The Shiv Sena demanded on Friday that the state government book a minister for the "murder" of 113 tribal children who died in the tribal regions of the state in the past decade.
Shiv Sena legislator Deepak Sawant made the demand in the assembly seeking action against tribal development minister Babanrao Pachpute under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder).
"In the past decade or so, 113 tribal children have died due to various reasons in tribal regions of the state. Some have died due to pneumonia and other diseases, snake-bites, malnutrition and other forms of negligence," Sawant told mediapersons later.
He demanded that since the minister is "responsible" for these deaths, the state government should initiate murder proceedings against Pachpute.
According to Sawant, the victims were studying in ashram schools dotting the tribal regions of the state. The deplorable condition of these ashram schools has been a matter of concern.
There are around 1,108 ashram schools in various tribal regions, a majority run by politicians and nearly 680 run by the government, with an average of 200 students in each school, said Vidarbha Jan Andolan chief Kishore Tiwari, who has been pursuing the cause of tribal children.
The state government spends around Rs. 4,000 crore per annum under the Integrated Tribal Development Programme on tribal children, looking after their lodging, boarding, education and other activities to bring them into the social mainstream.
A few months ago, the government increased the budgetary allocation for tribal kids from Rs. 600 per head per month to Rs. 2,840 per head per month.
Tiwari alleged that most of the money is siphoned off while the tribal children continue to languish in poverty, malnutrition, dehydration, lack of proper sanitation and toilet facilities, leading to deaths regularly.