Nobody has died of cold in Muzaffarnagar: UP Principal Secretary

Lucknow, Dec.27: Uttar Pradesh’s Principal Secretary (Home) Anil Gupta on Friday rejected charges that deaths of children in relief camps in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar District, had been due to the wintry and cold conditions.

“Children have died of pneumonia, not of cold. Nobody can die of cold. If people died of cold, nobody would have been alive in Siberia,” Gupta said.

Gupta’s remarks immediately drew criticism from across the political spectrum.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said: “Whoever is going before the media, be it a representative of the government or from the party, that person should be cautious before facing the press.”

“We have tried to send the Muzaffarnagar refugees back home. The administration is working on procedures. We are talking to the people in the camps to return home, but some of them seem to want to take political advantage,” he added.

“The UP Principal Secretary’s comment is unfortunate. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav should and must take action,” said Janata Dal-United leader K.C.Tyagi.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad described Gupta’s statement as “extremely insensitive and irresponsible, and said his party condemns it.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat said: “It’s an extremely insensitive and factually incorrect statement. It is like adding salt to wounds.”

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “Can’t die of the cold”!!!! Send him out in a few less clothes and let’s see if he isn’t singing a different tune pretty damn quick.”

On Thursday, the Uttar Pradesh Government admitted that 34 children – all below 12 years – died at the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts between September 7 and December 20, 2013.

Initially the state government had outrightly denied any deaths at any of the camps in Muzaffarnagar and had even submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court with similar claims.

However, following sustained media campaigns, the court asked the state government to verify the facts. Thereafter, the state government formed a panel on December 13, 2013 to look into the specifics.

The committee was headed by the Commissioner, Meerut Division, Manjit Singh. The district magistrates and chief medical officers of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli were nominated as its members. The committee initially confirmed the death of 11 children. The same committee has now confirmed that 34 children had died at the camps. (ANI)