After meeting with families of infants who recently died at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College, reportedly due to oxygen shortage, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Vice-President Rahul Gandhi mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his 'new India' vision on Saturday.
"Modiji talks of a new India. We don't want a new India but an India where children get proper medical facilities and, instead of dying due to shortage of oxygen, return home hail and hearty. It's a national tragedy and not restricted to Uttar Pradesh only. Negligence and poor medical facilities at the BRD Medical College are a reflection of the poor health system across the country under the present regime," Rahul said.
He also targetted UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, saying what happened in Gorakhpur "was a government-made tragedy". "Most parents told me that their children died due to short supply of oxygen. It's a government-made tragedy. Instead of shielding culprits, the CM must initiate action against the guilty and improve healthcare in the state," he said.
In response, taking a dig at Rahul, Yogi said the Congress Vice-President had made the district a "picnic spot". While launching the week-long Swachch, Swasth aur Sundar Uttar Pradesh Abhiyaan, the CM questioned Rahul's knowledge of Encephalitis and the Swachch Bharat Mission. "People sitting in Delhi are turning Gorakhpur into a picnic spot, without having an idea of the ground reality. We should not allow this," he said.
Reacting sharply to Yogi's comments, Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) President Raj Babbar said: "Is the CM afraid of Rahul Gandhi? We are a democracy and anyone is free to go anywhere. Rahulji is here only to meet the families of the victims. The CM's comment only shows his frustration at failing to check such a large number of deaths."
The UPCC President also sought an unconditional apology from Yogi. "The CM should tender an apology to the nation over the death of these children or should step down from his post," Babbar said.
Rahul went on to charge Modi of not paying attention to his earlier warning regarding the BRD Medical College. "When I had come to the hospital earlier, I had drawn the PM's attention towards the lack of proper medical facilities.
I had also requested him to sanction funds for the establishment. No action, however, was taken," he said.
Yogi, on the other hand, blamed the erstwhile Akhilesh Yadav government for the Gorakhpur tragedy. "The previous government did nothing to strengthen the healthcare and medical facilities and to check Encephalitis. Children died due to their policies," he said.
Meanwhile, launching the special cleanliness drive from Gorakhpur, the CM took the broom himself and exhorted people of the state to keep their areas clean. Reiterating that unhygienic conditions were the main cause of Acute Encephalits Syndrome (AES), Yogi said "prevention was the best cure for AES".
He said to eradicate the AES, his government will launch a special awareness campaign. "We had launched a vaccination drive to eradicate Japanese Encephalitis after coming to power. Now, we will launch an awareness drive to check AES. But, we need support from people. Without your participation to keep your areas clean, the drive will not yield desired results," he added.
As part of his Gorakhpur visit, the Congress scion visited as many as five villages to meet families of the victims. He offered his party's condolences and assured all support. He, however, did not explain why he cancelled his planned visit to the BRD Medical College at the last moment. "The CM had also gone there. I did not want to disturb those admitted there, who are already in pain and trauma," he said.
Significantly, during the press conference, he could not recollect the name of the manual resuscitation pump. Finally, former Health Minister and party General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad then came to his rescue and told him it was called an Ambu Bag.