With the death of an infant on Friday night, the toll at Kota’s JK Lon Hospital has risen to 107.
New Delhi: Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot found himself in a tight spot over his administration’s handling of the death of more than 100 infants when, on Saturday, his own deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot criticised the government saying that after being in power for 13 months, the previous government can’t be blamed. Mr Pilot also said that the explanations being given for the deaths by the government are of no use to a mother who has lost her child.
Speaking with reporters after visiting Kota where infants are still dying, Mr Pilot said, “I think our response to this could have been more compassionate and sensitive. After being in power for 13 months, I think it serves no purpose to blame the previous government’s misdeeds. Accountability should be fixed.”
He further added, “Shouldn’t we be fixing responsibility for deaths of so many children? If infants are dying regularly in this manner, then it isn’t sufficient for the government to say more deaths took place in the past.”
With the death of an infant on Friday night, the toll at Kota’s JK Lon Hospital has risen to 107. Though a team of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is probing the matter, there is no clarity on what led to the alarming number of deaths in the government hospital. As of now the poor upkeep and maintenance of the hospital, as well as acute deficiency of staff and shortage of critical equipment are being blamed.
Mr Pilot’s criticism of his government follows the Congress high command communicating its dissatisfaction to the state government. He is the Congress’ state unit chief, and was a claimant to the post of chief minister when the Congress won a majority in Rajasthan in December 2018.
Since the shocking news of the deaths of infants broke, state health minister Raghu Sharma and the chief minister have been floundering for a proper response. Initially Mr Gehlot said that deaths in hospitals keep happening, and added that the number of deaths this year has, in fact, decreased. The state health minister blamed the previous BJP government in Rajasthan for not upgrading facilities. Also, when he visited the hospital, the administration laid out a carpet to welcome him, eliciting sharp reactions.
Sensing the lackadaisical attitude of the state government, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked the Rajasthan general secretary in-charge, Avinash Pande, for a report on the issue. Insiders claim that the party high command is unhappy with the handling of the situation by the chief minister and the health minister. Their “insensitive comments” have also irked senior leaders of the party.
The chorus for fixing responsibility for the deaths is growing within the party, especially after the Rajasthan government came under attack from the BJP and BSP chief Kumari Mayawati who chided the Congress for raising the issue of infant deaths in Gorakhpur but ignoring the deaths of infant in Kota.
Mr Gehlot is no stranger to controversy. In his previous tenure as chief minister, the communal violence outbreak in Gopalgarh, Bharatpur district, in which 10 Muslims were killed had irked the party high command. A team of observers from AICC had gone to Rajasthan then to ascertain the situation and had, in its report, criticised the state government.