Gorakhpur: Six more children have died from encephalitis since Saturday at state-run BRD Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur where the death of nearly 70 of them, including infants, has set off a nation-wide outrage and political recrimination.
Many of these deaths were alleged to have been caused by a shortage of oxygen, a claim dismissed by the government.
Even as the authorities grappled with the situation in the aftermath of the tragedy which continued to unfold, additional director health Pushkar Anand today said these fresh deaths occurred between August 12 and 14.
“In the past three days — from August 12 to August 14 — six encephalitis patients, mostly children have died. In the same period, as many as 21 patients were admitted for treatment. At present nearly 75 encephalitis patients are undergoing treatment at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital,” he said.
In state capital Lucknow, UP Congress leaders including state party chief Raj Babbar staged a protest over the tragedy and many of them courted arrest. The Congress has been demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and registration of a case of “murder” over the “massacre” of children.
BJP chief Amit Shah, who is in Bengaluru, rejected the demand for Adityanath’s ouster, saying such incidents had also happened in states governed by the Congress.
“It is natural for Congress to ask for Yogiji’s resignation. This is not the first time such an incident has taken place in this large country of ours. Such incidents have taken place during Congress rule in many states,” he told reporters.
Replying to a query, Shah said unlike the Congress, BJP “does not hold anybody guilty” without investigation, which was on.
Whey asked why Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often takes to microblogging website Twitter to express his views, has not tweeted about the Gorakhpur tragedy yet, Shah said he has already voiced his grief over the deaths. “Twitter is not the only medium to convey a message,” he said.
Congress, meanwhile claimed it had warned the government about the resource crunch at the hospital.
Party vice president Rahul Gandhi had warned about funds to the hospital having been “stopped” in September 2016, and also visited the encephalitis wing, Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, the NHRC has sent a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government over the tragedy, observing it indicated “gross callousness” on part of the health administration.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked the state’s chief secretary to submit a detailed report in four weeks on steps taken for relief and rehabilitation of the affected families as well as the action taken against those guilty.
Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav visited Gorakhpur and met family members of deceased infants and consoled them.
The former chief minister visited two villages and met three bereaved families.
Moved by the Gorakhpur tragedy, BJP Lok Sabha member Varun Gandhi today pledged Rs 5 crore from his MP local area development fund to build a state-of-the-art paediatric wing in Sultanpur district hospital.
“The human tragedy in Gorakhpur has left me jolted,” he said.
Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh, who is facing flak for the hospital disaster, claimed “commissionkhori” (bribery) has come to light at the hospital.
“As against the demand for Rs 68 lakh for payment of dues for oxygen cylinders at the hospital, the government released Rs two crore on August five. But the hospital administration made payments not before August 11 and even then it spent only Rs 11 lakh. Why? because of commissionkhori”, Singh said in Allahabad.
He admitted that health care facilities were inadequate in UP which has a huge population of 22 crore but promised to bring it back on track. Singh was shown black flags by members of the students wing of Samajwadi Party when his vehicle entered the city this afternoon.
In the last three decades, Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) have claimed over 50,000 lives in the eastern Uttar Pradesh, mostly in Gorakhpur district.
Till August 8, 124 deaths have been reported. 641 children died last year and 491 in 2015, official data said.