Operation Cover Up: A Web of Lies by the Yogi Government


GORAKHPUR: It is in the scheme of things that the Yogi Adityanath government has seized upon a Muslim doctor (note, in this case it is not a case of ‘who happens to be Muslim’) Dr Kafeel Khan to make the scapegoat it so desperately needs to shift the focus from its inefficiency and apathy to divisive politics yet again. The effort, after a web of lies has failed to convince the families of the 63 children killed in a hospital because of a lack of oxygen, is to shift the blame on the young doctor and make him the face of a ‘what do you expect from a Dr Khan’ campaign that has already started hitting the social media.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his Health Minister SN Singh first went into denial mode, and when it became clear that they could not completely bury the incident, have come out with a series of falsehoods that doctors and the media and even the patients are questioning in Gorakhpur. The families who have lost their children have been harassed sufficiently, told to keep quiet, to take their dead babies out from the back door, and not go to the media with any information. A charge against Dr Khan is that he went to the media---when actually the media went to him---and went on record to speak of the shortage of oxygen to the Baba Raghav Das Medical College, where he had to go and get cylinders, and gave his debit card for the purchase of the same.

This, incidentally is not what he advertised. This was already being advertised by grateful patients, many of whom referred to him as an ‘angel’, and by staff members who witnessed this commitment. Khan who is not available for comment at the moment, is a paediatrician and reportedly worked around the clock to save the lives of the young patients under his care. A senior doctor said that the casualties would have been more had he not been able to arrange for the extra cylinders.

The falsehoods in just two days of the tragedy being spread now by the usual army of trolls and right wing activists goes like this:

1. The death were not because of a shortage of oxygen supply.

Eminent doctors spoken to by The Citizen team in Gorakhpur, who for obvious reasons did not want to be identified at this point, all were clear that oxygen and glucose are the food for the brain impacted by encephalitis. And a steady stream of both---particularly in children and the elderly who form the most vulnerable groups---is necessary to save them from what can, and did become in this instance, death.

There is sufficient information including quotes from the oxygen suppliers that they had no choice but to stop the supply as they are owed over Rs 68 lakhs by the state government/hospital. The encephalitis ward was set up in this hospital to deal with the regular epidemics hitting Gorakhpur and neighbouring areas with liquified oxygen being supplied through pipes. This was stopped after public warnings by the company, the monitors started flashing warning lights, and the children went into distress, according to the doctors. This is the direct cause of the deaths.

2. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had no idea of this

Gorakhpur is Adityanath’s home constituency. He had visited the hospital just a short while ago. The oxygen suppliers had sent numerous reminders to the state government and the hospital for the dues. This had changed to a warning that the company would have no choice but to stop the supply. These warnings had also appeared in the local media. It was not a hidden fact. The letters from the suppliers are now a part of the record. He says that he was not informed by the hospital Principal about the shortage. However, the issue was in the public domain, the CM has a special representative for Gorakhpur, the state government has a Health department and Minister that was aware of this. So it all adds up to inefficiency, and complete apathy where the warnings were not taken seriously by any one in government.

3. The government paid the dues, released Rs 2 crores

There seems to be no confirmation of this. There are different versions. Adityanath and his ministers claim that Rs 2 crores was released on August 7 “so why were payments not made”. One semi-official version claims that only Rs 22 lakhs were released just a few days ago but had not reached the hospital. Adityanath has said that when he visited the hospital he was not informed about the shortage of oxygen, and that even though the money had been released the Principal did not pay it to the company. “Obviously, he was up to something. There are reports with us from many doctors saying they had heard he was doing some deals” state Health Minister said. The Principal has been suspended, and clearly an impartial probe alone will be able to establish the facts about the ‘missing’ money.

4. Dr Khan is responsible.

This is more in the realm of the social media, and the campaign behind the scenes. Where the charges levelled against the only doctor who made his presence felt favourably during the crisis s now being accused of a) seeking publicity; b) stealing oxygen himself; and c) not alerting the authorities However, the media channels went to him for quotes following praise from the families and other staff members. The oxygen comes in virtual tanks now and is piped into the ward, so it is not really clearly how a relatively junior doctor could ‘steal’ the same. And three, the responsibility for clearing the dues and ensuring the supply is that of the Principal and the administration. Not of doctors on duty.