Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Why Team India lost to the Kiwis in World Cup semi-final

akbIt was a heartbreaking moment for a billion plus Indians on Wednesday. Team India performed fantastically well throughout the ICC World Cup tournament, but in the semifinal, the top three of our batting order failed. Within a span of 45 minutes, the top and middle order fell like nine pins in the face of smart Kiwi bowling aided by a moving ball.

Ravindra Jadeja and Mahendra Singh Dhoni fought valiantly and raised hopes with a surprising comeback, and yet luck eluded them. A fantastic throw by Martin Guptill preceded Dhoni by a few centimetres and the ex-captain was run out. We can only say that it was bad luck for Dhoni, who stood like a rock with Jadeja, amidst the ruins. Jadeja mishit a slower ball and had to go.

The distance of a few centimetres is what mattered both for Dhoni and for Team India, which missed the World Cup final.

On the other hand, New Zealand, after a low score of 239, worked to a game plan. The team members knew that they had no big total to defend, and they planned to take the wickets of the top three – K L Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to trigger a collapse. They knew that they had a chance to win if the top three Indian batsmen were removed, and their bowlers worked well with the moving ball in the initial overs. Rishabh Pant tried to play well, but was out to a completely wrong shot.

Ultimately, the mantle fell on Jadeja and Dhoni, and the two kept India’s hopes alive, until bad luck intervened. The team that played well with clockwork precision throughout the tournament, failed when it mattered the most. Team India had to ultimately pay a heavy price.

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The political drama in Karnataka was bound to happen

akbThe Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka headed by Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy is teetering on the brink of collapse, with 14 MLAs of the ruling coalition first shifted to Mumbai and from there by road to Goa to stop ‘poaching’. All the ministers have resigned to give Kumaraswamy a free hand to induct some of the rebel MLAs as ministers.

Ten Congress and three JD(S) rebel MLAs had already submitted their resignations to the Speaker on Saturday triggering a major crisis for the 13-year-old coalition government. The Centre is keenly keeping an eye on the political developments in the state which had witnessed a fractured mandate after last year’s Assembly elections.

The political spectacle that we are witnessing now in Karnataka began the day Kumaraswamy took oath as the Chief Minister, after a coalition was hurriedly cobbled up between the two major parties. Kumaraswamy is on record on having said that he did not know how long his government would last. He had also remarked that he was wearing a crown of thorns and only he knew how he was running the government, and at what cost.

Kumaraswamy shed tears in public several times and the Congress, itself a house divided, alleged that the main opposition party BJP was ‘poaching’ its MLAs. There is nothing to be surprised about because any opposition party will definitely try to reap benefits from the infighting that is going on inside the coalition.

The ball is now in the Speaker’s court. He has to decide about the resignation letters submitted by the MLAs. The Chief Minister has openly offered ministerial posts to the dissidents, but the situation is right now in a fluid state.

I do not think the BJP will step in quickly to induct the rebel MLAs and stake claim to form a government. If it does so, the Congress party’s charge that it was ‘poaching’ its MLAs will stick. Though the JD(S) has given a deadline to the Congress to put its house back in order, there are slim chances of the rebels returning. In such a circumstance, the Chief Minister may tender his resignation, and it would then be open to the Governor to decide the future course of action.

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Union Budget outlines PM Modi’s dreams about a New India

akb607The Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday in Parliament was basically a budget to outline the policies and objectives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, now into its second term. It was a not a full budget, and many of the announcements had already been made by the then Finance Minister Piyush Goyal when he had placed the interim budget in February this year, just before the Lok Sabha polls.

The budget presented by Sitharaman outlines the electoral promises made by Prime Minister Modi, and the main focus is on ‘Gaon, Gareeb, Kisaan’ (Village, Poor and Farmers). The budget speech clearly outlines the plans to provide piped water supply to all rural households, construction of 1.95 crore houses for the poor in the next two years and measures to double the income of farmers. Let us all hope that the promises are implemented so that we can witness the emergence of a ‘Naya Bharat’.

