Gorakhpur Tragedy: 42 Kids Die In Last 48 Hours, Toll Reaches 60

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Gorakhpur: The horror of deaths of children at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College continues unabated, with as many as 42 kids dying in the last 48 hours, taking the count of children’s deaths in the city so far to 60. While 7 children are learnt to have died due to encephalitis, other reasons have been cited for other deaths, according to PK Singh, Principal of BRD Medical College.

On Tuesday, Uttar Pradesh’s Special Task Force took into custody former principal of government-run BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur Rajiv Mishra and his wife for questioning in connection with the deaths of over 60 children within a week’s time at the hospital earlier this month. Mishra and his wife had gone underground after the case was registered against them and their phones were switched off.

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According to Gorakhpur SSP Anirudh Sidhartha Pankaj, a police team also went to the home of Dr Kafeel Khan, former nodal officer of the 100-bed acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) ward in the hospital who was removed after the deaths, to quiz him but he was not there.

Mishra and his medico wife Purnima Shukla, who are named in an FIR lodged by the UP government, were picked up from Kanpur, where they had reportedly gone to consult a lawyer. “The STF team then left for Gorakhpur to carry out further interrogation there,” Pankaj said in Gorakhpur. Mishra had been suspended as principal of the college on August 12 after the deaths were reported and he resigned the same day, taking moral responsibility for the incident.

The UP government drew scathing criticism from the Opposition over the tragedy. As leaders from the Congress and the Samajwadi Party rushed to the city to make an “on-the-spot assessment”, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath retorted, saying that Gorakhpur should not be made a “picnic spot”.  The state government also maintained that the deaths were not caused due to shortage of oxygen but various diseases.

The doctor couple was named in the FIR lodged by the state government after a report by Chief Secretary Rajiv Kumar, who had headed a probe team that looked into the causes behind the deaths earlier this month. The STF official said the duo was being quizzed but declined to share further details.

Asked whether the duo had been arrested or detained, he said legal formalities would be carried out by the Gorakhpur police. On Dr Kafeel Khan, the SSP said, “Police reached his residence for questioning. However, he was not there. His family members have been told to support the police, so that they do not face any legal action during investigation.” Recommendations were made by the investigating team to initiate criminal action against Dr Khan for allegedly concealing facts, filing false affidavit and working against the rules of the Indian Medical Council. However, a group of doctors at AIIMS, Delhi had come out in his support, alleging that he was being made a scapegoat by the authorities.

The FIR was lodged in the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow against nine people, including the former principal, in connection with the deaths of children due to the alleged lack of oxygen supply. The case was transferred to Gorakhpur. The proprietors of M/s Pushpa Sales, the company responsible for the supply of liquid oxygen, were also named in the FIR lodged by Director General, Medical Education, KK Gupta.

Cases were registered under various sections of the IPC, Prevention of Corruption Act and the Indian Medical Council Act against Dr Rajiv Mishra, Dr Purnima Shukla, Dr Kafeel Khan, Dr Satish, Chief Pharmacist Gajanan Jaiswal, Accountant Sudhir Pandey, Assistant Clerk, Uday Pratap Sharma of Pushpa Sales and Manish Bhandari. The IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.

The official report by the chief secretary, however, denied lack of oxygen as the cause of death. Adityanath had formed the probe committee on August 12, a day after the deaths of children were reported at the hospital. The state government has also shunted out additional chief secretary of medical education Anita Bhatnagar Jain.

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