions sensibly," the minister retorted.
Health minister Amar Agrawal had a slightly different but equally diffident reason.
"People consume anything and fall sick. Then how can officials be held responsible for it. The health department too can't be blamed," Agrawal asserted.
The minister, who visited government hospitals to meet the patients, also said that "jaundice can occur anytime during the year. The people have to remain aware about their health".
The opposition Congress was quick to counter the ministers' remarks.
"They are offering weird reasons to hide their administrative failures. If it's the will of God then that means the responsive system of governance is missing," said Iqbal Ahmed Rizvi, state Congress vice-president.
However, leaders of Chhattisgarh have a history of such insensitive remarks.
In July, 2012, no less a person than chief minister Raman Singh himself had made a case for punishing the father for any crime of his son.
"The son inherits his father's DNA, blood and character," was the justification given by Singh.
In January, 2013, then home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar had blamed the "inauspicious stars" for the high incidents of rape being reported from across the nation.
However, the chief minister did convene an emergency meeting of senior officials to review the special prevention drive and measures undertaken in Raipur and other affected places to contain the spread of jaundice.
He also sanctioned additional funds of Rs. 19.68 crore on Monday to municipal corporations of Durg and Raipur for supply of safe drinking water to prevent water-borne diseases like jaundice.
Out of the 17 deaths, eleven have been reported in Durg, four in Raipur and one each in Janjgir and Tilda.