LUCKNOW: Even after the matter of death of 23 children on 10 August, 2017 at Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital had come to light, children continued to die there. In all 30 children died over two days 10-11 August and 60 children died over five days from 7 - 11 August indicating that the Yogi Adityanath government had little control over the turn of events.

Adityanath says he has been working on the problem of deaths of children due to Japanese encephalitis since 1996-97, but there is no improvement in the situation and clearly responsibility must be fixed.

After becoming the Chief Minister he has said on more than one occasion that he is only a part time politician. If this is the truth then it is inexplicable why he chose to become a Member of Parliament four times in a row.

If he thinks he can't give full time to his chief minister-ship then he must give up the post. In the Indian historical tradition there are not many instances when a monk or saint became a ruler. The role of such has usually been that of an advisor to the ruler.

Adityanath says that nobody can be more concerned about the children in Gorakhpur than him. But merely a statement won't do unless he is able to bring to end the high incidence of children's deaths.

On the fourth day of the tragedy in Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath made a statement that he cannot stop the observance of Janamashtmi in Police Stations until offering of Namaz on roads is stopped. He said that until people in the Kanwar yatra don't make a noise through whatever instruments they have and don't dance how will it even be a Kanwar yatra. It will resemble instead a funeral procession. He said if the microphone is to be banned in the Kanwar yatra it should first be banned in all religious places. No voice should be audible outside a religious place. He asked the officials whether they can enforce such an order? He further said that if they cannot do this, then no ban would be imposed on anything. He made an appeal to people to shower flower petals on kanwariyas.

How can we believe that even before the headlines of the deaths of little children in Gorakhpur have disappeared from the newspapers. somebody who claims to be concerned about them will speak instead on a non-priority issue, and that too in such an aggressive tone. Even after becoming the CM he is keen to represent his religious identity, aggressively. He is obviously more worried about the Kanwariyas than the children.

Maybe the people who don't have empathy for children and families should not hold high offices. Without empathy they have no understanding, and without understanding they cannot come up with effective solutions. The lack of interest---as now---is visible. That is why problems for common poor and lower middle class people have increased in the Modi, Yogi regimes.

The Gorakhpur incident also offers a glimpse of what will happen if health care is privatised. The company which held the oxygen supply contract simply stopped the supply when payment was not made. Private hospitals will not treat the poor because the reason for their existence is profit making. For the poor the only hope is government hospitals. Therefore more people keep coming to BRD Medical College even after knowing that it is dangerous, and not safe as they are certainly not going to get the best of facilities.

In a democratic country education and health care should remain in the government sector so that all citizens have access to good quality of these services. Privatisation of these sectors is an anti-poor stand. The government should take complete responsibility for these two sectors and make the effort to ensure high quality service. Even after news of the Gorakhpur tragedy made the national headlines, the corridors of the BRD Medical College remained littered with garbage. What can be a bigger mockery of the national clean India campaign?

A three member investigation team from the Central government declared that the deaths of children were not caused due to lack of oxygen supply. This has been a matter of debate since the very first day. The fact remains that the hospital owed close to Rs. 70 lakhs to the vendor who was contracted to make the supply, even though money was available with the hospital. Clearly it was an issue of commissions not having been paid, or a higher demand for commission remaining unfulfilled.

In this country payment and receipt of commissions is the primary mode of corruption and the Narendra Modi government, ostensibly committed to end corruption, has not even acknowledged the existence of this problem.

Part of the money generated from commissions is ploughed back into electoral politics. This is unaccounted or black money. If the practice of commissions is done away with, it’s first visible sign will be clean elections.

It is blot on this country that a rate of commission has been set for every government department, office, scheme, project, etc. If one wants to be the beneficiary of one of the many government schemes prescribed money has to be paid. If some construction is to be done, then officials of the concerned development authority and anybody who has to give an approval will demand their share of the cut.

Rates are fixed for the movement of files from one table to another in government offices. If somebody has taken a government contract then money will have to be paid to the authorised government officials. Different amounts are fixed for different works, departments, supply of items, for copying in examinations, people's representatives of ruling party and higher level officials. The bribe amount is also shared with colluding officials above and below. This system of commissions is still flourishing because it finances electoral politics.

Does the Yogi Adityanath or Narendra Modi government have the political will to strike at the roots of corruption in this country?

( Sandeep Pandey is the founder of Asha Trust, after a scholarly career abroad and at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (often termed the 'Asian Nobel prize') in 2002.)

(Cover Photograph from the Hindustan Times)