MUMBAI: Malnutrition deaths at Vada and Mokhada in Palghar — the newly-carved tribal district neighbouring Mumbai, have unnerved the BJP-Shiv Sena saffron alliance government in Maharashtra.
In the past month, Palghar has been rocked by 12 malnutrition-related deaths. According to activists, this tribal-dominated district has been in the grip of the quiet crisis for years, but things have now come to a head.
Vishnu Savara, tribal welfare minister and the guardian minister of Palghar district, was virtually turned away from one of the villages on Thursday and his comments — “So what? The government is doing its work, implementing schemes” — when pointed out that 600 people have died of malnutrition in the last one year — have not gone down well with the public.
Savara, when asked about this, denied making the comments and added he was concerned. “In fact, because of my tour to various districts, the issue of malnutrition is being tackled properly by the administration. The government has initiated several schemes to check malnutrition,” he added.
Activists have been blaming the government for stopping the Village Child Development Program, aimed at tackling malnutrition and claiming that there have been over 600 child deaths due to malnutrition this year so far.
The deaths have given much-needed fodder to the opposition Congress and NCP to launch a scathing attack on the Devendra Fadnavis-led government and demand the resignation of Savara and women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde. Leaders of both the parties would be touring the villages where the deaths have occurred on Saturday.
The government rejected the opposition charges. “We do not agree with this number... there are cases of drowning of kids, snake bites and falling down from trees,” public health minister Dr Deepak Sawant said, adding that the government is making all efforts to ensure enhanced cooperation between the government as schemes are being run by various departments.
“Apart from malnutrition, several other issues like non-availability of quality drinking water, unemployment too are haunting the local population and the government is trying to address all of it,” said BJP district president and local MLA Pascal Dhanagare.