Gorakhpur: When shame dies

Governments change, James Bond said in Golden Eye, the lies stay the same. Also the dissimulations, the deceits, the excuses. So, more than 70 children die at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur after 7 August, allegedly because of the disruption in oxygen supply to the hospital. But the reactions of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders range from pro-forma to denial—all of which smack of gross insensitivity and shameless prevarication.

But it was state Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh who took the cake with his press conference in which he reeled out statistics of children dying in the month of August earlier. At a press conference last week, he enlightened the nation that in August 2014, as many as 567 people died. He also gave the per day average—19. In August 2015, the figure was 668 or 22 deaths everyday and in August 2016 it was 587 (19.5 daily). The message: everything is as bad as it was earlier, if not exactly ‘all is well.’

Quite apart from indecency of reading out macabre statistics at a time scores of poor people had lost their kids and the entire nation was upset, the shameless minister didn’t even comprehend how much revulsion it would evoke among the people—and not just among the professional BJP haters but also even those who voted for the party. It seems that power politics not just corrupts; it also deadens one’s sensitivities, cognitive faculties, and commonsense. A terrible tragedy agonizing the nation becomes, in the eyes of the politician in power, a normal occurrence. It is business as usual.

So, BJP chief Amit Shah bluntly responded when reporters referred the Congress’ demand of resignation of the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. “Many such big tragedies have occurred in this big country. This has not happened for the first time. Such [tragedies] have happened under Congress governments, too.”

It is the typical tu quoque tactic that the BJP is increasingly employing to confront the Opposition: you claim that we are corrupt, but what about Bofors, 2G, coalgate, Commonwealth Games scam, etc.?

This line of argument keeps BJP leaders happy; how happy the consequences would be in the future is yet to be seen but then in the long run we are all dead. It also makes them confident, even sanguine. At a press conference on Monday, Shah said, “The [Gorakhpur] incident is an accident. The Uttar Pradesh government is currently investigating it. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a time-bound probe as well.” This was followed with typical clichés: “We won’t spare the guilty. We will fix accountability.” It is, you see, business as usual.

To be fair to the BJP, it has inherited a creaky health infrastructure with all the attendant ills that afflict any government system—dirty, corruption-ridden hospitals, heavy load of patients, doctors indulging private practice, unionized staff, political interference, the red tape, procedural bottlenecks, etc. In general, the saffron party’s failing pertains to its lack of emphasis and application on critical areas, health being one of them. It has been more focused on emotive issues like cow protection and yoga, usually at the expense of important subjects like public health.

Gorakhpur is the denouement. Unfortunately, the ruling dispensation is still not learning right lessons and seeking refuge in lies.

  • arishsahani