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Vardhan letter prod to CM

- Centre’s second JE missive to Mamata

Siliguri, Aug. 3: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan has said he had sent two letters to Mamata Banerjee, proposing that the Japanese Encephalitis outbreak be fought jointly by the Centre and the state, but there had been no response from her end.

Chandrima Bhattacharya the state’s junior health minister, refused comment on Vardhan’s letter. “I have no information and wouldn’t like to comment on it,” she said today.

Speaking to The Telegraph over the phone from Uttarakhand on Friday, Vardhan said: “I have sent two letters to Mamata Banerjee, one on July 23 and the other on July 31, expressing my keenness to take care of the encephalitis outbreak jointly by the Centre and the state government, so that lives of more people are not lost.”

He said: “I had also mentioned that I would like to visit Bengal and sit with the chief minister to discuss and decide on the improvement of health infrastructure across the state.”

He said “though people are dying in Bengal everyday because of Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, the chief minister or anybody else from the state government has not responded to my letters”.

In the July 31 letter, a copy of which is in the possession of The Telegraph, Vardhan had said “some sort of arrangement be set up on an emergency basis so that the best medical and administrative talents from across India are put at the disposal of your government in combating the ongoing outbreak”.

The Union minister said he was not questioning the capacity of doctors engaged in tackling the outbreak in the state. “But bringing in more experts and doctors from other parts of the country would definitely help tide over the situation. We have come across certain incidents of deaths, which has prompted us to propose the review of all government hospitals as lives of patients are lost if there is a delay in appropriate treatment,” the Union minister said.

In his letter, he also expressed his willingness to visit north Bengal, the region that has reported the highest number of deaths so far.

“I am also happy to share with you my desire to visit the affected areas, particularly in the northern part of West Bengal. After that I plan a visit to Kolkata to meet you personally in connection with various projects being considered by me, both at the central and West Bengal levels,” the letter said.

Vardhan said if the state had responded to his letters, he would have visited north Bengal this weekend. “The situation is pretty serious in the region, as I have come across several reports received from administrative sources…. I have decided that even if the state does not respond to my proposals, I will visit the affected region.”

The minister said: “My plan is to visit the region, check the medical infrastructure and find the gaps which need to be plugged through the augmentation of infrastructure, right from the health centre to medical college. I had also proposed talks so that decisions could be taken and funds be arranged for the improvement of the infrastructure,” Vardhan said.

Bhattacharya, the junior health minister in the state, during a visit to north Bengal last week had said the situation was under control.