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Gorakhpur Tragedy: Was It Really An ‘Act Of God’ As Claimed By The Yogi Govt?

Many infants and children died a year ago at the government-run BRD Medical College.

After one year of the infamous Gorakhpur tragedy, in which where at least 63 children lost their lives at BRD Medical College, The Wire investigates the truth behind the circumstances of these deaths.

Refusing to take any responsibility for the deaths, the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government maintains that the deaths were due to an ‘act of God’. Act of God is a legal term use to classify events that are beyond human control and foresight.

The hospital authorities have consistently said that the shortage in piped oxygen supply caused the tragedy. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh has time and again denied that oxygen shortage had anything to do witht the dozens of deaths.

Here are a few facts that shed light on the reality of Gorakhpur-BRD Hospital tragedy.

  • After the sudden death of children between August 10-13, The Yogi Adityanath government on August 11 claimed that no deaths occurred due to shortage in oxygen supply. 
  • According to the documents accessed by The Wire, a “beep alarm started in liquid oxygen plant” at 7:30 pm on August 10, signifying low level of oxygen.
  • By 1:30 am on August 11, “liquid oxygen supply was stopped due to low pressure.”
  • The oxygen supply was restored by 2:15 am on August 13.
  • Between August 11-13, when there was no oxygen supply, and at least 24 children had died.
  • The Wire also accessed over 30 letters written to the BRD Medical College and Yogi Adityanath’s government, informing them that the pending payments to the oxygen supplier had mounted to Rs 63 lakhs.
  • The oxygen supplier had sent a legal notice to the hospital authorities, demanding clearance of due payments. The notice stated that if the hospital failed to do so, services would be discontinued.
  • The first letter to CM Yogi and UP health minister was written on April 6, 2017. It read, “We request you to clear the dues without any delay so that we can pay INOX company on time. In case of delayed payment, we won’t get the supply and BRD Medical College will be responsible for this. So this is a request to clear the above dues as soon as possible so that our organisation could continue to provide timely supply.”
  • A letter, addressed to CM Yogi on August 8, read, “We want to inform you that the gas plant has only 2 or 3 days of stock available and we request you to make arrangements to use jumbo cylinders. We don’t take any responsibility for this.”
  • A series of letters clearly indicate that the following people in authority knew about the pending dues and possibility of cutting the oxygen supply way before in months–Principal secretary in the government of UP (Anita Bhatnagar Jain), the director general of medical education (DGME) in the government of UP (K.K. Gupta), the superintendent in charge and the head of the pediatrics department (Dr Mahima Mittal) at BRD Medical College, the district magistrate (Rajeev Rautela), health minister Sidharth Nath Singh and chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Even though the government completely dismissed shortage of oxygen supply as the cause of deaths, nine people were arrested for their role in shortage of oxygen supply.

Manish Bhandari (owner of Pushpa Sales who dealt with oxygen), Dr Kafeel Khan (doctor in the paediatric ward), Dr Satish (nodal officer for liquid oxygen), Dr Rajiv Misra (principal of the medical college) and Dr Purnima Shukla (wife of Dr Misra) have now been released on bail.

Whereas, Gajanand Jaiswal (pharmacist), Uday Pratap Sharma, Sanjay Kumar Tripathi and Sudhir Kumar Pandey (all three were junior clerks and technical staff) are still waiting for bail after 11 months of the tragedy.

In court, the UP government said that there was no shortage in oxygen supply but only ‘interruptions’. Furthermore, the government also claimed that no deaths occurred due to these ‘interruptions’.

While post-mortems could have verified the causes of deaths, the UP government chose to not conduct them.

The contradictions between the government’s statements and its actions, as well as the evidence point to the falsity of the government’s claims. The Yogi government’s handling of the tragedy and it’s aftermath appear to be a classic case of obfuscation aimed at shifting the blame of the tragedy.

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