CRITICISING HIS own government over the deaths of children at the state-run J K Lon Hospital in Kota, Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot said on Saturday that the state government’s response could have been “more sensitive and compassionate”. He said that instead of pointing out the “misdeeds’ of the previous government, the emphasis should be on “fixing accountability”.
While 100 children died at the hospital in December, seven more have died since the beginning of the new year.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the hospital on Saturday, Pilot said: “Our response to the entire episode could have been more sensitive, I think we should have been more compassionate. I feel that after 13 months of being in government, it may not serve any purpose to keep pointing to the previous government’s misdeeds or wrongdoings… Because, if they had done their job, they would not have been voted out. We have been voted in, we have to face the responsibility and consequences.”
On Friday, State Health Minister Raghu Sharma had blamed the previous BJP government for the lack of infrastructure at the hospital. He had claimed that the previous government had turned down the hospital’s request for funds.
“People expected us to deliver… I believe we have to fix accountability. If we are expecting others to be accountable, we have to be accountable ourselves. I think this is not a small incident, it’s heart-wrenching. The whole state, the entire country is shaken, and I think a much more positive and a sensitive response from all of us would have been appreciated,” said Pilot.
Speaking to The Indian Express later, Pilot, who is also the state president of the Congress, said: “I think the situation here is alarming, it’s saddening. I am distressed… The loss of life on this scale, of so many innocent babies, is not acceptable. We have to fix responsibility.”
Express Editorial | Horror in Kota
The Congress government in Rajasthan has been facing severe criticism for the deaths of children at the hospital.
Responding to a question, Pilot said: “Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi is very concerned… I think it is important to emphasise the fact that if this has happened, it can’t be that nobody takes the blame… 107 deaths and counting.”
Responding to a question on a carpet being rolled out for the visit of two ministers to the hospital on Friday, Pilot said: “Like I said, our response and our actions in the last few days could have been more considerate, more sensitive.”
Meanwhile, Lok Sabha Speaker and Kota MP Om Birla also visited the hospital on Saturday and expressed concern over the deaths. He met the grieving families of the dead children also. “The families I met… they are very poor and economically backward, that is why they went to the government hospital, hoping that they would get good treatment. The death of newborn babies is a matter of anguish for all of us. I have written to the Chief Minister,” he said.
Following Pilot’s statement, the BJP said there was a clear divide in the government. “Pilot is absolutely correct, but his statement is too late. It is clear that the party and the government are a divided house — the chief minister, health minister and deputy chief minister say different things. Due to this tussle, the public are suffering,” said state BJP president Satish Poonia.
“The visit of the Health Minister after 20 days is startling. They could have controlled the infection and arranged for equipment, but that didn’t happen… When the Deputy Chief Minister has to give such a statement, it’s obvious that this was not a priority for the government and it did not have any compassion,” he said.
While the families of the dead children have alleged negligence by hospital staff and lack of proper medical infrastructure, the hospital’s paediatrics department, in its report on December 27, said that of the 513 pieces of equipment, 320 were not functioning.
This is the second time, within three months, that Pilot has made public his disagreement with the Ashok Gehlot-led government. In October, he had spoken against the government’s decision to allow individuals who had not been directly elected by the people to contest mayoral polls. Following his opposition, the government had tweaked the decision.