By D N Singh
It is an imperative topic for a debate that various deaths in India and in Odisha (low lying coastal fringes) due to snake-bites keep rising.
According to a 2020 study, “an average of nearly 58,000 Indian citizens die each year due to snake bites. But experts say that actual numbers are likely higher because of unreported cases in thousands”.
It is indeed a pathetic revelation that still we have not been able to salvage the situation by any protective actions and the remedial steps to save the victims.
Coming to Odisha covered by jungles in over 47% land( as estimation done five years back) areas and a coastal ring stretching for over 480 kms along the sea shores, National Human Rights Commission(NHRC) has expressed its concern as what the actions taken by the respective administrations in dealing with the situations.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sought for detailed reports from the centre and Odisha government on Snake Bite deaths, preventive measures and provision of compensation to the victim‘s families.
The NHRC passed the order on October 11 last while acting on a petition filed by Civil Rights activist Radhakanta Tripathy.
The Commission sought the report from the Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi, the Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Odisha, and the District Collectors of Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Boudh and Bhadrak.
In a petition before the attention of the NHRC on the death of about 58,000 innocent people every year due to snakebite across the country.
Citing incidents of negligence of the Education Department and District administration of Keonjhar, Odisha, three students died after a venomous snake bit them while they were sleeping inside a coaching Centre in the Nischintapur area on July 22 last.
Various instances of snake bites in Mayurbhanj, Boudh and Bhadrak , Bolangir and other areas in Odisha have been placed in record.
Ironically, among the disaster casualties in Odisha, snakebite deaths alone accounted for more than 40 percent of the total disaster deaths.
The snakebite death cases in Odisha, has doubled to 1159 in 2021 from 522 in 2015 especially due to shortage of anti-snake venom stocks in the government-run-health facilities even in the state-run SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack.
The AVS is also not easily available in the open market in Odisha, he said and pointed out that an average of 58,000 deaths occurred per year in our country due to snakebite, of which 70 percent reported in low-altitude areas of nine states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
The petition requested the NHRC for payment of compensation and benefits under the social welfare schemes to the next of kin of the deceased, action against the officials for their lapses who failed to ensure safety and security of the students in the coaching centers and adequate availability of the anti-snake venom in the hospitals.
It is imperative that the NHRC direct the authorities concerned for maintenance of a comprehensive national data of snakebite cases, to make more search on this issue and designate the snakebite as a 'Notifiable Disease' within the 'Integrated Disease Surveillance Program' and to get a permanent solution.
In response, the District Magistrate, Balangir, informed that the Danda Dance Artist Late Nakula Bariha of Putisbahal Village of Balangir district, died due to snake bite onJuly 16 last and the payment of compensation of Rs.4 lakh has been made.
The NHRC asked the authorities to submit an action taken report to the Commission within eight weeks latest by December 16 next for further consideration by the Commission.
Earlier the NHRC had sought for ATR from the authorities to ensure the needful action and submit an action taken report to the Commission within six weeks, but no detailed response so far has been received by the NHRC.
About the Author: DN Singh is a Bhubaneswar-based senior journalist.
DISCLAIMER: This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with www.prameyanews.com.