As we go to press, the death toll of children has gone up to 72 in the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital, in Gorakhpur, UP.
As news of the deaths came in, the UP CM, and officials have all been misinforming the public on the real cause of these unnecessary deaths. Lack of Oxygen is cited a cause, while it is also being said that it was due to uncontrollable encephalitis. The opposition has also jumped in and suddenly all political leaders are showing “great concern” for the children of the poorest of poor families.
Gorakhpur city is situated 78 meter above mean sea level, which is not very high from level of river bed. It does not allow low lying areas of city to drain properly, causing water to stand for 2-3 months in a year and there is constant filling of low-lying areas with solid waste or building constructions on it. The fact of the matter is that this region is prone to vast filth and waste soon after the rains each year. Nothing is done to take steps to prevent the onslaught of infection, clean the area well ahead of time, and to control the spread of infection.
Over 6,500 children have died of encephalitis in the region since the first case was detected in 1978. So what this shows is that the government of whichever party in power have never bothered to take concrete steps to prevent and deal with the problem squarely.
This tragedy reflects the criminal callousness of successive governments. They have paid no heed to the fundamental need for a reliable public health service for the masses of working people. They have failed to fulfill a most basic responsibility and have no right to be in government. Today the opposition parties are finding fault with the ruling party, but all these parties have held power at one time or another and have consciously allowed this situation to develop. All over the country, private health care is flourishing for the benefit of a minority while basic public health is deteriorating and working families have to die from the most preventable epidemics and infections. It is ironic that we will remember 70 years of “independence” by this official murder of innocent children.