GORAKHPUR: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has moved on to his seemingly favourite Hindu-Muslim theme, wondering at the use of loudspeakers by mosques and namaz being offered on the roads outside mosques, but has made no headway in plugging the loopholes that led to the death of at least 70 children in the BRD hospital in Gorakhpur, his home city. Adityanath heads the Gorakhnath math.

It is still not clear how many children have died because of the sudden stoppage of oxygen, essential in the treatment of encephalitis patients, with the figures still hovering from 63 to 71. There has been no decisive move to investigate the reasons for these deaths, bring those responsible to task, and ensure that the hospital that showcases the ward for encephalitis patients, is brought up to mark. Instead a magisterial enquiry that has submitted its report in fairly record time has not yet been acknowledged by the state government, with the authorities concerned claiming they have yet to receive the report.

This has found its way into the media however, pinning the blame on the Principal of the Hospital and four others. There is enough by way of rumours around the hospital of the involvement of a couple of the top doctors, seeking higher commissions, for continuing the oxygen supply to the hospital. A fat bill of over Rs 68 lakhs was due to the Delhi based Pushpa Sales, and there are records to show that the company had been writing letters ---and as it says in one of them pursuing the case verbally as well---to all concerned for the payment of the dues.

Interestingly, the dues have been pending for several months now with Pushpa Sales chasing the payments since April. Reports record letters written by the College Principal to the Additional Chief Secretary for payments since April this year. Pushpa Sales sent a letter directly on August 9 to the state Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tandon. Just a few days ago, on August 4 the hospital principal wrote to Tandon for the payment, and according to the Minister this was the first he hear of it. Rs 2 crores is transferred the next day, again according to leaked details of the magisterial enquiry into the horrific incident.

However, till August 9 the vendor is unpaid. And after the letter to Tandon, Pushpa Sales reportedly snaps the oxygen supply leading to the first 23 deaths, that increased over the days to 70 plus.

In this, Dr Kafeel Khan the one doctor who rushed around trying to save lives has drawn the CM’s ire. He was, according to sources, first to be castigated as his efforts attracted the attention of the media at the time. Today Dr Khan has become a complete recluse, driven away from the hospital, by threats and an army of trolls unleashed on him. Sources who know him say he is terrified, and while given a clean chit not just by the magisterial report and the relatives who have lost their children, is fearful of adverse consequences. As the staff and faculty of the hospital maintain, Dr Khan is too low in the administration to bear any direct responsibility for the supply, or otherwise of the oxygen. And as the relatives who are also being directed to keep quiet, initially said, he was the only one scrambling to arrange oxygen and save the children. In fact the last has been confirmed by the hospital seniors whom he had approached for permission to get a truck and arrange for oxygen cylinders. However, he was held almost immediately as the scapegoat for the state govenrment and only a visibly clean record has prevented his indictment.

The questions that Adityanath has to answer to ensure just action in this case where the poorest of the poor have lost their children are:

  • When the letters reached the Additional Chief Secretary in the state government about the non payment of dues---as sent by the Principal---what action did he take? Who was informed? At what level? And what directives were given by the state government, if any, on these reminders for payments?

  • When the Chief Minister visited the hospital just before the deaths, what information was he given? And if not, is he looking into the reasons for the silence of those in charge of the hospital?

  • Did not Adityanath see for himself the sad and bad conditions of the hospital, the wear and tear, and the overcrowded wards. Did he order an enquiry into this at the time, with a view to sprucing up the wards, particularly the one housing the young children afflicted by encephalitis? Or was his visit little more than a stroll in the park?

  • Various enquiries are being held. Which enquiry is the Adityanath government going to base its action on? The one conducted by BJP Ministers, or the other by the Delhi based Medical Association, or his own Magisterial enquiry that has already submitted its report?

  • What are the confirmed charges against Dr Kafeel Khan? Why and on what basis has he been held responsible for the disruption of the oxygen supply when all decision making was in the hands of the Principal and other seniors?

  • Is it true that the staff, faculty, and even patients are being threatened with dire consequences if they speak of what happened in the hospital after the oxygen supply was cut? Is it true that the relatives were told to take the bodies of their children away from the back doors?

  • Is it true that the state government is moving pillar and post to absolve itself of any responsibility in these deaths, when in actual fact, it had not released the money for the oxygen supply in time and despite many reminders?