New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday demanded Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani's resignation over the deaths of 20 babies in three days at a civil hospital while holding Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah accountable for infant deaths across the country.
The party also demanded a court-monitored probe into the deaths of the infants at the Ahmedabad civil hospital.
Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill criticised Modi for "not even making a mention" of the incident in his monthly radio address 'Mann-ki-Baat', and accused him of being "insensitive" to the pain of the families of the deceased children.
He dubbed the prime minister's radio address as "yet another disappointing monologue" which was not in sync with the ground reality and current issues facing the country.
"Does the prime minister not feel the pain of the deaths of these infants in his heart, or, does he not have any sympathy for the families of the victims?
"Instead of (expressing his) 'Mann ki Baat', the prime minister should have apologised to the people of this country, especially the families of the innocent infants, who lost their lives due to the gross criminal negligence of the BJP-run administration," Shergill said in a statement.
The deaths of the infants were not an "unfortunate incident" but "cold-blooded murders" by the state administration.
"The Congress demands that Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani should immediately resign from the post on account of the deaths," he said.
He said Modi and Shah "should be held accountable and answerable for the frequent deaths of infants" all over India, especially in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
"The Congress demands that Modi, rather than indulging in PR exercises, should start addressing the real issues of the economy and do something to put an end to the dance of death going on in various BJP-ruled states," he said.
The Congress leader alleged that the BJP in order to satiate its political appetite has turned government hospitals and doctors into "political handles for its political gains".
Shergill also alleged that an "operation cover-up" has started in Gujarat to protect the accused involved in the "horrific" incident by authorising the deputy superintendent of the civil hospital to conduct an inquiry.
"How can the accused be a judge in his own case? This is nothing but an eyewash to protect the accused," he said.
Death toll rises to 11
Meanwhile, the death toll of infants at the civil hospital reached 11 since Friday midnight, prompting the Gujarat government to order a probe into the circumstances and causes of their death.
Rupani on Sunday visited the hospital and assured action in case the deaths were caused due to negligence or lack of facilities. The Gujarat chief minister had also held a meeting with top health department officials in Gandhinagar regarding the incident.
The government had said in a release that five babies that were brought to Ahmedabad from distant places and suffered from "extremely low birth weight" complications, while some
suffered from life-threatening diseases and were in a critical condition.
"Of the nine deaths in the 24 hours, five babies were referred from distant places — Lunawada, Surendranagar, Mansa, Viramgam, Himmatnagar — and were having severe life-threatening conditions such as extremely low birth weight (around 1.1 kg), hyaline membrane disease, early onset septicaemia and disseminated intravascular coagulation," the release read.
Besides, four babies born at the civil hospital "died due to lethal complications such as severe birth asphyxia and meconium aspiration", it said.
"While a newborn died of cancer, another succumbed to complications arising out of extremely low birth weight," said MN Prabhakar, hospital superintendent.
With this, 20 babies have died in the past three days at the facility, Prabhakar added.
A three-member committee under RK Dixit, deputy director of medical education, will inquire into the circumstances and causes of death, the release said.
Talking to reporters after visiting the facility, Rupani said, "The government will take action if the deaths are due to lack of facilities or negligence of doctors. We have asked for an investigation into each of the nine cases and will be able to comment after that."
Principal Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, Jayanti Ravi said the condition of some of the babies had already deteriorated and they had to be referred to the civil hospital here from distant places as doctors there might still be on Diwali vacation.
The committee will look into the reasons for the deaths and it is expected to submit its report in a day, she said.
"Being the main hospital in the state, all complicated cases are referred here. It is natural that many babies are not able to survive despite (our) efforts," she said.
According to the government, "extremely low birth weight deliveries" continue to be a challenge in Gujarat in view of "suboptimal nutritional status of pregnant women".
The average number of deaths of newborns at the Ahmedabad civil hospital is around five to six per day, the release added.
Meanwhile, members of opposition Congress protested outside the office of the superintendent of the hospital over the child deaths.
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Updated Date: Oct 30, 2017 09:49:09 IST