New Delhi: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was caught on camera on Friday as he evaded questions of journalists regarding the deaths of children in the state due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES). The brain fever has afflicted over 600 children across 16 districts of Bihar of which 136 have lost their lives since the beginning of this month, the state health department said.

Earlier this week, activists from several organisations protested outside the Bihar Bhawan in Delhi demanding the resignation of Nitish Kumar with the increasing death toll in Bihar since the AES outbreak. A report from a leading daily had quoted one of the protestors as saying, “We want Bihar CM and health minister to step down with immediate effect taking moral responsibility for acting late.” Meanwhile, news agency ANI on Friday tweeted a video of the Bihar chief minister evading the flurry of questions from the media persons.

As per the statistics released by Bihar health department, the total number of AES cases registered across the state since June 1 was 626, and the total number of deaths caused by the same has mounted to 136. Muzaffarpur district has borne the maximum brunt, accounting for 117 deaths so far. Besides, deaths have been reported from districts like Bhagalpur, East Champaran, Vaishali, Sitamarhi and Samastipur.

Experts have blamed the high incidence of hypoglycemia on a toxin found in unripe litchi fruit, which is believed to be consumed by malnourished children from underprivileged backgrounds. To take stock of the situation, Union Health Minister Harshvardhan visited Muzaffarpur on Sunday and held a meeting with the officials.

Notably, the state health department has deputed additional medical officers, child specialists and nurses from other districts to Muzaffarpur to help the health officials in the district. Health workers were reportedly being provided with packets of oral rehydration solution for free distribution in the affected regions. The government has also announced that it would reimburse any expenses involved in getting children treated at private hospitals and nursing homes or hiring of ambulances. Many child specialists, not associated with any government hospital, are holding free camps for the afflicted children.

(With inputs from PTI)