Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday admitted that Japanese encephalitis remains a challenge for his government and assured that a solution has been found to address the menace. He said this disease has been there since 1978 and if infants from eastern Uttar Pradesh are suffering from it then it’s due to lack of hygiene and open defecation. His comments came a day after at least 60 children have died over last five days at state-run Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, which is CM Adityanath’s Lok Sabha constituency.
“Ek sankat hai, ek challenge hai hum sab ke saamne aur uska samaadhaan bhi nikla hai (There is a problem, it is a challenge in front of everyone and a solution has been found as well),” Adityanath was quoted as saying by ANI. He also attributed a lack of knowledge among common people regarding cleanliness as one of the reason for the deaths and said if a government is a problem in itself, then it doesn’t have the right to exist, adding that a government comes up with solutions.
“There are vector-borne diseases, such as encephalitis …It is a tragedy that lives of young children have been snuffed out because we do not lead a clean and hygienic life,” he said, while addressing a public meeting in Allahabad.
The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. Although the deaths are being blamed on infections and possible disruption of oxygen supply in the paediatrics ward, the hospital and district administration have dismissed the lack of oxygen supply as a reason for the tragedy. Incidentally, CM Adityanath had visited the medical college two days ago and had inspected the paediatric ward.
In the wake of the incident, state Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh has announced that the principal of the BRD Medical College, Dr Rajiv Mishra, has been suspended with immediate effect “owing to laxity.”
The BRD Medical College provided a breakdown of the death toll since August 7 under categories listed as NICU (neonatal intensive care unit ), Acute Encephalitis Syndrome, non-AES. The hospital figures suggest that 17 of the 30 deaths over the last two days occurred at its neo-natal unit.
Reflecting on the incident, PMO said Prime Minister Narendra Modi is constantly monitoring the situation in Gorakhpur and that he is in touch with central and state authorities. Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh CM has spoken to Union Health Minister JP Nadda and said all the aspects of deaths at BRD Medical college are being examined. On the other hand, Nadda has assured the state government of assistance and expertise from the Centre.
Gorkhapur is the worst-affected region in Uttar Pradesh due to encephalitis disease. Although vaccines are available for Japanese encephalitis, there is no such vaccine for checking AES and better hygiene is the only way to fend it off.
The incident has sparked a political backlash as the opposition squarely blamed the Yogi Adityanath-led government of “gross criminal negligence”. Demanding a high-level inquiry into the incident, the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have decided to send teams to Gorakhpur. “As many as 60 children have died in a government hospital in Gorakhpur in the last six-seven days. This is an example of the gross criminal negligence of the BJP government, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said in a release.
On the other hand, SP president Akhilesh Yadav claimed that a shortage of oxygen supply in the hospital has led to the tragic incident.
With inputs from ANI, PTI, IANS