Eleven children in a government-run institution for the mentally challenged in Jaipur have died of infection in the past 10 days, triggering allegations of negligence and food contamination.
The government constituted a three-member committee to investigate the deaths of the children aged between six and 15, most of whom were orphans. Eight children are still in hospital and three are critical.
“Prima facie, the cause of death is not contaminated food or water but gut infection,” said Arun Chaturvedi, social justice and empowerment minister. The department will cremate all the deceased, he added.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sent a notice to the state government, asking for a report in two weeks and said the alleged negligence in upkeep of the institution amounted to a human rights violation.
The Jamdoli government home, 10 kilometres outside Jaipur, houses around 200 children, 10-15 of whom share a room. Experts suspect the infection was triggered by a contamination of food or water and quickly spread due to the crowding.
“Today water tanks were cleaned and chlorination done. Two doctors have been deployed at home round the clock to keep a watch on the health of the children,” said Narottam Sharma, chief medical and health officer, Jaipur.
The inquiry committee, headed by the department’s principal secretary Sudarshan Sethi and comprising medical college professor and Jaipur chief medical and health officer, will submit its report in 15 days, the minister said.
Blood, urine and water sample were taken for investigation. The post-mortem report is awaited yet and strict action will be taken against anyone found responsible, Chaturvedi said.
Children began arriving in hospital on April 16 with diarrhoea, vomiting and showed signs of septicemia and septic shock.
Medical superintendent Dr Ashok Gupta told HT 15 children between 6 and 15 were brought to the hospital last Thursday. One child died that day and the rest succumbed to the infection later.
On the directions of Sawai Man Singh medical college principal Dr US Agarwal, a team of doctors and paramedical staff gave necessary medicines to the children at the home last Sunday.
Gupta said the deceased children include four males and three females. The problem started in stomach either due to contaminated food or water, he added.