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Heads down in shame

Heads down in shame

The tragic deaths of 72 children at Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh shames the nation that is all set to celebrate its 70th year of independence.

When the innocent souls who fatefully succumbed to death after being denied oxygen supply, it’s the country’s debilitating medical field as well as the rot in the government machinery which has become a fortress of ineptness, that’s revealed. The Central and the state governments as well as the hospital authorities shouldn’t be allowed to scoot off by trivializing and dismissing the deaths as natural. It’s such a massacre by the government that took place in the last few days. Tracking down each and every culprit and punishing them is the minimum recompense that could be given for the deaths which jolted and pained the nation.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been the MP from Gorakhpur for years. The area which is notorious for acute encephalitis rely on BRD Medical College. Over ten thousand deaths from the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis have been officially registered in Gorakhpur alone since 1978. And unofficially, the death toll comes to 50, 000. More than 3, 000 children have succumbed to death due to the disease after 2012. The government and the authorities were a complete failure in arranging the required treatment facilities as well as in finding solutions to the inadequacies of the hospital. The principal of the BRD College has been writing to the Central and state health departments since February 2016 seeking Rs 38 crore for the treatment of encephalitis. Even after the new government came to power in the state, he wrote to the Director General, Medical and Health Services to seek funds and to convince the authorities about the seriousness of the crisis. No effective action or emergency measures were taken by the state government other than forwarding the letter to the Centre. The Modi government that announced lesser amount in the budget to the health sector than that of the UP government, didn’t sanction the required funds.

The Medical College in Gorakhpur needs a yearly budget of Rs 7.5 crore to cover the expenses of medicines, oxygen and other costs. As this amount is not made available as and when required due to getting stalled at different levels of the machinery, the smooth functioning of the hospital will be interrupted resulting in the shortage of medicines and oxygen. By November 2016, the amount owed to the company that supplied oxygen had touched Rs 72 lakhs. The authorities who failed to even provide the monthly salaries of hospital staff including doctors on time, were keeping the news of shortage of oxygen supply, a secret. For a government that takes pleasure in showing off, ensuring the singing of Vande Mataram in all madrasas on Independence Day seemed more important. They were more concerned with arranging facilities for receiving their videos at District minority offices. How trivial seem the death of 73 children after being denied oxygen all amidst the 'chanting of Vande Mataram'.

The Chief Minister and Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh says that the deaths were natural. They rubbished the press release of the hospital authorities that said that the deaths occurred due to shortage of oxygen as well as the preliminary report of the police. An investigation by Rajeev Rautela, the District Magistrate of Gorakhpur proves the extent of triviality with which the authorities consider the deaths. In a Medical College where two children die from encephalitis and five newborns, from other reasons, every day, up to twenty children losing their lives on a day seemed natural. Yogi Adityanath who served as an MP for 20 years and is presently the state’s Chief Minister as well as his government failed to comprehend the insufficiencies at the hospital that could have been understood easily even while he visited the place three days ago. It’s because such tragedies are deeply rooted in the insensitiveness towards the lives and deaths of the poor. The deaths of the children at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College should therefore be registered as a massacre caused by inept governance and irresponsibility of the authorities. Those in power should also be brought before the law.

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