Gorakhpur tragedy: Sacking Dr Kafeel Khan who saved lives is miscarriage of justice

Why weren’t the allegations probed earlier?

 |  5-minute read |   13-08-2017
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The casualty count in Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College has now crossed 70, out of which 30 deaths were because of oxygen supplies being cut off for two hours due to non-payment of bills to a private company. Now Dr Kafeel Ahmad Khan, who was hailed as a hero because he paid from his own pocket for oxygen cylinders to keep the medical help coming, has been removed as the nodal officer for BRD Medical College’s department of pediatrics.

The Gorakhpur hospital “massacre” has been many twists and turns, and in this fresh episode, the man who was championed till yesterday, and who, eyewitnesses say, saved many a life by rushing to get the oxygen cylinders, has been sacked from his post. This, after UP government went on record saying that “seven deaths were normal per day” in Gorakhpur because of the encephalitis outbreak, which has claimed 20,000 lives over the last five-six years.

The Yogi Adityanath government blamed lack of hygiene, cleanliness, general incompetence of the staff at the hospital, the oxygen supply agency which wasn’t paid its dues. Everything but the government’s own colossal failures has been acknowledged. Now, with sacking Dr Kafeel Ahmad Khan, a fresh can of worms has been opened.

gorakhpur-child-pti_081317102334.jpgYogi government is looking for a scapegoat and in doing so, is fuelling the fire that has consumed his reign in UP. Photo: PTI

Until the morning of August 13, reports were doing the rounds that Dr Kafeel had “emptied his own pocket to keep kids breathing”. The eyewitnesses said that he couldn’t stop his tears as children stopped breathing in front of his eyes, and chose to pay for some of the emergency cylinders himself to avoid further red tape or delay.

According to reports, Dr Kafeel took it upon himself to save as many children as he could on the intervening night of August 10 and 11, when the oxygen supple was cut off because of nonpayment of dues and seven warnings in seven months. 60 children stopped breathing before his eyes, but he tried his best to save the rest by rushing to a friend’s nursing home and borrowing three oxygen cylinders. Those three lasted for 30 minutes and by the next morning, oxygen was again low. Dr Kafeel kept up hope by asking his juniors to pump ambu bags and aid in breathing. Later that day, he got 12 more oxygen cylinders, and kept alive the kids for a little longer.

He was rightly hailed as a hero and got kudos on social media and mainstream news outlets alike.

However, now conflicting reports on social media are doing the rounds which insinuate that the good doctor could have allegedly had an impertinent past. But this begs the question: why was he appointed as the head of the department of pediatrics if there was smething awry with his past? And why has he been sacked now, after he has saved multiple lives and was hailed as a hero, the only sliver of hope in this malicious tragedy of corruption and institutional rot?

These are several questions that are being asked on social media now, as #StandWithDrKafeel trends on Twitter. Much in the line of former vice president Hamid Ansari’s caveats and concerns, is this a case of maligning the only name that was taken with a smile and a prayer in this disgusting serial tragedy that has claimed so many innocent lives? Is it because that single name happened to be that of a Muslim?

Questions are being asked why an institutional failure to make payments and keep the oxygen supply going is being pinned on the good doctor. In fact, even the oxygen supply company has been chargesheeted even though they made repeated complaints about the nonpayment of dues. Yogi government is looking for a scapegoat and in doing so, is fuelling the fire that has consumed his reign in UP.

Let’s be honest and face the fact on just how skewed the priorities of the UP state government is. On a day when there was such a major emergency, CM Yogi was insisting that Vande Mataram be made compulsory in madrasas. Just two days back, CM Yogi had visited this very hospital in a publicised, photo-op trip, but he failed to notice just how out of sync the hospital’s functioning was.

Uttar Pradesh under CM Yogi Adityanath has been in the news for all the wrong reasons: whether it is installing anti-Romeo squads to police on our youth, to his supporters harassing citizens to chants of “UP mein rehna hoga, to Yogi, Yogi kehna hoga”. In fact, Hindu Vahini goons have run amok and made life a living hell for the state’s minorities and youths. The beef lynchings have hogged headlines, and now Gorakhpur children’s deaths due to the lack of oxygen has been the last nail on the coffin of patience.

It’s shameful that the BJP social media cell is on overdrive to shift the blame from the government’s failure and pin it on anyone else. It has been repeatedly said that instead of spending crores on advertisments, states should focus on good governance. However, when the focus is on cows, even oxygen for children becomes a low priority issue. And scapegoats with a Muslim name come handy. Terribly shameful.

Also read: Adityanath as UP CM, for Indian millennials like me, is the Modi moment we never saw

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