Dr Kafeel Khan's letter describes what happened at Gorakhpur hospital and why CM Adityanath is angry with him
UP government maintains children died of ailments. What is the doctor then guilty of?
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In August 2017, as Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, reeled under a terrible tragedy, a doctor was hailed as the one heartening tale to emerge from it. Sixty-three children had died in a space of four days in the government-run BRD Medical College, allegedly because supply to oxygen cylinders had been cut off over non-payment of dues.
Amid the shock and outrage, reports had poured in that Dr Kafeel Khan had made efforts to arrange several oxygen cylinders and paid for some from his own pocket.
Nine months later, Dr Khan is in jail and his family is distraught. Last week, they released a letter he has written from inside the jail to the media, saying they plan to approach the Supreme Court.
While probe into the case will continue, the fact remains that the doctor, booked on bailable charges, has spent nine months in jail, with his application yet to come up before the high court for hearing. A sessions court had earlier rejected his bail plea. The head of the oxygen supplying company, meanwhile, is out on bail.
Khan was booked for criminal conspiracy, attempt to commit culpable homicide and criminal breach of trust by a public servant.
The government has maintained that the children did not die because of a shortage of oxygen, but of various ailments. What exactly then is the doctor guilty of?
'Sometimes I ask myself, was I wrong'
In his letter shared by NewsClick, Dr Khan says: “Sometime, I ask myself, “Am I really guilty?” And the answer pops out from the core of my heart – a big NO. The moment I got that WhatsApp message on that fateful 10 August 2017 night, I did everything a doctor, a father, a responsible citizen of India would/should do... I did my level best to save those innocent kids who were dying because of lack of oxygen. I frantically called everyone, I begged, I talked, I ran, I drove, I ordered, I yelled, I screamed, I consoled, I counselled, I spent, I borrowed, I cried.”
In November 2017, 70 children again died at the same hospital in Gorakhpur, within five days.
He describes in detail how he called up several oxygen suppliers, drove around in his car to get cylinders, and finally took the help of the Sashastra Seema Bal.
“They worked for continuous 48 hours. Their sprit boost ours. I salute (the) SSB and (am) very thankful for their help.”
‘So by arranging cylinders, you became hero?’
Dr Khan says his life turned around the day CM Yogi Adityanath came to visit the hospital. His writes: “He asked – so you are Dr Kafeel? You arranged cylinders? I was like – yes sir. He got angry – so you think by arranging cylinders, you became hero, I will see it.”
“Yogiji was angry because – how this incident came into the media. I swear to my Allah, I did not inform any media person that night. They were already there that night itself.”
After this, he says, followed a round of “threatening and humiliating” his family, to save whom he decided to surrender to the police, “thinking when I have not done anything wrong, I should get justice”.
He adds: “The guilty are DM Gorakhpur, DGME (director general of medical education), principal secretary health education for not taking any action against 14 reminders sent by Pushpa Sales for its Rs 68 lakh dues.”
“It was a total administrative failure at higher level, they did not realise the gravity and just to save themselves, they made us scapegoat and put us behind the bars so that truth will remain inside Gorakhpur jail.”
‘Don’t know when my daughter started speaking, walking’
Dr Khan’s daughter is one year and seven months old. He could not be there for her first birthday as he was in jail.
He writes: “Sleeping on floor with more than 150 prisoners in a cramped barrack with millions of mosquito at night and thousands of flies in the day. Trying to swallow food to live, bath half naked in the field and sit in a toilet with broken door. Waiting for Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday to meet my family.”
“As a pediatrician, it is very painful, disheartening not to see his child to grow. As a pediatrician, I used to taught parents importance of milestones and myself do not know when my daughter started walking, speaking and running,” he writes.
In November 2017, 70 children again died at the same hospital in Gorakhpur, within five days. The hospital is the largest government-aided facility in the area, and serves patients from nearby areas, such as Maharajganj, Deoria, Kushinagar, Basti, apart from border areas in Nepal.
Not just this hospital, but public healthcare facilities in many parts of India need overhaul, from better investment to plugging the manpower gap, to curbing corruption.
But in UP, instead of going in for the hard work, the government seems content punishing easy targets.