In her budget, Nirmala Sitharaman has tried to give benefits to all sections of people, with more focus on farmers, rural households, middle and small scale entrepreneurs, startups and middle class taxpayers. The massive thrust on investment in infrastructure is surely going to generate spin off benefits to other industrial sectors, with the twin objectives of inviting massive foreign investment and giving boost to growth to provide employment.

The Finance Minister has also tried to plug loopholes leading to tax evasion by making filing of income tax returns mandatory for those who splurge money on foreign travels and hold more than Rs 1 crore in their bank accounts. Similarly, the interface between income tax officials and taxpayers will be digitalized completely, so that no taxpayer will come to know which income tax officer is assessing his or her I-T return. This will completely eliminate corruption in tax collections.

I asked Railway Minister Piyush Goyal whether the government intends to privatize Indian Railway and he emphatically ruled out the possibility. The thrust is on public private partnership to give a fillip to railway track construction, manufacturing of rolling stock and passenger freight services. On the exports front, Goyal, who holds Commerce and Industry portfolios, told me how he intends to take measures to boost exports of Indian goods and services.

Overall, Prime Minister Modi’s dream is to provide every household in the country with a house, LPG and electricity connection, toilets and piped water supply. The challenge is no doubt a very huge one, but judging by his government’s success with Ujjwala, Ujala, Mudra schemes in the last five years, I am confident that the aim is definitely achievable.

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Nitesh Rane must be punished for manhandling engineer

akb507 Nitesh Rane, the son of former Maharashtra Chief Minister Narayan Rane, assaulted and dunked a bucket of slush on a PWD deputy engineer on Thursday in Sidhudurg district while protesting delay in construction of a bridge over Gaad river.

The deputy engineer was summoned to the site of construction by Nitesh Rane, who is presently a Congress MLA, and was then manhandled. A video showed the deputy engineer, Prakash Shedekar, tied to the railing of the bridge, even as he apologized and pleaded with Rane and his supporters to set him free.

The bridge in question is to be built by National Highways Authority of India and the engineer had been sent there on deputation.

As news channels showed the video on screen, Nitesh Rane went to the local police station, where he was promptly arrested by police.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis warned that such errant behaviour would not be tolerated, while Narayan Rane apologized for his son’s behaviour. He however defended his son for protesting the delay in construction of the bridge, but said that the manhandling of the engineer was unacceptable.

This is not the first time Nitesh Rane has indulged in such acts. He had manhandled officials twice in the past. Once he had a dispute with a hotel owner and his men ransacked the hotel. Nitesh Rane had to go to jail for this incident. He had once threatened Gujaratis to leave Maharashtra.

There are several cases pending against this MLA, and it is now time that the police should place his past record before the court. Police should now ask the court to mete out prompt punishment to this VIP brat, so that a correct message is sent to all those who indulge in such behaviour.
I also demand strong action against the BJP MLA Akash Vijayvargiya, son of senior leader Kailash Vijayvargiya, who had thrashed a civic official with a bat in full public view a week ago. Even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had publicly expressed his strong disapproval over the conduct of him and his supporters, no action has been taken so far by the party.

It may be true that people’s representatives are concerned about public welfare, but if every citizen takes the law into his own hands, then how can we claim that there is rule of law. The job of a people’s representative is to formulate laws, and not to break them.

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Congress lost LS polls because of Rahul’s ineptitude and arrogance

akb407 On Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi slammed the lid on all speculations about withdrawal of his resignation from the post of Congress President, by issuing a “farewell note” in which he said the party “needs a radical transformation” to fight BJP.

He also changed his Twitter bio and removed mention of him being the Congress President. He described himself as a member of the party and a Member of Parliament. “It would be unjust to hold others accountable, but ignore my own responsibility as President of the party”, wrote Rahul while mentioning the LS poll debacle.

“Many of my colleagues suggested that I nominate the next Congress president. While it is important for someone to lead our party, it would not be correct for me to select that person”, wrote the outgoing president.

