A recent statement by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath – claiming that deaths of at least 62 children at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College on August 10, 2017 in Gorakhpur had happened due to the medical college's internal politics – has stirred up the hornet's nest once again.
On Sunday, while launching a campaign for the state nutrition mission in Lucknow, the CM refuted the claim that the shortage of oxygen led to the deaths of the children, and instead claimed that the incident may have been blown out of proportion due to the institute's internal politics. He also said that all the news channels had created a havoc, and had made turned it into a bigger issue.
"Last year, when I heard of the news, I thought a similar thing had happened. But when I saw that all news channels and media had made it an issue, I sent DG (Director General - Health) to Gorakhpur, and a sought a report. I also sent my health minister and the minister for medical education and told them to submit a report," Adityanath told the reporters.
"I asked people there what actually the matter was, and was told that there was nothing as such...And if the deaths were due to the lack of oxygen, then children put on the ventilators would have been the first to die. I said there must definitely be something. From where did the figures come from? Then it emerged that it was internal politics," said the UP chief minister.
Interestingly, on April 30 2018, UP government counsel Vimlendu Tripathi admitted in the affidavit submitted to a double bench headed by Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh-I and Justice Ramesh Sinha in Allahabad High Court, that death of the 62 children occurred due to the lack of oxygen. It is also clearly written in the affidavit that after looking at the both sides and perusal of records, it is clear that by not making timely payment to Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd, supply of liquid oxygen had stopped, which led to the death of the children admitted in the BRD Medical College.
The bail order had also stated that BRD had to clear a dues of over Rs 63 lakh (21 bills from November 23, 2016 to July 13, 2017) of Pushpa Sales, which had reportedly shot off several letters and reminders to the medical college and other authorities concerned such as the then Gorakhpur District Magistrate Rajiv Rautela, UP Government’s Principal Secretary for Medical Education Anita Jain Bhatnagar, Director General of Medical Education KK Gupta and even to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. But no payment was made. All these letters are in possession of Newsclick.
Speaking with Newsclick, Dr Kafeel Khan, one of the accused said, "It's not an internal politics, it's Yogi Adityanath himself playing politics all of a sudden by remembering the BRD oxygen tragedy after one year. It is double standard by the chief minister. In public, he is denying that there was a shortage of oxygen, and on the other hand, the government's counsel had accepted that due to administrative failure, there was shortage of oxygen."
He further added that recently, an RTI query had revealed that payment for oxygen cylinders was not made to the vendor, and that was the reason for the shortage. It had also said in the reply to the RTI that Dr Kafeel had arranged the cylinders.
Kafeel said, "I don't have any idea why he is doing this, but it sounds like a preplanned ploy against us. It is very unfortunate that compensation of not even a single rupee has been given to the victims' families. They will take mileage in upcoming election.”
Newsclick also approached Tripathi, who was representing the Yogi government. He said, "I am not in the state panel, and now I am doing independent practice, so I don't have the authority to comment on this issue. Based on whatever is in the records, I had drafted [the affidavit] on the behalf of the government. I don’t want to give my opinion. Why would I comment over this issue after a long time, which is being politicised by the politicians, media persons etc.?"
Newsclick spoke to Dr Purak Mishra, son of previously arrested Principal of BRD Hospital, Dr Rajiv Mishra. He said “If the deaths of children were not due to the shortage of oxygen, then why did he [Yogi government] put my father behind the bar along with other doctors? Allahabad High court had rejected my father's bail order because it is written in order that infants died due to the lack of oxygen. Then, why my father had been booked under 308(attempt to commit culpable homicide),” he asked.
Purak further stated that his parents were made the scapegoats. "It is very unfortunate that my father has given 45 years to the BRD medical college, but now he is not allowed to express his views. Yogi says the BRD tragedy had happened due to internal politics, but everybody knows who is doing politics – their own people defaming Gorakhpur, and Yogi government too. If you tell someone about Gorakhpur, people will remember it for negative things."
"It’s beyond my imagination that after one year of BRD tragedy, why Adityanath is raising this issue suddenly. He contradicting his own statements while giving different version on BRD," Purak told Newsclick.