Thirty-four children died in the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar communal clashes, a panel constituted by the Uttar Pradesh government has found.

Of these, about a dozen deaths took place in the relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. The other casualties took place either in the Primary Health Centres (PHCs), or in hospitals where the children had been referred for treatment. Four children died of pneumonia. The panel found that the deaths were due to various reasons, mostly health-related.

The committee was constituted to verify reports of child deaths in the camps and was headed by the Commissioner of Meerut Division, Manjit Singh.

It submitted its report to the government on Wednesday.

According to the Principal Secretary (Home) Anil Kumar Gupta, the committee found about 400 families belonging to villages in Baghpat and Meerut districts, where no clashes had taken place, being housed in the relief camps. “The reasons for them living in the relief camps are being assessed. If they are fearful, then steps would be taken to remove them,” Mr. Gupta said.

Suggestions

“The panel suggested that conditions in the relief camps be improved and steps be taken to enable the displaced persons return to their homes,” Mr. Gupta told journalists on Thursday.

Based on the committee’s findings, an action plan will be formulated for improving the facilities in the relief camps and creating a fear-free environment.

The communal violence which broke out on September 7 claimed 65 lives. It left 85 others injured and rendered 51,000 people, mostly Muslims, homeless. A total of 4,783 persons are still holed up in five relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts, with 1,910 of them in Loi relief camp alone. Another 1,950 are in Malakpur.

‘Deaths outside camps’

Mr. Gupta said the panel concluded that a majority of child deaths had taken place outside the relief camps. “About 10-12 children below the age of 15 years died in the relief camps and four kids succumbed to pneumonia,” Mr. Gupta added.

Denying that there was medical negligence on the part of the doctors in the relief camps, Mr. Gupta said serious cases were referred to PHCs and district hospitals. In 39 cases, primary treatment was given in the relief camps. Mr. Gupta claimed that the medical facilities at the relief camps have improved.

He also said the government would take steps to instil confidence in the victims and ensure adequate police presence in their villages.