Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Saturday blamed the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis on polluted groundwater but was silent on reports that a cut in oxygen supply had resulted in the deaths of over 60 children at a government hospital in Gorakhpur over the past two days.
During a three-hour Ganga Gram Sammelan programme in Allahabad, at which he promised to make UP free of open defecation with toilets for every rural home under the Swachh Bharat Mission, Adityanath said, “ the recent media report on children dying was because they were suffering from a vector borne disease called Japanese encephalitis which has been plaguing the state since 1978 and has not been controlled. Open defecation is a source of groundwater pollution, which is behind this disease. But my government under the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Mission, will ensure all villages along the Ganga and across the state are open defecation-free with a toilet in every village home.”
Adityanath also said that encephalitis could be caused by leaking septic tanks. “I must warn people that they must ensure that septic tanks connected to their toilets do not leak and pollute groundwater sources, because this polluted water is behind the vector of acute encephalitis. We should be very careful about the tanks not leaking from the very beginning, and we must ensure that it does not spread,” he said. Also Read: Encephalitis, its causes, prevention and prevalence in India, explained
The chief minister was speaking about the number of toilets the UP government has built in village homes, and the Rs 12,000 that the government was ready to hand over to needy families. “Acute encephalitis, a new disease, is going to be a big challenge for us in the coming years and we must ensure safety and caution regarding this from the very start,” he said. Also Read: PM constantly monitoring situation, in touch with authorities
The Japanese encephalitis virus is transmitted to humans through bites of infected Culex mosquitoes. According to the WHO, the virus exists in a transmission cycle between mosquitoes, pigs and/or water birds, and is found mainly in rural and periurban settings, where humans live in closer proximity to these vertebrate hosts. Also Read: At least 60 children die in Gorakhpur hospital tragedy: How political leaders reacted
Street plays should be used to spread awareness of the ills of open defecation, Adityanath said. He scolded “some people” for thinking toilets polluted their homes: “Look where society has progressed, where the world is heading,” he said. “If we remain tied by these regressive thoughts, we will not be able to progress. We have to progress and adopt a new way of life to be able to live in a respectable society.”
The chief minister did not comment specifically on the children’s deaths in Gorakhpur’s Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital even after leaving the dais at the end of his 30-minute speech.