KARACHI: After news of the death of 121 children in Tharparkar surfaced in the media, even the government, represented by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah at a press conference on Friday, repeatedly acknowledged the negligence and failure of the local administration.
Shah named "pneumonia" and "malnutrition" as the main causes of the deaths and held the local administration, officials of health and livestock departments and the police responsible for the incident. He also ordered to transfer and suspend around half a dozen officers.
"The lives of these children could have been saved if the doctors and officials of the health department had taken this matter seriously and shifted these children to Hyderabad for timely treatment," he said, adding that severe cold and the unfair distribution of wheat were also contributing factors in the tragedy. "The government had provided 60,000 gunny bags of wheat for the district, but it was not properly distributed which led to hunger and malnutrition among the children. In this case, I will not succumb to any pressure by elected representatives or leaders of my party to favour any negligent officer."
He said that the health director, medical superintendent of Mithi Hospital and livestock deputy director have been suspended and an inquiry has been initiated against them. "The deputy commissioner and SSP have also been transferred over their careless performance." Two committees will be formed to investigate the incident and monitor the distribution of wheat among people. "One committee, under the supervision of Hyderabad DIG Sanaullah Abbasi will look into negligence of the officers and another committee, headed by Taj Haider, will investigate the distribution of wheat," said the CM.
He pinpointed the illegal cattle markets, saying they were set up by the locals with the help of police personnel who reportedly transported the viral affected animals to Karachi. Shah informed the media that two government employees have been arrested.
Relief and compensation
Nearly Rs420 million, according to the CM, are being spent to deal with the recent tragedy in Tharparkar district. "We are going to spend Rs10 million on the treatment of ailing children in the district," he said, adding that Rs0.2 million would be given to each family who has lost a loved one. When asked about the number of deaths, he said that around 41 children died during the last three months. "We are investigating the figure of 121 deaths as quoted by the media," he said. Even though he admitted that the deaths were a result of negligence, the CM distanced the Pakistan Peoples Party from the tragedy. "Sindh government announces relief packages to overcome drought every year. Relief is provided on our part but the local administration has misappropriated the funds."
JI, MWM criticise CM for poor show
Jamaat-e-Islami's Karachi chief, Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, has demanded that the provincial chief minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, resign over the recent show of bad governance, which resulted in the deaths of innocent children due to famine in Tharparkar.
"As many as 60,000 wheat bags that were slated for distribution in the famine-hit district have been piled up in warehouses while people are dying outside," said Rehman at Idara-e-Noor Haq. Meanwhile, Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, the secretary general of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, has said that the deaths of children due to starvation in Tharparkar district have exposed the claims of good governance by the PPP government. "It is not enough to admit the negligence. Immediate remedial steps should be taken and people expect the chief minister and his cabinet to camp in Tharparkar to ensure practical relief work," he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2014.