Gorakhpur Massacre: Yogi Must Go!

On the eve of India’s 70th Independence Day, the deaths of 79 children in a Gorakhpur Government hospital offers a grim diagnosis of the state of health of our democracy and polity.

Those babies and children did not die in a ‘tragedy’ – their lives were literally choked off by deliberate, cold-blooded negligence by Governments both at the Centre and Uttar Pradesh.

Barely half a kilometer from the BRD Medical College where the children died starved of oxygen, Narendra Modi had declared at an election meeting that he had a 56-inch chest and that if he became Prime Minister, he would ensure an end to deaths of children from encephalitis. Three years later, that 56-inch chest appears devoid of any shame for his hollow promise.

It is a comment on the political priorities of the Yogi-led BJP Government that it is least concerned to ensure that the children of the poor have access to oxygen in Government hospitals – its energies are instead engaged in forcing children in madarsas to chant Vande Mataram. Will mothers of the babies and children who were killed also be forced to chant Vande Mataram to show loyalty to the killer Yogi Government? After all, parents of the children killed were hustled away by police in auto rickshaws and warned not to come back!

Yogi Adityanath has been MP from Gorakhpur for five consecutive terms – but he has been more concerned to unleash communal hatred and violence than worry about healthcare for the poor.

Displaying the utmost callousness, BJP President Amit Shah has sought to play down the Gorakhpur children’s deaths, declaring that “such things happen in such big countries.”

In the most dishonest and shameless manner Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is using the dead bodies of children as fodder for the Government’s agenda of privatization of hospitals. He has said that Governments must of course provide land and infrastructure to the private players to run hospitals! Has he forgotten that oxygen cylinders too are crucial medical infrastructure – why didn’t the Government provide funds for those? Private hospitals which charge exorbitant fees, kill poor patients too simply by creating a money barrier to healthcare – or they profit by bleeding the poor who are forced to expend their life savings in private hospitals.

The claim that Governments lack funds to run hospitals is a blatant lie. The budget to provide care for newborn babies and encephalitis patients in the BRD Hospital of Gorakhpur is a mere Rs 40 crore a year. Yet the Central Government failed to provide this fund in spite of requests by the Medical College principal to allocate funds under the National Health Mission. But the Modi Government has, in three years, written off loans of super rich corporates to the tune of Rs 1.54 lakh crore – nearly the same amount of the 2G scam! How come the Modi Govt can ensure an uninterrupted supply of loans to corporates without demanding repayment – but refuses to ensure that a Hospital catering to the poor in epidemic zone Gorakhpur can give uninterrupted supply of oxygen to prevent children being choked to death?

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has the blood of Gorakhpur’s babies on his hands – he must resign for the unconscionable massacre of innocents.