Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath tonight insisted that oxygen shortage did not lead to the death of 30 children in a government hospital in Gorakhpur, his home district.
He told a hurriedly-convened press conference here that a committee led by the chief secretaty will probe the entire matter related to the tragic deaths.
“It is a very emotional matter for me as I have been raising the issue of encephalitis since long,” he said, adding Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed concern.
The government will take action on the report of the magisterial inquiry which will be received soon, Adityanath said, promising that no one will be allowed to go scot free and stern action will be taken against those responsible.
On reports that oxygen shortage had caused the deaths, he said if it were the case, it would have been a “heinous act”.
The chief minister said he had asked the officials during his August 9 meeting about the issues such as encephalitis, dengue, kala-azar, swine flu and chikunguniya besides what all they required.
But, the matter relating to oxygen supply was not brought to his notice, he said.
“In my personal interaction with officials, the principal of the BRD medical college and incharge of paediatric ward, I had asked if anything was required from the government but there was no discussion on oxygen,” Adityanath said.
The chief minister addressed the press conference after holding an emergency meeting with senior officials and two senior ministeral colleagues he had sent to Gorakhpur earlier in the day to look into the matter.
Adityanath was flanked by Union Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel, UP Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh and UP Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tandon.
Blaming the principal of the college for the delay in payment to the gas supplier, he said, “I have been told that the principal left soon after the (August 9) meeting without informing the authorities and has been found prima facie reponsible. He has been suspened.”
Referring to the letter of the oxygen vendor that supply will be stopped, the chief minsiter said funds were released from the government on August 5 itself and the principal should have made immediate payment.
“It is wrong to say that the supplier wrote to everyone. He wrote to the principal, who in turn wrote to DG health and funds were released on August 5…When money was sent, whose folly is it – the minister’s or the principal’s that payment was not made,” the chief minister asked.
His comment came in the backdrop of strident criticism of the minister by opposition parties which demanded his resignation.
Anupriya said, “We are all very concerned over the deaths. The Prime Minister has especially sent me to Gorakhpur…He is very concerned.”
She added that the principal “has been found at fault and has been suspended, UP government will send its report.”
Health minister Singh gave a detailed account of the deaths, stressing that none of them had been caused due to disruption of oxygen supply.
Though the minister admitted that the pressure of oxygen supply was low for two hours on August 11, he said no death was reported during that peroid.
Tandon furnished details of the funds released for making payment to the supplier and blamed the principal for delay in clearing the dues.
“Can any company stop the supply of life saving oxygen under any circumstances?” Tandon asked.