The four-page farewell note by Rahul Gandhi took a sharp dig at some of his senior colleagues. “It is a habit in India that the powerful cling to power, no one sacrifices power. But we will not defeat our opponents without sacrificing the desire for power and fighting a deeper ideological battle.” Rahul also wrote that he had already suggested that “a group of people be entrusted with the task of searching for a new president.”

In his farewell note, Rahul Gandhi first took full responsibility for the poll debacle, and in the second page, he blamed the entire system for his defeat.

He wrote, “we didn’t fight a political party in the 2019 election. Rather we fought the entire machinery of the Indian state, every institution of which was marshalled against the opposition…A free and fair election requires the neutrality of a country’s institutions; an election cannot be fair without arbiters – a free press, an independent judiciary, and a transparent election commission that is objective and neutral.”

I strongly object to this remark by Rahul Gandhi. He has no right to castigate the media, the judiciary and the Election Commission to hide his own ineptitude. All these three pillars of democracy did their work in a fair manner, and if the voters of India are unwilling to vote for his party, he should not blame the institutions.

By blaming the entire machinery, Rahul Gandhi has overlooked the state governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Karnataka, where the Congress is in power. It was his party that won the assembly elections in these states by dislodging and BJP and its allies from power.

By saying that the “farmers, unemployed youngsters, women, tribals, Dalits and minorities are going to suffer the most” (because of Modi’s victory), Rahul Gandhi has insulted the voters of India. He has insulted India’s vibrant democracry.

Rahul must understand and admit that the farmers, youth, women, tribals, Dalits and minorities, after assessing the five-year rule of Narendra Modi made him victorious by a thumping majority, and as the leader of the oldest political party, he should humbly accept the people’s mandate. Instead of doing this, Rahul is blaming the media, the judiciary and the Election Commission for his party’s humiliating defeat.

The hard fact is that Rahul’s party lost not because of Modi, or the BJP or some scheming Congress leaders, but because of his own arrogance and the people of India has clearly rejected his leadership. The Congress party lost because of his ineptitude and stubbornness.

Rahul Gandhi should remember that millions of Congressmen toiled hard during the elections, and 10 crore voters voted for his party. By shifting the blame on his own party leaders, Rahul has insulted his own partymen.

Moreover, if Rahul Gandhi thinks that his party lost because of the institutions, then where was the necessity for him to resign? There is a clear contradiction in his views and it is better that he should realize this.

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Modi has sent the right message by denouncing Vijayvargiya’s son

AKB_frame_76027Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday expressed his strong disapproval over an incident in Indore, where the local BJP MLA, son of senior party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya hit a municipal official with a bat, and was eulogized by his supporters when he came out of jail.

Addressing the BJP parliamentary party meeting, Modi did not name anybody but referred to the “incident in Indore” and said: “Do you think this is the reason why people voted for us? …Whosoever he may be, whosoever’s son he may be, whether an MLA or MP..such arrogance, misbehaviour cannot be tolerated. This is totally unacceptable….

“I would like to know what valour had the person in the video showed to deserve such a big welcome from party workers. Action must be taken and if required, the local unit should be disbanded.”

The Prime Minister has taken the right step in denouncing such acts of hooliganism. Till now, brats of VVIPs used to openly breach the law and they were given protection and patronage, but Prime Minister Modi has bucked this trend. He has sent a correct message to the nation.

The action of Akash Vijayvargiya hitting at a municipal official with a bat, the manner in which his father Kailash Vijayvargiya defended him and scolded mediapersons, and the pomp with which Akash was garlanded and welcomed by his party supporters had caused consternation in the minds of people across the country. Naturally, people get angry when they find VVIPs’ brats committing such acts.

This is not confined to BJP alone. In Telangana, the brother of a ruling party MLA recently thrashed a lady forest guard with a stick. There are many such examples. Prime Minister Modi has surely sent a stern message by denouncing acts of hooliganism by Akash Vijayvargiya and his supporters. I hope leaders from not only BJP, but other political parties, will take a cue from this and restrain their family members from committing breach of law.

