Lucknow: Death of over 10,000 children due to encephalitis in eastern Uttar Pradesh since 1978 has failed to stir the political discourse in the region dominated by caste equations and local musclemen.
Every year over 500 children lose their lives in the eastern UP from the mosquito-borne disease which is prevalent in areas bordering Bihar and Nepal: Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Sant Kabir Nagar, Siddarth Nagar, Deoria, Basti.
The underdevelopment, poor health facilities, poor preventive steps such as immunisation programmes and poverty are the major reasons behind the poor control of fatal disease in the region.
"There are three prime ministerial candidates contesting from the region: Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mulayam Singh Yadav yet none of them chose to speak on the issue during the entire election campaign which is coming to an end today," RN Singh, who works for eradication of the disease through Encephalitis Eradication Movement, told PTI.
Singh said over 10,000 children have lost their lives and many more have been left crippled by the disease which is still claiming over 500 lives every year.
According to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme data, 1469 children had died in the country from the disease in 2013 out of which 656 deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh alone.
Singh said according to records of BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur, the only major hospital in the affected area, over 43,000 patients came for treatment since 1978 of which over 10,000 had succumbed to the disease.
"The silence of these leaders on this burning issue is a crime in democracy. Hundreds of children lose their live still the soul of these leaders are not shaken," he said.
A paediatrician, Singh said barring Rahul Gandhi of Congress who spoke on the issue yesterday none of the important leader found it fit to bring the issue in their campaign which remained centred around caste and personal allegations on each other.
In an attempt to increase awareness among the political class and voters, Singh is distributing an election manifesto which demands an effective preventive programme to deal with the disease which is 100 percent preventable.
"Issues like corruption, development, unemployment are common for entire country but encephalitis deaths of children is specific for this region yet none of the politician had raised it during their high profile campaigns in the region," he said.
The eastern Uttar Pradesh with 18 seats will go to polls on May 12 with campaigning coming to an end today evening.
In 2009, Samajwadi Party had clinched six seats, BSP won five seats, BJP remained third with five seats and Congress won three seats.