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Gorakhpur tragedy: Narendra Modi breaks silence, conveys sympathy in Independence Day speech

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Independence Day, he conveyed his sympathies to the families affected by the Gorakhpur tragedy. The prime minister said that the sympathies of 125 crore Indians were with the families and that the government would extend all possible help to them.

"I assure the people that with all sensitivity in mind, the government will ensure the well-being and safety of people and will leave no stone unturned to help them," he said.

The Congress had on Monday demanded an apology from Modi to the country over the deaths. It had also attacked the prime minister for staying silent on the issue. Other political parties too had criticised the prime minister as AAP leader Sanjay Singh had said, "The prime minister has all the time to tweet about happenings around the world, but he has no time to spare a word on the Gorakhpur tragedy."

The tragedy was addressed by BJP national president Amit Shah on Monday. Shah had spoken at a press conference where he said, "The incident is an accident. The Uttar Pradesh government is currently investigating it. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a time-bound probe as well." He had also said that those responsible for the tragedy will be brought to book. "We won't spare the guilty. We will fix accountability," he said.

File image of the encephalitis ward at BRD hospital in Gorakhpur. PTI

File image of the encephalitis ward at BRD hospital. PTI

The judiciary also weighed in on Monday as the Supreme Court refused to take suo motu cognisance of the matter. The bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud asked the lawyer, who mentioned the issue before it, to approach the Allahabad High Court with his grievances. The court observed that the authorities were handling the situation and the grievances, if any, have to be raised before the high court concerned.

Over 70 children have reportedly died at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur since 7 August. Many of the victims were infants who perished in the neonatal intensive care unit. It was alleged that the disruption in oxygen supply to the hospital due to the non-payment of bills could be the cause of several of the reported deaths.

The state government had ruled out lack of oxygen as the cause behind the deaths. State health minister Siddharth Nath Singh had said, "After the first level of investigation, we can claim that the deaths did not take place due to disruption of gas supply."

The oxygen vendor too has said that it never stopped the supply despite outstanding dues of Rs 69 lakh, according to The Times of India. The company, Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd, said that the college was defaulting on the payment for liquid oxygen supply which was a violation of the contract but despite that, the company never interrupted the supply.

The government had also ordered an official inquiry led by the chief secretary and suspended the principal of the Medical College Hospital Rajiv Mishra. Mishra had later resigned to take "moral responsibility" for the incident.

The government also received a notice from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which said that it indicated "gross callousness" on part of the health administration. The NHRC asked the state's chief secretary for a detailed report in four weeks on the steps it has taken for relief and rehabilitation of the affected families as well as the action taken against those guilty.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath was further criticised for ordering the state police to celebrate Krishna Janmashtami on a grand scale even as the state mourned the deaths.

Amid the tragedy, it was reported that a doctor's quick thinking saved many lives, according to DNA. Dr Kafeel Khan, the head of encephalitis ward at the hospital, thought on his feet and arranged oxygen cylinders with the help of his friends and private vendors. But a day after the tragedy, Khan was terminated from his services by the hospital.

In the last three decades, Japanese Encephalitis and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome have claimed over 50,000 lives in eastern Uttar Pradesh, mostly in Gorakhpur.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 15, 2017 13:58 PM

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