By Nimesh Bansal
Since the beginning of August, the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College has made headlines for all the wrong reasons. 105 children have died in the state-run hospital, with the number rising daily. Deaths have been primarily attributed to encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease that affects children and others with weak immune systems, and an oxygen shortage. Meanwhile, politicians are committed to undermining each other than determining the cause of the tragedy.
Congress’ version: A government-made tragedy
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi labelled the deaths in Gorakhpur as a ‘government-made tragedy’ and accused Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath of covering it up. Rahul Gandhi has been touring the district to meet some of the grieving parents. Speaking to the media, he said, “It is clear that the kids died because of a lack of oxygen and the irresponsibility (of the state government). All those whom I met told me that oxygen shortage led to the death of their children. Many families were given Ambu bags (a manual resuscitator) and they pumped it for hours”. He went on to take a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that “Modiji talks about a new India. We don’t need such kind of a new India. We want an India where a poor person can easily reach a hospital and return home happily from there”.
Yogi maintains the state’s stance
Yogi Adityanath, on the other hand, maintains the state’s stance that the deaths were due to a spurt in encephalitis and not due to oxygen shortage. Gorakhpur, being one of the poorer and backward regions of the state, suffers from a lack of cleanliness and inadequate public health measures. As a result, the region becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the incidences of the disease. In response, the chief minister has launched a cleanliness drive in Gorakhpur- Clean Uttar Pradesh, Healthy Uttar Pradesh. Speaking at the launch, Adityanath took a potshot at Rahul Gandhi- “We won’t allow the ‘yuvraj’ of Delhi to make Gorakhpur his picnic spot. Sitting in Delhi, the ‘yuvraj’ cannot understand the importance of cleanliness. There is a problem of encephalitis, which is linked to cleanliness. We can eradicate the disease by cleaning the localities”.
Saving face or saving lives?
While the real cause of death might still be unclear, it is apparent the tragedy has given a chance to the politicians to score some points. With Congress casting the UP government as villains and the UP government absolving itself of blame by complaining about encephalitis, it seems that politics takes precedence over humanity.
Following the suspension of BRD’s principal and launching of cleanliness campaigns, the government continues to take steps in the wake of the tragedy. Whether they are there to save face or to save lives remains to be seen. The effectiveness of these measures will only be gauged in the long run, but how the situation has been handled brings shame to all. Young lives have been lost, lives continue to be lost, but the only war our politicians are fighting is a war of words.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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