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State chiefs say dieting causes dengue fever

Commentators lambast leaders' comments

Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi

September 5, 2012

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The chief ministers of two Indian states are under fire for comments to the media that dengue and malnutrition are caused by dieting. "In dieting, if you cut down on your food intake, if you have less oil here and less spices there and eat less, you can easily get affected by dengue," Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, told state media yesterday. She said people affected by a growing dengue outbreak should drink plenty of water and eat good food. The death toll from dengue has reached 20 in West Bengal this year, with another 699 people affected by the virus. Dengue, also known as breakbone fever, is an infectious tropical disease carried by several species of mosquito. Its symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains. It affects the platelets in the body. Banerjee’s comments came just days after Narendra Modi, chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat, blamed the high level of malnutrition in the region on middle class people paying more attention to beauty than to their health. He made this claim in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on August 28. Various studies have found dismal malnutrition levels in Gujarat, particularly among tribal, rural and female populations. “This shows how our leaders are unaware of the facts in their respective states," said Mukti Prakash Tirkey, a New Delhi-based social activist and journalist. There are more cases of people dying due to poverty than abstaining from food, he said.
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