The state government in India's Uttar Pradesh has ordered an investigation into the mass deaths of children at a hospital over a possible medical negligence. The tragedy has been condemned as a "massacre" and the step from the government comes after the provincial administration got battered by allegations of criminal negligence by rights groups and opposition parties.
More than 60 children have died within a time span of over five days at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in the temple town of Gorakhpur. Preliminary reports have indicated that a short supply of oxygen could have led to the deaths though the authorities insist they are still investigating the exact cause.
"For the last two to three days, the news that has been pouring in, PM Modi has been concerned. He called me to offer all sorts of support," said the newly elected Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
He cautioned the media against "fake reporting" in the incident and assured that those who are responsible for the deaths would face strict punishment.
"Let reports of probe committee come. Assure you, if anyone's negligence caused the death of a person, in any part of UP, he won't be spared," Adityanath added. He was addressing a press conference on Sunday, 13 August along with federal Health Minister JP Nadda outside the hospital after inspecting the victims' families.
A private vendor reportedly refused to continue the oxygen supply to the hospital, which did not make the earlier payments on time. This led to a shortage of oxygen at the 800-bed facility but this version is also being contested. According to reports, nine children died on Wednesday (9 August) and on Thursday 23 children died in the neonatal ward, where premature newborns are kept. In total, the death total has risen to 63 children.
"30 kids died in hospital without oxygen. This is not a tragedy. It's a massacre. Is this what 70 years of freedom means for our children?" India's leading child rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi asked.