Gorakhpur tragedy: UP govt's stance that Yogi Adityanath was not aware of crisis doesn't add up

The Uttar Pradesh government has the blood of 60 children on its hands. The saffron robes of its chief minister are tainted with the blot of incompetence, insensitivity and, as Noble laureate Kailash Satyarthi rightly says, the massacre of infants.

In any other country run by a sensitive and competent government, these 63 children could have been easily saved. Because they did not die of a sudden calamity or in a tragic incident that could not have been averted. Their murder was scripted and executed by the apathetic staff of the hospital and criminal dereliction of duty by everyone in the administrative hierarchy.

The sequence of events that led to the massacre of 60 children in Gorakhpur's Baba Raghav Das Medical College since 7 August is a damning indictment of the government machinery. First, it failed to pay the contractor who supplied liquid oxygen to the hospital, running up arrears in excess of over Rs 68 lakh, even when, as the supplier argued, the terms and conditions of the supply agreement said the pending amount would not exceed Rs 10 lakh.

Then, in spite of ultimatums from the supplier that the supply of liquid oxygen would be stopped, the hospital management did not make any arrangement to ensure its availability. The government and the hospital management did not act even when they were warned that the situation could become grave once the contractor pulls the plug.

In the end, the hospital was probably wilfully turned into a gas chamber for children, an asphyxiating hell where death was guaranteed by choking. This is murder by negligence, massacre by incompetence.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. PTI

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. PTI

What is astounding is that the hospital falls in the karma bhoomi of the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, the saffron-clad, Hindutva pin-up Ajay Singh, aka, Yogi Adityanath. When Adityanath was anointed chief minister of the state, his fans sang impromptu paeans to his competence, wrote reams of odes to his work ethics. He was hailed as a 24X7 worker who had the entire constituency on his speed-dial. Obviously, the fan-boys don't know that the tag of the saviour of Hindutva doesn't count much when the lives of children are at stake. It requires real dedication, competence, swiftness of action and resolve, an alert mind and a sensitive heart that screams emergency when innocent lives are at stake.

The chief minister could have been given the benefit of doubt if the deaths were not in his own backyard. Or, if he were not aware of the incident. But, as the Indian Express reports, the chief minister had visited the hospital just two days ago — nine children died that day — and inspected its paediatric ward, the epicentre of the tragic deaths. According to the Indian Express, he had also inaugurated a 10-bed ICU, a six-bed Critical Care Unit and visited a ward meant for children infected with Japanese encephalitis virus, and cases of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES).

The government's explanation that the chief minister was not aware of the crisis is either a plain lie or a damning indictment of Adityanath's work ethics. Are we expected to believe that the alleged epitome of competence and round-the-clock hard work doesn't even know what is going on in his backyard? Is the information system under the martinet whose very name reportedly sends a chill down the spine of his staff so weak that even tragedies of epic proportions stay out of the venerable Adityanath's ear-shots?

The tragedy in Gorakhpur, unfortunately, is a reminder of how some things never change in India. Even 70 years after Independence, hospitals are a mess, their finances are mismanaged and the government machinery is so callous that even clear warnings of an impending disaster do not force it into action.

Life is cheap. It can be sacrificed without a shred of remorse or penitence. The chalta hai attitude currently being showcased by the Uttar Pradesh government's explanations — false and misleading — and refusal to accept responsibility for the man-made tragedy remind us that though the colour of robes changes after elections, the blots on them remain the same.

In a milieu where hearts bleed only for cows, lynching is reserved only for people suspected of eating beef, transporting gau mata and chief ministers have a rapid action force only for saving bovines, it is difficult to believe the death of 60 children due to government incompetence would make anybody in the Uttar Pradesh hierarchy lose sleep. The game of assigning blames, spinning half-truths, shielding reputations has already begun. Soon, a scapegoat somewhere low in the hierarchy would be found and quietly punished. Or, better still, a natural cause would be assigned to these unnatural deaths.

To rephrase Shakespeare: What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought so many would have had so much blood on their hands?

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Updated Date: Aug 13, 2017 12:11 PM

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