The traumatic demise of 33 innocent children due to negligence in Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur town of Uttar Pradesh in a span of 72 hours has understandably shocked the conscience of the entire country. While there are credible claims that the deaths were caused by disruption of liquid oxygen supply, the State government has been denying this. The local administration in Gorakhpur, the Lok Sabha constituency of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, has admitted that oxygen supply was disrupted, but denied that it led to the deaths.
The company which used to supply liquid oxygen to the hospital, Pushpa Sales, has said it had asked authorities to pay up pending bills for months on end, and on August 1 even sent a letter, threatening to cut off supply if dues were not cleared. It said the hospital paid up Rs 20.84 lakh out of the Rs 67-lakh bill soon after the children’s deaths were reported.
The Chief Minister, who has represented Gorakhpur in Parliament for nearly 20 years, said dirty surroundings and open defecation were responsible for the deaths. “Since 1978, children in eastern UP are dying due to lack of sanitation and defecating in the open,” he said. Be it the lack of oxygen supply or the insanitary conditions in the hospital, the State government can hardly evade responsibility for the tragedy. Responsibility needs to be fixed without fear or favour at the earliest to restore the credibility of the administration.
Yogi Adityanath had visited Gorakhpur on August 9 but his government said the principal and doctors of the hospital did not raise the issue of shortage of oxygen cylinders. It now transpires that there were nine deaths of children in the hospital that day but he was not told of it. It is imperative that prompt action be taken against the guilty. The magisterial inquiry into the deaths that has been ordered is not enough. A high-level judicial inquiry must be initiated.
Strangely, no autopsy was done to establish the cause of death. The Chief Minister and State health minister Siddhartha Nath Singh have a lot to answer for. This hospital had been under a cloud even in the past under earlier regimes and due care should have been exercised by the current regime. This is indeed a huge black mark for the Yogi Adityanath government which would predictably affect the performance of the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.