A social audit of families of children admitted with acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) conducted by the Bihar government reveals just how poor they are. More than three-fourths of those surveyed would fall below the poverty line (BPL). The audit data accessed by TOI is for 287 of the families of children with AES reported till now.
The average annual household income of the families surveyed was a little over Rs 53,500 or about Rs 4,465 per month. The Rangarajan Committee had defined the poverty line in rural Bihar in 2011-2012 as a per capita monthly income of Rs 971. For an average family of five persons, this works out to Rs 4,855 per month. Even adding a very modest 2% annual inflation for the eight years since then would take that figure to Rs 1,138 today or about Rs 5,700 for afamily of five persons.
As per an audit data published by TOI, of the 287 families audited, the average annual household income of the families surveyed was little above Rs 53,500 or about Rs 4,465 per month. As per the Rangrajan Committee, the poverty line in Bihar in 2011-12 was defined as per capita monthly income of Rs 971. For any average family which has close to 5 members, this comes around Rs 4,855 per month.
Over 77% of the families surveyed earned less than this and a large number of them had 6-9 family members or more. There were families that reported an annual income of as little as Rs 10,000 and the most well-off among those covered by the audit had an annual income of under Rs 1.6 lakh. Approximately 82% (235) of the households surveyed earned a living by working as labourers.
About a third of the families had no ration card and about a sixth of those who did have one had not received any rations the previous month. In 200 of the 287 cases surveyed (about 70%), the families said their children had played outside in the sun before being taken ill with AES. And 61 of the children had eaten nothing the night before they fell sick.
Roughly two-thirds of the families, 191, live in kutcha houses. Yet, only 102 had benefitted from the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Though 87% had access to drinking water, almost 60% did not have a toilet. Though the government claims to have provided ambulance services, 84% of the families did not use the service for taking the children to the hospital and in almost all these cases, they were not aware of it.
About 64% of the households were from areas surrounding litchi orchards and a similar proportion said the child who fell ill had eaten litchi. Surprisingly, in threefourths of the cases, the elders were not aware of chamki bukhar or AES nor were they aware that treatment for it was available at the primary health centre (PHC).
Only a quarter of the cases were referred to the primary health centre for treatment. This is not surprising, as in most AES cases, the symptoms surface in the early hours when most primary health centres are closed apart from the fact that many of them are severely understaffed.