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Shatrughan Sinha questions Centre over AES epidemic in Bihar

Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha on Wednesday questioned the Centre over Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) crisis and said had the government delivered on the promises of strengthening medical infrastructure in the state, the situation would have been different.

"Our health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had visited the state at the time of encephalitis outbreak in 2014. He had promised to strengthen the infrastructure of the hospitals, increasing the number of beds and establishing a research centre. What happened to those promises?" Sinha told ANI here.

Sinha, who lost Lok Sabha polls from Patna Sahib, asserted that Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey, a minister from BJP quota, should take responsibility and accountability of the acute problem.

The Congress leader, however, praised Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. "I will appreciate the Chief Minister. At least he visited there and said situations would be different had he visited the hospital 10 days ago," he said.

The actor-turned-politician expressed concerns over lychee being blamed as the root cause behind the epidemic and underlined that other issues such as malnutrition, heat wave could be the reason.

He said, "Lychee trade has been targetted. It seems lychee is the only source of the disease. Does anyone have any evidence to blame only the fruit for it? Does malnutrition, poverty, heatwave, and consumption of contaminated water not the cause?"

Calling the deaths due to the disease "unfortunate", he said: "Bihar is weeping today. All these years after independence, this happens every year. What we learned after 2014 tragedy?"

Meanwhile, the death toll due to the syndrome rose to 128 on Wednesday.