Lucknow: Shock and anger mounted on Sunday over the deaths of 64 children in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur city, with the Opposition and the victims' families baying for blood, demanding the Yogi-led government to sack the state health minister and order a Supreme Court-monitored probe.
The Congress rubbished claims by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that the deaths were due to vector-borne diseases, and termed them as "murders".
It also demanded that Adityanath should apologise to the families who lost their children in the tragedy and the dismissal of the state Health Minister.
Meanwhile, the state government has cracked the whip on several hospital officials for alleged negligence and callousness.
The principal of the BRD Medical College, R.K. Mishra, and the head of the encephalitis ward of the hospital doctor Kafeel Khan have been suspended.
Flanked by Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda, the chief minister visited the hospital on Sunday as angry relatives rushed to the scene demanding answers.
The chief minister said they are waiting for a report of the probe committee set up by the government.
"I have formed a high-level Committee under the supervision of the Chief Secretary and a thorough probe has been ordered to check the cause of the deaths in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and the supply of oxygen," he said.
"Let the report of the Committee come... I want to assure you all that not only in Gorakhpur but in any government hospital if there has been any lapse then we will take strict action after the BRD hospital tragedy," he said.
The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended every possible aid to the state government after he briefed him about the situation at the BRD Medical College Hospital.
"The Prime Minister is very concerned. Centre is providing all help to the state government and a team of doctors has flown in from Delhi to Gorakhpur and they are camping here," he said.
Adityanath also sought the Centre's help to set up a virology research centre in the eastern part of the state to fight vector borne diseases like encephalitis, which claim several lives each year.
"The atmosphere of eastern UP is such that there are many vector borne diseases like encephalitis. To stop the diseases we need to have a full-fledged Central Virology Research Centre," Adityanath said.
He accused the opposition parties of politicising the issue. "Those whose sensitivity has died are now trying to add salt to the wound by raising the sensitive issue unnecessarily," he hit out.
Nadda announced that the Centre has approved Rs 85 crore for setting up a central Virology Research Centre in Gorakhpur.
"The approval for a Central-level Virology Research Centre has been given. The research centre will be set up in Gorakhpur to help in finding out the real problems of the vector-borne diseases in the areas of eastern UP and will help in finding a permanent solution. For this purpose the Centre will release Rs 85 crore," said Nadda.
Initially, it was reported that the children's deaths occurred due to lack of liquid oxygen in the BRD college, but Adityanath on Saturday stated that the deaths were due to encephalitis and other reasons.
The Chief Minister and State Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh had contended on Saturday that there has been no death due to lack of oxygen supply at the BRD Medical College and Hospital, but did concede there was a problem in supply of liquid oxygen for four hours on August 10 which was made up by the system switching to cylinders.
Union Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel and Union Health Secretary C.K. Mishra visited the hospital on Saturday on the directions of the Centre to look into the lapses in the BRD Medical College.
"According to evidences that have emerged till now, and looking at the comments of the officials and the kin of the victims, the unusually high number of deaths occurred due to neglect and mismanagement, and not due to any disease as being claimed by the BJP government in the state," Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill told reporters at a press conference here.
"It has been proved that it was not just a tragedy but it was a murder and massacre," he alleged.
(With agency inputs)