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Why Amit Shah said, Kashmiri separatists shut schools, but send their kids abroad

akb207Parliament on Monday unanimously approved extension of President’s Rule in Jammu and Kashmir and the bill providing 3 per cent reservation to people living near the International Border to bring them on par with those living near the Line of Control.

In his forceful reply to the debate, Home Minister Amit Shah clarified he did not want to lower the prestige of the nation’s first PM Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, but said, ‘a nation that fails to learn from past blunders of history does not end up well’. Faulting Nehru’s intentions does not imply that he was questioning his intentions, Amit Shah said.

The Home Minister also said, ‘Congress must answer for the historical blunders done by them. Why did Nehru government go to the United Nations despite Kashmir’s accession to India? Why did he agree for a plebiscite that is in any case out of question today?’.

The Home Minister vowed to give a befitting reply to elements that call for a break-up of India. He said, children of nearly 130 separatist leaders in Kashmir were either studying or had studied abroad even as these leaders issue calls to shut down schools and colleges in the Valley. He alleged that separatist leaders had no qualms about inciting Kashmiri youths to throw stones at our soldiers and warned that a ‘tit-for-tat’ response would now be given.

“We will win the hearts of the people in Kashmir..They will embrace us”, said Amit Shah while winding up the debate. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, described Amit Shah’s speeches in both Houses of Parliament as “comprehensive and insightful”. ‘Those who want a clearer understanding of the Kashmir issue must hear his speeches’, the PM tweeted.

I fully agree with Amit Shah that separatist Hurriyat leaders in the Valley send youths to pelt stones at our forces, while their own children live a life of luxury abroad. It is also true that these leaders issue orders to close down, and even set fire to schools and colleges in the Valley, while their own children study abroad.

It is also true that separatist leaders ask Kashmiri employees to quit government jobs, while their own children earn millions from cushy jobs in foreign countries.

Earlier I had disclosed in ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ the names of these leaders whose children stay abroad either for studies or for doing jobs, and the huge assets that they have amassed. The chief of Hizbul Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, sitting in Pak Occupied Kashmir, orders attacks and killings in the Valley, while his sons are employed in the government.

Amit Shah is right when he says that the common people in the Valley should be told about the true facts about the separatist leaders, so that they can refrain from allowing their children to be misguided and brainwashed by these elements. It is the truth that will show Kashmiris the correct path towards progress.

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Why Amit Shah said, Article 370 is not a permanent provision

akbIn the Lok Sabha on Friday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in a clear articulation of Modi government’ Kashmir policy, blamed former PM Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies for the rise of separatism in the Valley over the last seven decades. He said, if Sardar Patel had his way, Kashmir problem would have been solved long ago.

Unlike Home Ministers in the past, who used to obfuscate on the Kashmir issue and avoid controversial remarks, Amit Shah clearly said in Parliament that Article 370 was not ‘permanent’ and it was a ‘temporary’ provision. ‘Even Sheikh Abdullah had concurred with the temporary nature of this provision’, he added.

Shah said, till last year, any separatist leader in the Valley, who gave anti-India statements, were provided security. The government has now withdrawn security from all separatist leaders who speak out against India, he added.

For the first time, the Home Minister of India has unambiguously said in Parliament that Article 370 is not sacrosanct. This has given rise to speculations about fresh delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir that had been put on hold by the Assembly, and the Centre’s stand on Article 35A issue, which is presently before the Supreme Court.

Clearly Amit Shah’s stance on Kashmir will force the separatist leaders to think afresh. This is also a timely warning to those who give protection and support to terrorists in the Valley.

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Why former ministers and ex-MPs should vacate their official bungalows

akb286The House Committee of Lok Sabha has directed several senior Congress leaders including Jyotiraditya Scindia and Mallikarjun Kharge to vacate their government bungalows since they have lost the LS elections. Normally, leaders who lose elections to Parliament are supposed to vacate their bungalows, but over the years there has been a trend among several leaders, including former ministers, refusing to vacate their bungalows citing various reasons.

The difference that has been noted this time during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure is that leaders who lose elections have been made to vacate their bungalows.

