New Delhi: BJP MP from Saran, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, wants a pragmatic approach towards the encephalitis epidemic in Bihar but is as concerned about the export lobby of the state that rests heavily on litchis– which he says should not be blamed unnecessarily.

As many as 158 children have died due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Bihar in the past month and one of the contributors or aggravator to the disease has been reported to be litchi. The fruit is widely grown in Bihar and exported to the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand among other nations. But recent reports over how litchis are aggravating symptoms of encephalitis has severely hit the trade.

A report has claimed that as much as Rs 80-100 crore has been lost in litchi export business due to the encephalitis scare.

Speaking to news agency ANI, Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “We all were born&brought up in Bihar&we had litchis right from childhood. There has been an incident in Bihar which is almost an epidemic. Around 120 lives have been lost. Nonetheless, it is very amusing to believe that litchi is the cause.”

He, however, seemed concerned about the litchi trade industry and added:

Meanwhile, in view of the rising encephalitis deaths in Bihar, state Health Minister Prem Kumar on Friday ordered a probe to investigate if consumption of the litchi fruit is leading to the deaths.

The minister said a team of agriculture scientists and horticulture officials will visit the affected areas.

He said that it was widely believed that litchis could be one of the reasons behind the Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) outbreak in Muzaffarpur district.

An AES outbreak is normally reported during the litchi harvest season in summer, although till date, it has not been officially verified that the virus is caused by the fruit.

Muzaffarpur is known as the litchi hub of the country.

With IANS inputs