Why Adityanath refuses to face facts and own up to Gorakhpur hospital deaths

Sharat Pradhan
Sharat PradhanAug 14, 2017 | 09:47

Why Adityanath refuses to face facts and own up to Gorakhpur hospital deaths

Four months back, when Yogi Adityanath was installed himself in the chief minister’s chair in Lucknow, he was hailed as the first saffron-clad sadhu set to don the highest mantle in the country’s most populous state.

Known for his grit, determination and integrity, Adityanath was seen as a chief minister with a difference. No wonder, therefore, that expectations were high and the least one expected of him was to uproot the rot he had supposedly inherited from the weak and infirm regime of Akhilesh Yadav — and build the state.


Disillusionment came with his initial failures in handling the state's law and order, which seemed to be going from bad to worse by the day. One could perhaps give him the benefit of doubt when the UP CM sought to point out that he needed more time to put the abjectly derailed policing system back on track.

However, what came as a devastating blow was the spate of inexcusable deaths of 62 children (the toll continues to mount) in Yogi’s constituency Gorakhpur in just five days, simply because his government failed to ensure the uninterrupted supply of liquid oxygen to the city’s most important hospital.

And that was simply because long pending bills of Rs 68 lakh were not paid to the oxygen supplier.

reuters-yogi-adityan_081317095949.jpgThe entire administrative machinery — from the medical education department to the chief minister’s secretariat — danced to the CM’s tunes. Photo: Reuters

Significantly, the chief minister had himself visited the hospital only three days back. But he was then blissfully unaware that children were dying even as he was taking rounds of the hospital, which is part of Gorakhpur’s well-known Baba Raghav Das Medical College, the city’s ultimate medical referral centre.


Local officials, including the district magistrate who accompanied him, did not care to apprise him of the acute shortage of liquid oxygen that was threatening the lives of little ones in and around Gorakhpur — a region known to be highly susceptible to the deadly Japanese Encephalitis, a perennial child killer in the area.

With his past experience limited only to the Gorakhnath temple trust - which he has been running as his fief - Yogi was at his wit’s end when the news was broken to him through the media while he was busy attending a function to further the Swachh Bharat mission in Allahabad.Not used to be being questioned in his capacity as supremo of a religious mutt, the UP CM chose to promptly slip into denial mode, without realising that his local administrative machinery - led by the district magistrate - had spilled the beans by initially admitting that the suspension of oxygen supply had led to the deaths.

Liquid oxygen supply to the medical college was disrupted simply because the hospital had not paid its long-pending dues to the supplier, who had been running from pillar to post for the past few months only to be told that the college had yet to receive funds from the government.


The medical college principal too had shot off several letters to the medical education department in Lucknow, but to no avail. According to Pushpa Pvt Ltd's manager, the firm eventually withheld the supply as it was left with no funds to pay the parent supplier.

Persistent delays in the payment of Rs 68 lakh took the lives of at least 62 children but failed to wake up the administrative machinery from their slumber until the deaths made headlines.

That left the chief minister rattled and therefore vulnerable enough to blindly accept whatever his officials wanted him to believe. He has shut his eyes to the reality. Little did he fathom that running the state was not as simple as calling shots at a religious mutt, where a despotic master’s word is law and cannot be questioned.

The entire administrative machinery — from the medical education department to the chief minister’s secretariat — danced to the CM’s tunes.

Everyone, including health minister Siddhartha Nath Singh who was sent to Gorakhpur to assess the crisis, remained focused only towards establishing that the deaths were not caused on account of liquid oxygen shortage.

But everyone, including the chief minister, failed to answer simple questions: if their contention was correct, why take action against the medical college principal and suspend him for failing to ensure oxygen supply? And why has an FIR been lodged against the supplier?

On the contrary, no action was ordered against the principal secretary (medical education) or the director-general (medical education) who sat over the payment files for months.

What is even more astounding is that the chief minister had ordered several probes into the deaths when — at a press conference Saturday - he had himself ruled out loss of lives due to the lack of oxygen.

Would it not make any inquiry – including one that ought to be carried out by the state chief secretary – just a sham?More than anyone, Adityanath has always known it firsthand that Gorakhpur and its surrounding areas are highly prone to fatal ailments like Japanese Encephalitis.

Upon taking charge as chief minister, Adityanath made tall promises about special arrangements to combat the life-threatening illness. But when it came to presenting his first budget, he did not hesitate to reduce Uttar Pradesh's health budget by more than 50 per cent.

His oft-repeated assertion of displaying zero tolerance to corruption also proved hollow as supplier bills were unpaid also because of the rampant malpractice of kickbacks and commissions for which the medical education department is particularly notorious.

Apparently, Yogi has yet to come out of the Gorakhnath "mutt" frame that allowed him totalitarian authority to showcase whatever suited his whims.

It was an irony of fate that Gorakhpur, which gave him name, fame and a coveted position, has now given him the first pangs of governance.

He took a good 36 hours to make up his mind to visit Gorakhpur.

Perhaps, he has yet to realise that running the state in a democratic set up is a different ballgame. Sure enough, questions were bound to be raised and an elected representative of the people – particularly the head of the government - is constitutionally answerable to ordinary citizens.

Sadly, in Gorakhpur, that very ordinary citizen is being made to pay with his life simply because his government failed to pay its bills.

Last updated: August 14, 2017 | 20:06
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