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Gorakhpur tragedy: Is RSS harming or helping Yogi by attacking him?

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 16 August 2017, 17:47 IST
(Arya Sharma)

Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is angry, or so it seems, with the Yogi Adityanath government over its handling of “mass murder” of nearly 70 children at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College between August 8 and August 11.

The RSS’ Awadh Prant’s Sanghchalak (in-charge of the Awadh region) Prabhu Narain launched a tirade against the Uttar Pradesh government on his Facebook wall.
He wrote: “The government cannot escape moral responsibility (for the tragedy). The entire ministry and the Bharatiya Janata Party organisation must atone for it. If they want they may observe an atonement day. When politicians observe protest day, bravery day why can’t they seek atonement for this emotional issue? Hanging some people after the inquiry won’t do.”

It is said that RSS functionaries often criticise BJP governments at the state and national level as a conscious strategy to act as a watchdog and grab the Opposition space. Even in this case, it could be an attempt to save the BJP government from all the bricks being hurled at it.
Prabhu Narain’s criticism was prompted by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s initial and subsequent response to the tragedy. Adityanath first ruled out break down in oxygen supply as a factor for the deaths and blamed encephalitis for the fatalities. He then ordered an inquiry to find out if any of the deaths were caused by lack of oxygen.

The state’s health minister Siddharth Nath Singh described the deaths as “routine happening in the month of August” while releasing comparative figures to prove his point and downplay the tragedy. He also denied that oxygen supply had anything to do with the deaths.

Ashutosh Tandon, Minister for Medical Education, was of the same view as Adityanath and Singh.

Reacting to their statements, Narain further wrote on his Facebook wall: “The tragedy has left the nation stunned but the views expressed by the chief minister, health minister and the minister for medical education has saddened me. The chief minister is well intentioned but the explanation and the figures given don’t appear to be proper”.

These comments would seem harsh when compared with Amit Shah calling it a mistake and Prime Minister Narendra Modi equating the deaths with natural disasters.

The Awadh Prant Sanghchalak, however, left out two points: Will atonement absolve the political leadership of their guilt? And how will they atone for the lives lost? A stronger message would have been to seek at least a reshuffle, if not dismissal, of either of the two ministers.

The certainty with which Yogi and his two ministers ruled out oxygen shortage for the high number of casualties was like releasing the findings of the Chief Secretary-led inquiry even before it could begin. A fait accompli, it was now likely to come to the same conclusion: patients, mainly children, did not die of asphyxiation and acute encephalitis was the culprit.

A list of the 23 babies who died on August 10 showed that nearly all of them, barring three, had pneumonia or sepsis. Only three children died due to acute encephalitis syndrome. The list was prepared by the nodal officer attached to the medical college’s ward 100.

Amidst attempts to prove that the high toll at BRD Medical College in the month of August was an annual feature, the health minister pointed out that demanding a cut in payments was now appearing to be the reason behind the controversy. The practice of asking for a cut in the amount to be paid to contractors was rampant there, Singh said in Allahabad two days ago.

It was alleged that the payment to the gas supplier was held up because he was not ready to make an under-the-table payment for the release of the firm’s dues.

Director-General of Medical Education Dr KK Gupta, who was there in Gorakhpur for a spot inspection, claimed that there was Rs 2 crore in the medical college’s account on August 8. Of this, Rs 43 lakh were paid to the supplier against liquid oxygen supplier’s dues of Rs 60 lakh between August 10 and 11. Hinting at the racket of illegal payments he asked that when the money was there on August 8 why was the payment to the supplier delayed? These questions remain unanswered and even the outraged RSS functionary isn’t asking them.

First published: 16 August 2017, 17:47 IST