BANGALORE: As many as 164 people have died of snakebite in Karnataka from January 2013 to April 2014. Of the 30 districts in the state, Bidar, one of the most backward districts, has recorded 34 deaths.
“Yes, there is a severe shortage of anti-snake venom (ASV) vaccine in the state as no bidder participated in tenders floated by our department in 2013-14,” admitted Health and Family Welfare Minister U T Khader.
Orders have been issued to buy the vaccine through quotations, he said and added that during emergencies, vaccines were supplied from district pharmaceutical godowns.
The minister said till a few years ago, four to five pharmaceutical companies were manufacturing ASVs.
However, now only one company in Pune supplies the vaccine to all the states. Snakes are vanishing across the country due to urbanisation and this has caused a shortage everywhere as the vaccine is made from the venom of snakes, Khader said.
The minister said despite the shortage, instructions have been given to authorities to keep at least three to five vials of ASVs in primary health centres or primary health units, 30-50 vials in taluk hospitals and 200-300 vials in district hospitals.
Although there is no dearth of money, getting the vaccine has become a big problem, he said.
Khader said he would soon write to Union Health Minister Harshvardhan, bringing to his notice the severe shortage.
“This cannot go on for long. There needs to be an alternative system to overcome this crisis like importing it and distributing it to all states in the country. A time may come when this vaccine may vanish completely from hospitals,” the minister warned.
Why More Deaths in Bidar
According to the minister, Bidar topped in snakebite deaths as the huts of poor people are located in snake-infested isolated areas.
Another reason is many people follow home remedies or take the patient to quacks without understanding the seriousness of the issue.
Patients are taken to hospitals only when their condition becomes critical.
The minister said the department is planning to create awareness in such places about the need to take patients to government hospitals without delay.
The Department of Agriculture offers a compensation of Rs 50,000 if a farmer dies of snakebite, he said.
Delay in Relief for Snakebite Deaths in Koppal
Koppal: There appears to be undue delay in providing relief to farmers in snakebite death cases in the district. In all, 67 such cases have been reported in the last four years and relief is yet to be provided in 11 cases, official sources said.
Relief of Rs 1 lakh is provided by the government to the family of the victim, mainly farmers who die of snakebite while working in fields, sources noted.
A committee headed by the Assistant Commissioner and comprising Joint Director of Agriculture and police officials, looks into snakebite death cases to provide relief. Sixteen cases were reported in 2010-11 and 11 families were provided relief while five applications were rejected. Non-submission of relevant documents or non-filing of first information report (FIR) by the police are attributed as the reasons for rejecting some cases.
In 2011-12, 15 cases were reported and relief was given in 13 cases whereas two cases were rejected.
In 2012-13, 13 cases were reported and relief was given in 11 cases while two cases were rejected.
Joint Director of Agriculture Padmaya Nayak told Express that assistant directors of agriculture in all the four taluks of the district have been directed to furnish the information. The committee will soon meet and decide on pending cases, he added.