I can cite one or two examples from the past. When former Deputy Prime Minister Babu Jagjivan Ram died, his bungalow on Krishna Menon Marg was allotted to his daughter Meira Kumar, who was an MP. Later, when Meira Kumar became the Lok Sabha Speaker she was allotted a separate bungalow, but she continued to occupy her father’s bungalow, by converting it into a memorial. The government bungalow is yet to be vacated.

The bungalows in which former Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi stayed, were converted into their memorials after their death.

When former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee died, his family vacated the government bungalow within four weeks and shifted to their house in Gurugram. After former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh’s death, his son Ajit Singh stayed in that bungalow for several years, but when he lost the LS elections, police had to be called in to forcibly evict him from the bungalow.

There are many such examples, but the most recent example that I want to cite is that of former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Jaitley is still a senior MP of Rajya Sabha, and he had requested the Prime Minister to relieve him from his ministerial responsibility due to health reasons. If Jaitley had wanted, he could have stayed in his official bungalow as a senior MP, but soon after he ceased to become a minister, he quietly vacated the bungalow and shifted to his own house in Delhi’s Kailash Colony.

This is an example which former ministers and ex-MPs should emulate.

Already there is a severe housing crunch for a large number of MPs who have elected for the first time in Lok Sabha. Many of them are presently staying in state government guest houses or in hotels, since they are yet to be allotted official accommodation.

On the other hand, there are many MPs and ministers who have lost the elections, but they are yet to vacate their bungalows and flats. The Modi government is strictly implementing the housing policy for MPs on the recommendations of the House Committee.

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Rahul is yet to learn lessons from electoral defeat

akbOn Friday, June 21, when the world was celebrating International Day of Yoga, thousands of people in India and abroad performed yoga exercises. In Ranchi, the celebration was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi, who has announced his intention to resign as Congress President after the recent electoral defeat, posted pictures of Army Dog Unit canines performing yoga with their handlers, and wrote ‘New India’ in the caption. Soon, the social media was flooded with indignant reactions with people questioning why Rahul chose to mock this ancient Indian practice of yoga.

BJP President Amit Shah on Twitter questioned this sense of ‘negativity’ and said Rahul has “mocked yoga and insulted our forces (yet again)”. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “when somebody insults our armed forces again and again, I can only pray to God to give some sense to such people.”

Congress leaders, clearly embarrassed over the tweet, declined to react. They are still in the dark about Rahul’s present position in the party hierarchy. Several days ago, Rahul had announced his intention to resign and he had clearly said on Thursday that he would not select anybody as his successor.

Senior party leaders expected Sonia Gandhi to persuade her son to retain the post, and there are now reports that the Congress Working Committee will be meeting in two weeks to decide about the party president. With the situation still fluid, Congress leaders on Friday avoided reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s tweet on yoga.

There is not an iota of doubt that the tweet posted by Rahul Gandhi with pictures of trained Army dogs performing yoga amounts to mockery of this ancient practice.

This is quite surprising. It seems Rahul is opposing PM Narendra Modi only for the sake of opposing. It was Modi who had been striving for the last five years across the world to popularize yoga, and Rahul has chosen to mock this. When Modi launched Swachhata Abhiyan to provide toilets in all villages of the country, Rahul had chosen to mock him.

At one point of time, Rahul claimed that Modi ‘feared’ him and the Prime Minister would be unable to stand before him for ten minutes.

I thought that there would be a change in Rahul’s behaviour after the electoral reverses, and that he would realize the reasons why his party lost. But I find there has been no such change. He chose to prevent his mother Sonia Gandhi from thumping the desk when the President was delivering his speech to the new Parliament. Instead of listening to the speech, Rahul was seen busy with his cell phone. And now, he has mocked yoga.

There is a popular adage that defeat is the biggest teacher in life and there is no greater lesson than defeat. It now seems Rahul is yet to learn from his defeat.

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Yogi must find permanent solution to fix the ailing health care system

akb1India TV on Thursday night telecast on its ‘Aaj Ki Baat‘ show the news about how a four-day-old infant, born prematurely, died on the stairs of a government hospital in Bareilly, UP, hours after she was shunted between two wings of the same hospital, because doctors at neither of the wings were ready to admit her.

