The death of nearly 70 infants at a state-run hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh over the last 10 days figured in the Independence Day speeches of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
PM Modi, in his address to the nation delivered from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, expressed sympathies with the families who had lost their children in the tragedy. The children, many of whom were admitted in the encephalitis ward of the BRD hospital in Gorakhpur, died allegedly due to disruption in the supply of oxygen, a claim that the Uttar Pradesh government has dismissed.
“Sometimes, natural calamities become a very big challenge. Good rains contribute hugely to the prosperity of a nation. But due to climate change, sometimes, these natural calamities bring distress…a few days back, in many parts of the country, natural disasters took place. A few days back, at a hospital, our innocent children died. In this entire time of distress and sadness, sympathies of 125 crore people of the country are with them,” the PM said.
“I assure my countrymen, during this time of distress, with utmost sensitivity, for the betterment and security of people, we will leave no stone unturned to extend help,” he added.
Shortly after the speech, the Congress hit out at the prime minister for not showing ‘sensitivity’ to the tragedy that unfolded in Gorakhpur and for comparing it with natural calamities.
“He has in a very trivial manner equated the Gorakhpur tragedy to national calamities,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
Yogi Adityanath too flagged encephalitis deaths in his speech in Lucknow.
“The cure of diseases such as encephalitis is hidden in the Swachch Bharat Mission. I been saying this repeatedly as I represent eastern UP,” said the chief minister who has been a five-time MP from Gorakhpur. He expressed regret that children were dying due to such diseases even after 70 years of the country’s independence.
The Adityanath government has asked Chief Secretary Rajiv Kumar to personally inquire into both “the cause of death of the children” and also “the reason for oxygen supply shortage”. The chief minister had earlier promised that the guilty would not be spared.