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Another child dies of malnutrition as Pankaja Munde visits Palghar; minister claims action on 'war footing'

Controversy has been trailing Maharashtra Minister for Women and Child Welfare Pankaja Munde's visit to the tribal-dominated Mokhada tehsil of Palghar district where several malnutrition deaths have taken place. After the opposition cried foul on the imposition of Section 144 ahead of Munde's visit, she drew more flak as another child lost his life due to malnutrition during the minister's visit to Palghar.

According to a report in The New Indian ExpressRahul Kashiram Wadekar, a two-year-old from the Ruighar village of Jawhar taluk passed away in a Nashik Hospital due to chronic malnutrition as Munde was on a tour of his native village. The boy reportedly weighed a mere 5 kg at the age and passed away due to anemia which led to high fever and infection, as reported in DNA 

While Munde, rapidly tweeting out updates from her tour, said that she met the representatives of the Shramajivi Sanghatana, an organisation working on malnourishment in the region, and assured them of all government help, Vivek Pandit a member of the organisation complained of government inaction to the media.  He alleged that the local hospital was ill equipped to handle critical cases. “The issue is that of the sensitivity of the administration. How many more deaths are needed for them act sensitively,” Pandit told The New Indian Express. 

The delegation of the Shramjivi Sanghatana, led by Pandit told the minister that 20 percent of posts of health officials in the district were vacant, and also demanded upgradation of Jawhar rural hospital into a district civil hospital.

Munde, however, assured the media that the administration has geared up to deal with the crisis and she will personally monitor developments in the issue, stating that she's "working in co-orditn (coordination) with other depts (departments) to put in place permanent soln (solution) for malnutrition."

Speaking to the press during her visit, Munde said that she will visit the seven tribal districts in the state in every two months and will personally ensure that the benefit of government schemes for the tribal people are reaching there designated benefactors, according to a report in Navbharat Times.

Munde has also said that a joint task force will be formed to tackle the issue on "war footing." The minister further tweeted out that she will personally ensure that the benefits of schemes reaches those who need it the most.


However, Opposition has been crying foul over the steep number of malnutrition deaths in the region even though the minister tried to do a course correction by visiting the tribal village.

District collector Abhijit Bangar had said on Tuesday that as many as 212 children have died in the district since April this year due to malnutrition. Vivek Pandit also points out in DNA report that according to the government report released in August 2016, there are  7240 malnourished children in the region. According to another report in IBN 7, 13 children have died in Palghar in the past two months while 15 other kids are hospitalised in the local government hospital. The report claims that according to the state government estimate, there are 563 cases of malnutrition in Palghar district alone.

Earlier, as Munde was due to visit the region, the imposition of Section 144 by the local administration drew considerable flak from the government.

A few days ago, Tribal Development minister and district Guardian minister Vishnu Sawra had faced people's wrath when he visited the area, and had to leave after which the decision to impose Section 144 was taken by the administration.

No untoward incident happened during Munde's visit, but the administration's evocation of section 144 of CrPC (restricting movement of people) at Koch and Kalambawadi fearing trouble drew criticism from local organisations and opposition parties.

Former chief minister Ashok Chavan had condemned the move, saying if Munde was scared of visiting the tribal villages, she should not only abandon her tour but quit the cabinet. Munde's brother and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde also criticised the move. "If Pankaja is so afraid of the common man, she should rather stay at home," Dainik Bhaskar quoted Dhananjay as saying.

Following the criticism, the preventive order was lifted but heavy police presence was seen at all the places where Munde visited.

Munde was accompanied by BJP MP Chintaman Wanga, MLAs Pascal Dhanare and Manisha Chowdhari and others.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Sep 22, 2016 12:13:41 IST