For more than three hours, the family of the infant ran between the men’s and women’s wings of the same hospital, and the infant died in transit. Yogendra Pal, a farmer had brought the infant to the hospital for immediate treatment after she became ill and had breathing trouble.

The parents first went to the OPD of the men’s wing. The paediatrician Dr S S Chauhan examined her and referred the infant to the women’s wing, some 500 metres away, which has a Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU). The doctor at SNCU refused to admit the infant and wrote on the hospital slip “Bed is not available, kindly admit in your side (sic)”.

When the father returned to the OPD of men’s wing, Dr Chauhan again directed him to go to the women’s wing.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered the immediate suspension of the Chief Medical Superintendent of the hospital, Dr K S Gupta and ordered departmental proceedings against the CMS of the women’s wing Dr Alka Sharma for negligence in duty.

The suspended CMS Dr Gupta said, Dr Chauhan should have admitted the infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where two out of four infant radiant warmer cots were available. Dr Alka Sharma however said there were six infants in the NICU, where only four infant radiant warmer cots were already occupied.

India TV showed the video of the doctors quarreling among themselves even as the parents were holding the body of the dead infant.

The basic issue is not about an ailing infant’s death, it signifies the ‘death’ of our sick health care system. The saddest part is that though we have hospitals, doctors, medicines and equipment, the basic need called sensitivity is sorely missing. When sensitivity is dead, there seems to be no difference between a living human being and a dead body. It was not the body of an infant that came out of the hospital in Bareilly, it was the lifeless body of our ailing health care system that came out of this sordid episode.

I appreciate the immediate action taken by the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in suspending the CMS and ordering departmental proceedings against the other, but this is not a permanent solution. The Chief Minister must now take serious steps to arrest the malady that prevails in our health care system. Otherwise we will continue to watch such sordid happenings, and our children will continue to die, whether in Bareilly or in Muzaffarpur (Bihar).

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Nothing was done for last 20-25 years to tackle Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Bihar

akb18I am surprised that the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome has been occurring in Muzaffarpur and adjoining districts of Bihar for the last 20-25 years, and the state administration and medical fraternity did nothing except taking cosmetic steps to deal with the situation on an annual basis.

Our reporters say, kids have been dying almost every year during summer due to AES and the local administration used to wait for the onset of monsoon rains, when the spread of the disease subsides. This was being taken as the normal every year till TV news channels played up this story this year on a wider scale. The attention of the entire nation was riveted on Muzaffarpur, even as kids suffering from AES were falling to their tragic death like nine pins.

Doctors in Bihar still say they neither know for sure why this disease occurs nor how to prevent and/or treat the patients. Watching kids die of a disease that is not being prevented makes one sad even 72 years after Independence.

India TV reporters found out that the hospitals in Muzaffarpur lacked sufficient number of beds, doctors and nurses, and the tiny tots suffering from disease were being forced to sleep on mattresses spread on the floor. This is not the case of Muzaffarpur alone. It is only a telling example of the overall level of health care services in Bihar.

Just imagine, a hospital that has witnessed the death of more than 100 kids had no thermometers or ORS devices. Cleanliness inside the hospital was in a pathetic condition and a sure invitation to death.

The Chief Minister of Bihar visited the Muzaffarpur hospital on Tuesday only because TV news channels have been playing up the story for the last 2-3 days. The announcements that were made after the CM’s visit were laughable.

It was announced that the hospital would be upgraded with 2,500 beds and number of children wards will be increased. A dharmashala will be opened near the hospital so that relatives and attendants of patients can stay.

All these announcements have just no meaning. The reality is that doctors, bureaucrats and politicians are waiting for rains to come so that the occurence of this disease will naturally cease. They can then heave a sigh of relief, and the Indian public may forget as time passes.

But I want to promise our viewers that India TV will not make them forget about this Acute Encephalitis Syndrome. We shall continue to remind the Bihar government about its responsibility so that the same thing is not repeated during summer next year.

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