Amid the contradictory figures of the deaths of malnourished children, women and child development minister Pankaja Munde claimed that 208 children died until August in Palghar. Claiming that the mortality rate was on decrease in the state, the minister said that the figures being reported about the deaths being over 500 or more than 1,500 in the state were misleading.
Munde held a review meeting of key officials from various departments, including tribal development, public health and field officers from the tribal districts on Tuesday. She has also planned a visit to Kalambwadi in Mokhada in Palghar district on Wednesday.
“The government has taken the deaths very seriously and we have decided to change the protocol to reach out to the families suffering from malnourishment. The children in different age groups will be treated differently with dedicated programmes. We are also paying special attention to the mothers of malnourished children, as in most of the cases the women are anaemic and too young to bear the responsibility of motherhood,” Munde said while addressing media persons.
The minister also claimed that the infant mortality rate in the state has reduced in last two years bringing the state to third rank after Tamil Nadu and Kerala in low mortality rate. Munde said that the number of deaths of the children in Palghar district had reduced from 512 in 2013-14, 485 in 2014-15 and 457 in 2015-16.
The Opposition, however, targeted the state government for imposing section 144 of IPC on the day of the minister’s visit to the crisis-ridden Palghar district. Congress state chief Ashok Chavan said that it is shocking that when the children are dying due to the malnourishment, the ministers are worried about their security and backlash. Leader of opposition in legislative council Dhananjay Munde said imposing section 144 in the wake of minister’s visit was sign of the government losing the ground. Munde, however, said that the decision was taken by the local administration.
“I have spoken to the Palghar collector requesting him to lift the ban imposed on the assembly of people. The decision was taken by the local administration on the basis of specific inputs they get from the police. It was not a government dictat. I am a leader of people and if people are not allowed to meet me, I will approach them,” she said.
Tribal development minister Vishnu Savara landed in a controversy after he allegedly said that if the tribal chilldren were dying ‘let it be ‘. Sita Wagh, mother of two and half year old Sagar who died on August 30, refused to meet Savara at her home. Savara later claimed that he was misquoted.