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Interview With Naresh Agrawal

Interview With Naresh Agrawal

The number of deaths of children at the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur has put a spotlight on Gorakhpur constituency which was represented by Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh now, in Parliament since 1998 for nearly two decades. Yogi is more than familiar with the problem of the outbreak of encephalitis in his former constituency than anybody else.

Nearly 70 children have died at the hospital since August 7 due to various causes including Japanese encephalitis. Many of these deaths were caused by shortage of oxygen, a claim dismissed by the Uttar Pradesh government. The District Magistrate inquiry said it otherwise.

The main opposition, Samajwadi Party has taken to the streets to protest against the government apathy towards children who have lost their lives in the medical college. Former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav blamed the Adityanath government for being negligent about the children’s deaths. The death toll continues to rise.

Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agrawal on Gorakhpur tragedy and his party’s stand on the entire issue. Agrawal described the Gorakhpur tragedy as a saga of negligence, cover-ups and kickbacks.

  IC: So many children admitted in the Encephalitis ward of the BRD medical college lost their lives because oxygen was not available for these children. What does it prove?

Naresh Agrawal: These deaths occurred due to negligence of the Medical College. It is nothing short of massacre of children. The state government is trying to shield the guilty. The state government's argument that children had died during the times of earlier governments, is not acceptable. The BJP government must take strictest action against the guilty.

IC: Parents who lost their children maintained that staff told them to quietly take away the bodies through the ward's rear door because the Chief Minister was holding a meeting in the premises on August 9 afternoon. They said that the medical authorities kept the CM in the dark.

Different versions have come from Chief Minister's office, Chief Secretary's office, doctors’ panel and media. However, we demand a CBI inquiry or judicial inquiry into the matter and an action against the guilty should be taken under the IPC provisions.

IC: Before he became the CM, Yogi Adityanath has been an MP from Gorakhpur since 1998. He has been aware of developments of his constituency. On his second visit to the college, CM had said that he was not informed about the non-availability of oxygen supply in the medical college due to non-payment during his first visit. Your comments.

It is nothing but a lack of administrative experience of the BJP government. Most of them have not held any position in the government and hence they do not know how to run a government. Uttar Pradesh is a big state. The lack of experience has created a mess and the bureaucracy is not helping the government. It is shocking to know that CM Adityanath who has represented Gorakhpur in Parliament failed to get information about non availability of oxygen supply in the hospital. We wonder how it is possible that Chief Minister is not getting appropriate information of the developments.

IC: Like other political parties, the SP too sent its delegation to the BRD medical college to get the first hand information. What is your assessment of the situation?

Our delegation in its report has stated that the deaths occurred due to non-availability of oxygen and the college did not take it seriously and failed to clear dues of the oxygen supplier. The delegation in the report also alleged that some of the officials were trying to take commission from the oxygen supplier.

IC: What is your demand from the government on this issue?

We demand that a CBI inquiry or judicial inquiry should be ordered to get to the reality and guilty should be punished. When SP government was in power, it had ordered for injections from Japan for children and these injections were administered to children as part of preventive steps. Why did not they order for those injections from Japan this time? Why did not they run anti-Japanese Encephalitis drive in the state in advance?

IC: An inquiry by the Gorakhpur district administration has held a Lucknow-based firm responsible for disrupting oxygen supply to the BRD medical college. The inquiry also alleged that there was “financial anomaly” and overwriting in the log books. The report was silent on the cause of the deaths and who was responsible.

The CBI should involve the Enforcement Directorate to look into the financial irregularities matter.

IC: What will be your strategy on the Gorakhpur issue?

We will raise this matter in winter session of Parliament and UP assembly as well.  Akhilesh Yadav is planning to go to public in October and he will raise this issue at that time. We will raise the Gorakhpur issue in 2019 parliamentary elections to expose both the Modi government and Adityanath government.

IC: Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackerey has commented on the Gorakhpur tragedy saying that the BJP had money to buy votes during elections, it did not have money to pay for oxygen. Shiv Sena is the BJP partner in Maharashtra.

It may be his personal experience with the BJP.

IC: Do you demand a resignation of UP CM on Gorakhpur tragedy?

People in power should take ‘moral responsibility' and decide what they should do.

(Published on 21st August 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 34)