BJP accuses Odisha govt of ‘hiding’ data of casualties in cholera outbreak


In the wake of the worrisome cholera outbreak in Odisha, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday accused the ruling Biju Janata Dal government of ‘hiding’ data of casualties, even as the state officially reported 14 deaths and 300 hospitalisations. While 11 people have so far died in Rayagada, one death each were reported from Koraput, Nuapada and Nabarangpur, district officials said.

Raising the issue in the state assembly on Tuesday, BJP’s chief whip Mohan Majhi alleged that in Kashipur block of Rayagada district, where cholera broke out early this month, 14 people have died while the state government kept insisting that only nine people died. The official death toll in Rayagada went up to 11 after two more people succumbed in a hospital on Wednesday, according to district CDMO Lalmohan Routray.

“The state government has claimed that remaining five persons died of natural causes. If that is the case, the government must submit the post-mortem reports of five persons,” Majhi, who led a four-member BJP team to Kashipur two days ago, said. Congress chief whip Taraprasad Bahinipati alleged that diarrhoea has also spread in Koraput district and some people in Dasmantpur block have also died due to the waterborne disease. “The government should give ex-gratia of ₹10 lakh to each of the families,” he demanded.

The BJP is the main opposition party in the eastern Indian state. Majhi alleged that the reality in Kashipur is completely different from the government’s facts and figures. “Though cholera outbreaks happen every year in Kashipur during monsoon, the government has been slow to react. Intake of contaminated water is the major cause of the spread of cholera and diarrhoea in the district. People are dependent on ponds, wells and other sources for their daily water requirement, which is a major reason behind the outbreak. The government should come up with a long-term plan to tackle the situation as part of its measure to prevent the disease from recurring at Kashipur,” he said. In the last 20 days, cholera has claimed nine lives and affected over 252 persons of 22 villages of Kashipur alone, district officials said.

Lalmohan Routray, the chief district medical officer of Rayagada, said the scientists of the Regional Medical Research Centre in Bhubaneswar found cholera bacteria in the samples of 10 gastrointestinal patients. “Earlier, we thought that all the affected villagers were suffering from gastroenteritis. But we now came to know that the deadly waterborne disease cholera is spreading in the villages of Kashipur block. The bacteria have been found in the water used by the villagers,” Routray said.

Majhi attributed the spread of the disease to the intake of contaminated water and lack of nutritious food, and aded that the absence of piped water supply and proper sewage system is exposing the residents of Kashipur to waterborne diseases. While the state government claimed to have provided tap water supply to 31.71% people in Rayagada, local MLA Makaranda Muduli questioned official claims. “How can the government claim to be giving water supply to one-third of the people of Rayagada when schemes are starting now? Tenders were recently floated in Gunupur, Kashipur and other blocks. The claims of tap water connections in rural households in the district are dubious” he alleged.

In Nabarangpur district, at least one person died and 16 others were hospitalised due to diarrhoea in Nandahandi block over the last four days. Dr Bikash Barik, the medical officer at the Nandahandi community health centre, said 16 persons have been affected with diarrhoea. “Two of them were serious with dehydration. We referred one of them to Tentulikhunti and another to Nabarangpur district headquarters hospital,” he said.

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