THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 27 SEPTEMBER, 2019
Failure Is Not a Word in Dr Kafeel Khan’s Vocabulary
A gust of wind
NEW DELHI: A 90 day enquiry went on for over two years, but finally vindicated the stand taken by BRD Medical College doctor Kafeel Khan, hounded and harassed over what became a long struggle for him. Today he is “very happy and relieved” --as are his ageing mother and wife who ran from pillar to post trying to secure his release from a Uttar Pradesh jail --but clear that the story for him will end only after all those responsible for the disruption of oxygen supply that killed 70 children admitted in the hospital are brought to justice.
Dr Kafeel Khan is now looking for reinstatement in the hospital that was unable to protect him from the politicians wrath. And clear that his struggle will end only when action is taken against those responsible for not paying the bills that led to the disruption of the oxygen supply to critical patients in the hospital.
Recently Adityanath hit out yet again against Khan on the oxygen cylinder issue. Significantly the report clearing Dr Khan of all charges was submitted to the state governmnent this year in April, and became public only a day go when persons in the hospital shared it with the doctor. “I just got to know of this,” Dr Khan told The Citizen, “and of course I am happy and relieved.”
A personable, conscientious doctor he came into the media eye when he was captured on camera as trying to arrange oxygen cylinders to save the young children suffering from encephalitis. He gave a statement unknowingly that became the reason for his incarcination, that the oxygen supply in the hospital had run out and that is why he was running around trying to arrange oxygen cylinders. Adityanath on a visit to the hospital after scores of children had died singled Dr Khan out with a ‘so you think you are great’ kind of hostile comment, after which he was arrested and jailed on charges that he later challenged as flimsy and fabricated.
To assuage public opinion Adityanath had at the time ordered a 90 day time bound enquiry under a principal secretary Himanshu Kumar. When the months became years, Khan approached the High Court that directed the government to expedite the report. This was reportedly readied and submitted in April but Khan got the first whiff of it only now in September. And found that he has been exonerated of all charges by the state government’s own report.
But it has been a long two years for this doctor. He was practising medicine in Bangalore,with ambitions of going abroad for further studies and work. He returned to Gorakhpur to be with his family and would have remained out of the public eye had it not been for the one phone call on August 10, 2017 from the BRD medical hospital where a sudden disruption of oxygen supply had placed the lives of children in danger. Khan, a junior doctor in the paediatric ward of the hospital, was on leave but rushed to the hospital and started organising oxygen cylinders to save the lives of the scores of children suffering from encephalitis. He and his team arranged 50 oxygen cylinders and while the lives were many saved, 70 children died as a result of the disruption of oxygen supply.
The report has now accepted Khan’s account of that fateful night.That he was not the head of the department, and in fact the junior most doctor that he had been trying repeatedly to point out to deaf ears. That he indeed was on leave on that fateful day of August 10, 2017 and rushed to the BRD medical college after a phone call. That 70 childen died to sudden stoppage of lquid oxygen by the oxygen supplier in liu of non payment of dues. That Khan and his team managed to arrange 50 oxygen cylinders . That he called 26 people on that night including the District Magistrate, Gorakhpur. That there is no evidence suggesting corruption as he was not responsible for payment/ order/ tender/maintenance of the oxygen supply.
But at that time he had to be penalised for speaking the truth, and letting it be known that non payment of dues had led to the disruption of life saving oxygen to the hospital. Khan was picked up and jailed for eight months without bail. His wife, with their ten month old daughter, his brothers and ageing mother were distraught. They ran all over for justice but to no avail. Finally his wife came to Delhi. The Citizen was the first to write about his extended detention and bring gross injustice to the public eye. The Allahabad High Court gave him bail in April last year.
But the relief was short lived. The family was hounded as was Dr Khan. His suspension continued. He was unable to join any other hospital as he was under enquiry. His brother was shot at and denied immediate medical attention. They had to close down a family business. As he said at the time, they came to know who their real friends were during the harrowing months of being on the opposite side of the state government. The family lived with threats, and harassment, and more threats.
Khan, however, refused to give up. He held health camps, he addressed meetings for justice and health care, he visited states and districts to treat the poorest of poor free of charge. He just somehow kept it going although the pressure was immense.
Today he stands vindicated of all the charges hurled at him, and as he says, the truth is out. “This is like a gust of wind, and now for me personally the next milestone is to get my job back,” he says with his usual smile that never really left his face, despite the adversity.
Meanwhile the struggle to establish responsibility for the deaths will continue. Failure is not a word in Khan’s vocabulary.
Also read 'Three Days in August' by Dr Kafeel Khan.