Attappadi infant deaths due to system failure, claims Oppn in Kerala Assembly; LDF denies

The adjournment motion was moved in the wake of the recent death of an infant girl in Attappadi.

Ayyappan walking with child's mortal remains in Attappadi

Thiruvananthapuram: The opposition on Thursday moved an adjournment motion in the Kerala Assembly alleging that infant deaths in tribal hamlets of Attappadi area in Palakkad district were due to failure of the system, but the same was rejected by the Left government, leading to the UDF members staging a walkout.

The adjournment motion was moved in the wake of the recent death of an infant girl in Attappadi.

State Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes K Radhakrishnan said there was no need to put the House proceedings on hold to discuss the issue, raised by IUML member N Samsudheen, as the state government has been taking necessary steps to address any health-related problems there.

The Minister said the reason for the recent death of an infant girl there can be ascertained after the post mortem report is received.

He said that everyone, including the MLA and MP of the area, have to work together to resolve problems in the tribal hamlets there.

After hearing both sides, Speaker M B Rajesh ruled that the motion was rejected in view of the submissions made by the Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes.

Shamsudheen, during discussion on the motion, alleged that basic health facilities were not available there and the only hospital in the area lacks sufficient staff, doctors, specialists, scanning equipment and even medicines for dog bites.

He also alleged that the hospital does not get proper water supply and its electricity connection was also snapped due to non-payment of dues.

These allegations were denied by the state Health and Electricity ministers as well as Radhakrishnan.

Electricity Minister K Krishnankutty initially said that one phone call to him would have ensured resumption of the power supply and soon, thereafter, contended that he has been informed that the power supply was never disconnected.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan also contended that the system, including community kitchens, that was put in place in the area during the UDF rule to take care of pregnant mothers, babies and others in the tribal hamlets, has failed.

He also alleged that neo-natal and post-natal care were not being provided at the hospital, it had no technicians, 59 staff were retrenched and there were not enough doctors or specialists.

The Health Minister Veena George while denying the opposition's allegations with regard to lack of basic health infrastructure there, contended that a paediatric ICU was being set up in the hospital and neo-natal care was already being provided there.

She also said that most of the infant deaths in the area were during the UDF rule in 2013 and that of the infant deaths in the area this year, only one baby's weight was below 1 kg which indicated that proper ante-natal care was being provided there.

She alleged that the IUML MLA should not mislead the Assembly and if he visits his constituency -- where the area in question is located -- sometime, he would know about the facilities being provided there.

Her comment led to an uproar in the House with both sides shouting at each other and as a result the Speaker suspended proceedings for a few minutes.

Subsequently, when the Speaker returned, Satheesan said the way the Health Minister "ridiculed" the IUML MLA was unfortunate and uncalled for.

He said that Shamsudheen won from the area thrice in a row and that was not by not visiting the area.

Satheesan alleged that all decisions of the government were on paper and these infant deaths were due to the failure of the system and since the adjournment motion was not being discussed, his party was staging a walkout.

Thereafter, members of other UDF constituents also walked out of the House over non-discussion of the issue.

Subsequently, Satheesan met the press and reiterated what he had said during the assembly proceedings that the Health department has allegedly failed to provide medical facilities in that area.

Instead of replying to the issues raised by us, the Health Minister ridiculed the IUML MLA and made provocative statements, he contended and termed it as "sheer arrogance".

In the second half of the day, George clarified in the assembly that she had no intention to ridicule or make any personal remarks against Shamsudheen.

Her intention was only to request the IUML MLA to go to Attappadi and directly see the steps taken by the Health department.

She also claimed that whenever any development related or other activities are carried out in that area, the MLA is always kept in the loop.

The state Health Minister said that equipment, including ventilators, for a paediatric unit have reached the hospital located in the area.

Later, Radhakrishnan also met the press where he reiterated the steps taken by the government to alleviate issues being faced by the tribal population there.

He also alleged that what Shamsudheen said in the assembly was "misleading" as he was aware of the welfare work and activities being carried out there by the government.

The minister contended that there has been no failure on the part of his department or the Health department.


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